Running a successful supply chain operation means you need to have top-tier talent in your team. There’s just one issue—employers are finding it harder to attract and retain high-quality supply chain managers.

In this article, we explore why it can be hard to find the right supply chain candidates, offer suggestions for attracting good applicants and share insight on how to retain them when they’ve joined your organization.

Use Your Employer Brand to Attract Supply Chain Candidates

With unemployment at historic lows, HR departments are finding it difficult to recruit talented, skilled and experienced individuals from a smaller pool of applicants. This is a problem for more general business roles, but specialized niches like supply chain operations are feeling the pain even more.

High salaries are no longer enough to attract and retain the best and brightest. Instead, businesses are developing their “employer brand” to show they are a great place to work. If you want to attract good supply chain talent, start by linking up with your HR department and their employer brand and benefits strategies. Align with what your organization is doing to attract candidates across the board and then create specific strategies for attracting and retaining employees to your supply chain teams.

Identify the Best Colleges and Universities for Supply Chain Managers

Supply chain management is a specialist field, and you’ll want to recruit from universities with a good reputation for academic achievements in the supply chain sector. At the same time, it’s about cultural fit, ambition and the ability to learn and adapt, so looking beyond the rankings and into some of the up-and-coming programs can turn up unexpected talent.

Demonstrate That Supply Chain Management Is a Vital Part of the Organization

Supply chain management can sometimes suffer from being a “necessary” part of the organization, rather than being recognized for the value they add. Highlight how supply chain operations are integrated into the rest of the business and the initiatives they’re driving. Examples of how this applies specifically to the supply chain include demonstrating supplier management training, enhancing supply chain cost control and investing in specialist supply chain tools and software.

Clearly Define Roles and Responsibilities for Every Supply Chain Position

Your supply chain staff don’t like dealing with ambiguity and confusion. Avoid these issues by creating clear job roles that specify exact responsibilities for every position in your supply chain team. This helps you recruit for precisely the right skills, allows for greater accountability and means employees have a clear path of progression.

Examples of how this applies specifically to the supply chain include defined roles for buyers, relationship managers, distribution, international logistics and cost control.

Provide Opportunities for Advancement in Supply Chain Positions

There are dozens of potential career paths in a supply chain department, depending on specialization. Show how employees can move up through the organization and the supply chain skills needed for each new level. An example in the supply chain might be defining a career path and requirements for a buying analyst moving to a buyer position before becoming a senior buyer.

Don’t Forget the Middle Managers in the Supply Chain

Due to the specialized nature of the supply chain, many career paths slow down significantly when employees hit a middle management role. Allow middle managers to cross skill with other teams and support their career ambitions. One example of how to apply this to the supply chain might be working with third-party suppliers and manufacturers. You could temporarily transfer middle managers into the organizations that they’re working with for additional experience and exposure.

Show That You Work With Professional Organizations Throughout the Supply Chain

A supply chain is made up of dozens of organizations all working together to source, supply, manufacture and transport goods around the world. As you refine your supply chain, choose businesses that will support your team and are a pleasure to work with. One way to do this is to partner with providers who have a good reputation throughout the industry and strong supply chain disciplines. The prospect of dealing with professionals throughout the supply chain will be attractive to your candidates.

Don’t Let Your Employees Fear Automation

Automation is having a significant impact on the workforce across all industries, and your supply chain employees may be concerned their jobs are at risk. Reassure them by providing upskilling opportunities so they can expand into roles that are harder to automate. For example, you might let an analyst transition into a relationship management role, as the skills required to effectively negotiate with and manage a supplier are unlikely to be replaced by a machine.

Maintain a Strong Focus on Supply Chain Policies, Processes and Agreements

Supply chains live or die on the contracts, agreements, policies and processes that you have in place. Demonstrate excellent supply chain discipline when it comes to agreements with other supply chain organizations and ensure that all parties are working to defined policies and processes. This ensures clarity and makes a supply chain manager’s job that much easier. Accomplish this for the supply chain by documenting and capturing service level agreements, supplier and manufacturer contracts, logistics documentation and anything else needed for the smooth management and movement of goods.

Introduce Transparency and Visibility Into the Supply Chain

One source of frustration with the supply chain is a lack of information. Wherever possible, insist on visibility and transparency with suppliers, manufacturers, logistics providers and other organizations. An example of how to accomplish this is to track and report on the movement of goods through the supply chain. This reduces guesswork and removes the need for unnecessary communications. Let your supply chain managers focus on adding value, rather than chasing status updates.

Use Tools to Streamline and Optimize the Supply Chain

Technological advances and modern supply chain software means you don’t need to rely on “everyone doing their best” anymore. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, modeling and analytics all help your supply chain teams to reduce delays, optimize order management and ensure that demand and capacity are aligned. Shift lower-value tasks to automated processes and remove the burden from your team.

Access Supply Chain Software From Anywhere

If you want to encourage flexible, location-independent working, your team needs to access your supply chain tools and software, wherever they are. Invest in solutions that they can use from anywhere and introduce good working practices so employees can work from home, on the move or wherever they are.

These are starting points for attracting and retaining the right supply chain talent. Work with your HR department, demonstrate the steps you’re taking and you’ll be able to hire and keep the best supply chain managers.

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