With this blog commentary, Supply Chain Matters provides a deep-dive perspective on the ten outlined 2018 Predictions for Industry and Global Supply Chains unveiled in mid-December.  In this installment, we dive into 2018 Prediction Three: The Supply Chain Perfect Storm Intensifies. 2018 Prediction

At the beginning of 2017, for all the functions that make-up the umbrella of supply chain management capabilities, we predicted a supply chain perfect storm, one that would occupy a lot of management attention. The perfect storm was expressed as increased demand for specialized skills meeting limited available talent supply.

As we began the process of assessing and score-carding our 2017 Predictions, we interviewed our select grouping of highly experienced supply chain management specialist recruiters to get a first-hand sense of recruiting and talent trends. To a person all our interviews confirmed that this perfect storm played out, and indeed reflected a candidate’s market. Described was a great but challenging year in supply chain related recruitment, with talent in short supply, especially skill areas in the most demand.

We now predict that in 2018, the supply chain talent perfect storm will intensify even more as the dimensions become more challenging from an overall domestic and global demand perspective.

The current level of robust global supply chain activity and that many developed regions have reached full employment levels adds to the 2018 challenge.  Rodney Apple, Managing Partner at SCM Talent Group observed that there remains too much emphasis on “post and pray” and that supply chain employers need to think like marketing professionals, emphasizing branding, compelling content, and benefit articulation to recruitment activities.

Bronwen Hann, President and Senior Partner at Argentus Supply Chain Recruiting indicated: “Every company should be thinking about the bigger picture.” Employers will need to address the realities of re-doubling recruitment efforts that focus on broader needs in work-life balance, overall benefits as well as market competitive compensation levels.

Jason Breault, Managing Director, LifeWork Search observed that candidate salary demands tend to go-down if work-life balance needs can be a part of the recruitment discussions, hence employers need to be in-tune with specific candidate needs.

An “always-on” supply chain and increased global supply chain process and management complexity have taken a noticeable toll on work-life balance. Millennials, the emerging leaders of industry supply chains highly value work/life flexibility as well as opportunities to broaden career growth. Businesses and supply chain leaders will have to wrestle with such realities.

Other feedback from recruiters is that employers will need to continue tapping retiring, highly experienced professionals for temporary and part-time positions related to organizational needs to bridge the current gaps in seeking new talent. Likewise, continued joint collaboration with supply chain management professional, academic, federal, and local community training organizations to tailor both on-the-job and new candidate skilling programs to specific employer needs are ongoing essentials.

Other skills in high demand will continue to be analytical and data management in-nature, as will in-depth experience in leading and supporting business and supply chain digital transformation and expanded online omni-channel product offerings.  Manufacturing recruitment will continue to be complex with processes becoming more advanced technology intensive as will online focused logistics fulfillment. In the case of the latter, retail employers continue to seek out experienced candidates with Amazon, Ebay or Walmart experience but non-compete clauses will continue to be more contentious.

We anticipate that growing smaller and medium sized businesses will be especially challenged in 2018 in recruiting experienced supply chain business and technology professionals as well as broad supply chain management leadership skills within the realities of larger firms willing to compete on compensation and benefits.

Our guidance for 2018 is re-doubling efforts on employee retention, increased skills development of existing employees and coming to grips with the realities of needs for higher compensation for the most in-demand skills. Feedback indicates that some employers have been willing to compensate for in-demand skills, but the tradeoff has been that such skills must be shared across broader line-of-business and functional areas. The implication is a shared resource for supply chain management needs but that may be better than no resource.

In terms of organizational and technology investment priorities, 2018 should be a year of high concentration and investment in needed productivity improvements at individual and team levels.

Thus, as industry supply chain teams solidify business and operational planning in 2018, factor the reality that needed skills and talent will remain an ongoing challenge and will require far more collaboration and creativity on the part of many employers. This is a challenge that can no longer be thrown over the wall or solely delegated to the HR team. It will require top management oversight and leadership.

Bob Ferrari

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