Eight Ways to Find and Retain Qualified Supply Chain Talent

The burgeoning need for talent to operate today’s complex supply chains has begun to garner significant attention. Not only are supply chain management roles expanding at a rate outpacing qualified new graduates, but supply chain is also rapidly becoming more complex, creating the need for existing personnel to dramatically retool their skill sets.

These trends are likely to increase as baby boomers retire and the U.S. economy continues to grow.

The most successful companies have already begun to create new ways to find, recruit, develop, and retain talent to meet their needs.

In the recent whitepaper Supply Chain Talent, Our Greatest Resource, the University of Tennessee’s supply chain faculty interviewed leading companies to identify the best practices they use to obtain top supply chain talent. Here are eight of these practices.

  1. Define your ideal candidate. Marketing teams spend significant resources determining who their customer is, and supply chain and human resources professionals must do the same if they hope to find the best candidates. Defining technical qualifications is not enough—successful organizations also articulate culture, passions, and soft skills.
  2. Use mentors. Deploy the right resources to promote individual development as a best practice. Research shows new hires do substantially better with an active sponsor, and top talent develops faster and better with active mentors and sponsors.
  3. Create skill and development plans. Effective skill and development plans start by defining the skills needed to be successful in the end-to-end supply chain, in a particular supply chain discipline, and in specific job roles. This requires an ongoing effort by leadership and human resources to align, document, and communicate these skills as supply chains evolve.
  4. Recruit from internships. Benchmarked companies hire between 60 and 90 percent of all new employees from internships and cooperative education. These provide an opportunity for companies and students to determine whether they are a good match.
  5. Partner with top universities. None of the benchmark companies in this study view Internet-based recruiting as a productive tool due to the onslaught of unqualified applicants and the time commitment required to filter them. Instead, top companies forge partnerships with schools to supply the talent pipeline.
  6. Develop top talent systems. A formal system for preparing future supply chain leaders is a prerequisite to closing the talent gap. Top talent should receive educational opportunities, developmental assignments, and coaching to develop properly and feel valued during the process.
  7. Hire for the overall supply chain. Effective organizations view technical mastery as a threshold skill and focus on identifying candidates who can see the overall, integrated supply system. This requires finding talent who are capable of succeeding in multiple business functions. This approach has the added benefit of boosting retention as people want a career with a company.
  8. Active diversity program. A strong plan to create a diverse culture must be a key component of each hiring best practice.

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