Strategy

The Search for Talent

by Evan Tan, Assistant Team Lead, TBC HR Consulting (S) Pte Ltd

Shift in business needs, advancements in technology and calling for new skills in management and leadership, the discipline of supply chain management is growing exponentially complex in nature with the changing times. These times signal the need for supply chain leaders to understand top-of-mind issues and address them with immediate diligence and plan of action.

Another core capability into streamlining operations in supply chain is the use of advanced analytics to draw on the immense sets of data by leveraging new tools, to generate weekly forecasts for setting new sales goals, distribution plans and production levels.

While the demand for skilled professionals in supply chain management seems to increase, there exists a void to meet the talent shortage.

“The supply chain industry is undergoing one of the most massive talent shifts we have ever seen,” Cisco Systems Inc.

Senior Vice President of Supply Chain Operations, Mr John Kern, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal. “Companies that do not invest in hiring or cultivating talent now will get caught flat-footed two to three years down the road.”

Companies such as Amazon, Flipkart and the likes are increasing their expanse of supply chain functions in the next few years. This requires organisations to make strategic decisions with blurring ecosystems to create collaborative and productive models of supply chain mechanisms for ensuring smooth functioning of the business operations.

Evolving business dynamics present new set of challenges for hiring managers to recruit key talent into leadership roles in the supply chain realm.To shore up talent base of competent supply chain professionals, it is extremely important to look at hiring those with technical competencies that include – statistical modelling, multitier management, risk and logistics management, problem solving capabilities and lot more.

The supply chain industry will need to fill about 1.4 million new jobs between 2014 and 2018, according to a study by the logistics trade group MHI, Industry Week reported. That is roughly 270,000 jobs per year. But the talent shortage is one of the “major barriers preventing innovation in the supply chain,” the study found.

In Asian context, Singapore’s push towards a smart nation and setting up of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), will position the country at a geographical standpoint – a key gateway into exploring supply chain management functions into the Southeast Asian markets.

Mr Kevin O’Hearn, vice president of FedEx South Pacific, said: “Logistics plays a big part in the overall trade story, so Singapore and ASEAN benefit tremendously from cross-border trade. And in fact, we expect the economy to grow by 5.5 per cent over the next 10 years. With AEC coming up online this year, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we see great opportunities to grow and for companies participating in smart logistics to grow with fewer customs clearance challenges.”

Addressing recruitment challenges

It is important for those in key leadership positions to address challenges to recruitment in supply chain effectively, by implementing some of these suggested means:

1. Organisations are required to ramp up their talent management activities and invest in better talent retention initiatives. A survey by Deloitte reveals, “Little adoption of leading talent practices by supply chain organisations. Organisations need to look at differences in use of multifocus area competency models, which has to be tailored to reflect often idiosyncratic nature of jobs in times of disruptive change. This requires a greater degree of sophistication in human resources management — and a deeper conviction that talent development deserves the additional effort.”

2. Furthermore, lack of gender diversity programmes within companies and recruiting more women into supply chain careers, has been one of the impediments stalling progress of companies towards finding the perfect hire for key positions into logistics management. Other dimensions to gender bias include age, ethnicity, race, regional and country barriers, lack of language proficiencies and lot more. It is important for HR managers to seek non-traditional pathways to bridge the gender divide and recruit diverse talent into the profession and “up the ranks” in their career.

3. Disconnect between HR management and the supply chain leaders needs to be bridged. There is a need for better collaboration between interdepartmental functions to create greater sense of joint ownership and agility to set pace with supply chain’s changing needs.

4. Most companies do not take initiatives to develop the best talent acquisition resources. Companies that treat the recruiting function as a value-added strategic programme versus a lowlevel tactical HR cost centre perform well.

5. They also need to find external supply chain recruiting agencies that specialise in the function to address their recruitment needs for skilled, talented professionals with some amount of experience to their calibre.

6. A cost-effective approach to attract top talent and ramp up operation to speed up with the competition is by levelling the supply chain leadership training curriculum to offer best on the job training and rotating these talents into different functional areas in the supply chain.

As baby boomers retire in droves, it is extremely clear that supply chain organisations need to raise their game in recruiting. The Deloitte 2015 Supply Chain Survey confirms both – the extent of the problem and offers cause for optimism.

Supply chain leaders anticipate the biggest rise in the use of non-traditional methods to recruit. Companies need to think out-ofthebox to recruit talent needed for supply chain excellence.

Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli notes, “In the language of operations research and supply chain management, the problems of undersupply and oversupply are collectively known as ‘mismatch costs.’ Reducing bottlenecks is another supply chain concept relevant to talent-on-demand.”

The path finders

According to a report, the e-commerce segment in the Asia Pacific is burgeoning.

“For example, Singapore’s leading home grown e-commerce logistics company SingPost is using technology and analytics to revolutionise parcel delivery in the domestic market. With the “Pick Own Parcel Stations” (POPStations), customers can collect their parcels at their own time.

SingPost said its POPStations fit in well with the push towards a Smart Nation.” Recently, Proctor & Gamble has also taken its Supply Chain Innovation Programme to a new level as part of its five-year collaboration with the National University of Singapore (NUS) for better supply chain management. This new collaboration is a part of P&G’s Connect + Development programme, which will focus on raising supply chain innovation to the next level by leveraging on NUS’ global academic network and strong research expertise in supply chain management, as well as P&G’s industry know-how and technologies.

Future trends in SCM

Supply and Demand Chain Executive predicts, “Blockchain in supply chain is definitely on the cards, and it remains to be seen how swift procurement evolves to a stage when sourcing teams are closely involved in mapping out their entire supply chain and providing the right information to make this a success. As end customers and governments get more and more conscious and demanding with regards to transparency, traceability and speed, blockchain technology holds the key to removing blind spots from supply chain.” To simplify, a blockchain is a distributed public ledger for carrying out transactions in a trusted environment and is the technology behind the concept of bitcoins, the most favoured cryptocurrency. The network of computers uses cryptography to allow each participant in the opensource network to update the ledger in a secure manner, without the need of a central authority. This makes hacking virtually impossible, even without a centralised platform.

Major banks such as Bank of America, Development Bank Singapore and Standard Chartered, are distinctly developing blockchain-based technology to be used in trade finance. Tech giants, such as IBM and Microsoft, have announced their plans to step in and include blockchain-as-a-service (Baas) as part of their product portfolio. To say the least, even if bitcoins are deemed to falter or fail, its underlying technology is here to stay.

About the Author

Evan began his career as a Recruitment Consultant before moving into specialised recruitment hiring in the logistics sector. He is currently leading the logistics team in TBC HR Consulting (S) Pte Ltd with eight years of experience in the recruitment industry.

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