Strategy

Tackling Today’s Talent Shortage

by Ricky Foo, Senior Consultant, & Dominic O. Rohde, Management Consultant, Mercuri Urval Singapore

In November 2016, the Singapore government launched its roadmap to boost Singapore’s role as global logistics hub. The Government’s S$4.5bn Industry Transformation Programme has three main goals: to be operationally excellent; to be leaders in innovation; and, to build up a strong core of local logistics talent and companies.

Concurrently, the Swiss business school IMD published the IMD World Talent Report that indicated Singapore slipped five places to 15th in the latest world talent ranking.

Singapore ranks highest on the “readiness” score meaning current “availability of skills and competencies in the talent pool” is at a high level. However, Singapore does not do well when it comes to “investing in and developing home-grown talent”, ranking only 28th among the top 61 economies on the list.

The gap between Singapore’s aspiration to be a global logistics hub and the reality of limited local talent threatens the industry’s potential. In 2016, Mercuri Urval Singapore launched a study into the industry to elicit common themes and identify possible strategies to bridge the talent gap. The study was conducted via face-to-face qualitative interviews with over 30 business leaders. Organisations represented included specialist supply chain managers, shippers, industrial companies, a range of logistics providers and the government statutory board.

Themes and strategies

Logistics and supply chain management businesses recognise the need to transform their business models to accommodate and take advantage of shifting consumer demands, rapid technological developments, and increased competition if they are to compete in the market. This means having the right people with the right business skills, particularly digital and integration skills as digital transformation continues to disrupt the industry.

When questioned on strategies organisations are utilising to get the right people, results varied. But there are three areas in which logistics and supply chain companies need to put focus on – corporate branding and image, human resources (HR) as a business strategy, and leadership competencies.

Employer branding and image has a significant impact on winning talents in a tight candidate market. Respondents showed that they were fairly active in sponsoring industry events (43 per cent) to engage customers, suppliers and decision-makers. However, if logistics companies want to promote themselves to graduates and younger talents as an employer of choice, then resources should be devoted to communicating the perks of the industry and available career paths at career fairs and shows as well.

Likewise, a company’s recruitment policy, for example, can have significant impact on the way top talents perceive the credibility and reliability of the employer, and company culture. This standard of course also applies to external partners that logistics companies engage for recruitment and executive search.

Developing a strategic corporate image and employer branding should be seen as an effective pillar of an organisation’s talent attraction and retention strategy.

Another focus area our study revealed is that HR strategies tend to be piecemeal and disjointed from business strategies. Such incoherence leaves talent related activities open to budget cuts during downturn because it is not seen as adding value to the business and in some cases contributes to internal challenges. It is up to management to empower HR to be a true business partner and it is up to HR to step up and to reflect how to support the business.

Having HR as a strong business partner means it can get to work overcoming the shortage of local talent – by planning and developing strong pipelines of talent, making sure the organisation has the right mix of skills, and is able to support leaders in enabling a healthy company culture that is responsive to change and prepared for the future. The shift in mindset from HR as a function to HR as an integral business partner means an enhanced and strategic way of dealing with the industry’s talent shortage. HR can, for example, look to attract people from other sectors that possess transferrable competencies that will execute business objectives.

The third theme to emerge was the importance of having leaders with the right competencies. Out of the respondents, 80 per cent identified ‘people’ competence such as communication, conflict management and critical feedback skills, as the most crucial of these.

Whether logistics companies focus on this priority when selecting leaders varies from case to case though one thing is for certain: selecting and promoting leaders based solely on technical and process competence is no longer a reliable measure of future performance. Truly acting upon this will enable companies in the logistics and supply chain sector to source leaders from a larger pool and hence provide a competitive advantage.

What organisations can begin to look at are leader’s ability to solve problems, make decisions in tough circumstances, and for leaders to be attuned to compliance and business ethics, particularly in regions with unpredictable regulations. For logistics companies, the ability of leaders to build strategic partner networks based on mutual interests is paramount.

Much of how a leader will perform in these areas is determined by how they internalise information, their cognitive abilities, their motivations, and how they interact with others.

Using such competencies gets closer to selecting the right leaders to steer a successful business. At the end of the day, people leaders need to build trust within an organisation that will stand the test of adversity and bring out the best in its people.

About the Authors

Ricky Foo is a Senior Consultant with Mercuri Urval Singapore and he leads the logistics and supply chain sector in South East Asia.

Dominic O. Rohde is a Management Consultant with Mercuri Urval Singapore and helps his clients to align people and business strategies.

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