The Big Supply Chain Talent Shortage

Posted: 06/03/2021 - 09:00
Procurement and supply chain leaders worldwide are struggling to attract and retain talent.

The Big Supply Chain Talent Shortage: What Can You Do About It?

Manufacturing growth has skyrocketed over the last few decades, but the industry continues to lag in growing its most important asset: its people. A spike in retirements, paired with a drop in analytical leaders entering the field, is creating demand for procurement and supply chain talent that far outpaces supply. The supply chain talent shortage is expected to leave 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028, causing a potential economic impact of $2.5 trillion.

Procurement and supply chain leaders worldwide are struggling to attract and retain talent while battling today’s growing market pressure and manufacturing complexity. These issues go hand-in-hand. When procurement operations teams lack the processes, tools and technology to succeed, it negatively affects morale, retention, productivity, employee satisfaction, and ultimately customers and the bottom line.

Here’s how manufacturers can use technology to create a work environment that retains and attracts quality talent, while providing the tools to help employees improve on execution.

Increase Employee Accountability and Productivity with Improved Visibility

Operational procurement teams have long lacked the decision support tools and analytics required to identify and prioritize improvement actions that will have the biggest impact on inventory and performance.

And for years, it has resulted in employee frustration and burnout as buyers struggle to find context or direction for procurement and planning decisions. Even today, many buyers work in several systems and out-of-date, static and error-prone spreadsheets, swiveling between an exploding list of emails, phone messages and ERP exception notifications. It’s no wonder that over one-third of rising supply chain workers list a lack of tools and technology as their most pressing frustration.

Especially in light of the pandemic, every team is forced to be more productive and drive value with fewer resources. To work efficiently, buyers need rich, accurate context and real-time, trusted data to tackle high-priority inventory tasks and improve visibility into inventory levels.

Teams can use their additional visibility to understand how tasks ladder up to KPIs and organizational value and understand who on the team is accountable for specific responsibilities. They can then shift focus from fighting fires to proactively managing their organizations’ biggest levers for impact.

Improved supply chain visibility also gives supply chain leaders better oversight of team and individual performance. Understanding who’s outperforming or facing obstacles can help leaders identify bottlenecks or skills gaps and create opportunities for team training.

This rising tide lifts all boats—additional mentorship enables professional development and satisfaction, arms individuals with new skills to grow in their careers, and gives organizations the ability to promote from within. This type of work culture is both rewarding to current employees, aiding in retention and compelling to prospective candidates.

Drive Satisfaction and Fulfillment with Efficient Processes

Recent research shows that one-third of millennials in manufacturing believe there is a lack of clearly defined work processes, and another 36% say a lack of upward mobility is their biggest frustration with their job. These results aren’t surprising, especially when much of buyers’ time is spent working in spreadsheets and meeting in war rooms, discussing which fire to put out next—a typically long and indecisive conversation that keeps them from focusing on the critical work that really matters. 

Six reasons professional development can help attract and retain procurement talent.

AI and automation are reducing the analysis paralysis associated with inventory management. Organizations are using automation to surface the organization’s top priorities to reduce inventory and shortages, ensuring there’s no ambiguity and everyone is aligned along common goals. With so much freed-up time, employees can focus on meaningful and strategic work. Whether that’s tied to revenue-driving activities, sharpening their problem-solving skills or honing soft skills to move into a leadership role.

Many manufacturers also use technology to improve execution, creating “attack teams.” These teams use automation and AI to proactively triage priority inventory management tasks, so the right people focus on their business’s most impactful inventory optimization goals. Other teams include diversity and inclusion initiatives in their procurement workflows, leveraging technology to manage and support a diverse supplier network. These processes not only improve team productivity, but also give workers a sense of fulfillment—they’re accomplishing goals that create tangible impact for their organizations and themselves. When employees have the opportunity to dive into interesting work, they’re generally more satisfied and likely to stay with—or join—an organization.

When Given the Right Support, Everyone Wins

There’s no doubt that manufacturers have a tough job attracting and retaining the right skilled workers, especially given today’s uncertain landscape. But a crisis can be a catalyst for positive change, and now is the time to invest in the people and tools to make our future brighter and scale back up stronger than ever.

When supported by the right processes, technology and tools, procurement and supply chain teams can be empowered and recognized for making fast, actionable decisions that align with organizational values and goals. With new skill sets, made possible by growth through technology and continued mentorship, every operational procurement team member can pave the way for the next generation of supply chain leaders.


About The Author

Richard Lebovitz's picture

Richard Lebovitz is the founder and CEO of LeanDNA, the only purpose-built analytics platform for factory inventory management. Built by lean experts, LeanDNA empowers supply chain professionals to dramatically reduce excess inventory, deliver on time, and establish operational command.