Tackling Retail Logistics: Build Your Team First

The retail industry is changing at a faster pace now than at any other time in history. We are only at the dawn of the new world order: connected retail. Supply chain is on the front lines of the ongoing revolution.

When RILA and Auburn University recently surveyed retail supply chain executives, 98 percent rated talent—recruiting it, keeping it, developing it—as one of the top three critical needs in this new retail landscape.

How do you build the supply chain team that will stare down and conquer the challenges ahead? Here are some top tips shared by supply chain executives at leading U.S. retailers:

  • Drive innovation. Your supply chain team—and your entire organization—must prioritize innovation. If you keep your people engaged and striving for the horizon, they’re more likely to stick around and stay committed to the organization.

On an individual level, make outside learning and professional development a requirement for every team member. On an operational level, define a dedicated process—distinct from the day-to-day operations of your supply chain—to facilitate, focus, and reward innovation.

  • Diversify skill sets. Many of the most successful retail supply chain executives in the industry spent several years outside the world of retail supply chain. “The years I spent working in finance and in merchandising have been invaluable in my current role running this organization’s distribution strategy,” reports a vice president of distribution at a large automotive retailer. People who have succeeded in varied roles and functions have shown an ability to adapt—a must to work in today’s supply chain.

Seek out candidates with unique or non-traditional work experience, and lock onto those who are a cultural fit with your organization. And, for your existing team members, get creative with professional development plans. Help facilitate a career plan of job rotations, cross-functional roles, and other ways to build a diversity of experience, skills, and connections.

  • Don’t forget to network. Invariably, each person comes away from networking with new ideas or practices to try with their teams. Look for peers you can call when you have an issue, and bounce ideas off of each other.

“We’ve been using the nine-box grid for talent planning for a long time,” reports a senior vice president of supply chain from a leading specialty apparel retailer, “but the discussion at our recent peer group meeting gave me some great ideas for how to make it more actionable.”

Many groups and industry events—including RILA, CSCMP, and APICS—enable networking and benchmarking among your supply chain cohorts. In addition, look for opportunities outside your industry or functional area.

  • Fill your Pipeline. Establishing a partnership with a university or two is a great way to build a pipeline of supply chain talent. Interact with the professors in the school’s supply chain department, offer real-world cases they can inject into their lessons, visit as a guest speaker, source interns from their program, partner on research projects, and benefit from a room full of fresh brain power.

Finding time in your schedule may be tough, but the longer-term payoff for your organization and succession planning is worth it.

The supply chain of the future is full of opportunities and challenges. But with the right team and talent on your side, you’ll be positioned for success.

The insights in this article are a preview of the upcoming discussion at RILA’s 2017 Retail Supply Chain Conference in Orlando, Feb. 12-15, 2017 (www.rila.org/supplychain).

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