January 18th, 2017
Filling the Skill Gaps in Your Supply Chain
Is your organization suffering from supply chain knowledge and skill gaps? Here are strategies to get back on track in 2017.
In the U.S., the gap between the number of open positions and the number of candidates who can fill them continues to widen. This is bringing more employers face-to-face with skill gaps. Recently, Adecco conducted a survey of 500 business leaders. Findings show that 92 percent of employers think that the workforce isn’t as skilled as it needs to be. The survey also found that 44 percent think that Americans lack soft skills (e.g., communication, creativity, and critical thinking).
The survey also found that 45 percent of business leaders feel that they are missing out on growth opportunities, while 34 percent feel that product development is suffering. In addition, 30 percent think that company profits are being hurt. These pain points are particularly obvious in the supply chain field. In the last few years, supply chain has morphed into a field that requires a high degree of technical skills, soft skills and hands-on experience to manage today’s complex logistics environment.
Supply Chain as an Evolving Landscape
“Staying up to speed with supply chain knowledge is a bit like measuring the height of a sand dune,” according to Supply Chain Leaders Insights’ 7 Common But Costly Supply Chain Knowledge Gaps. “Things change so fast that what’s true today might be an unwise assumption on which to base next month’s plans.”
Four Steps to Take in 2017
Whether they are keeping current workers up to speed or introducing new supply chain professionals to the mix, today’s organizations are taking the necessary steps to ensure that there are no critical skill gaps in those workers’ supply chain knowledge. In 5 Ways to Fill Supply Chain Knowledge Gaps, Panos Kouvelis, professor of operations and manufacturing management at Washington University’s Olin Business School, told SCMR that supply chain knowledge gaps present key challenges for many companies.
Holes in supply chain knowledge will hold both the business and the employee back. They need to hire people who are right for the job, while also bridging these skill gaps. So, how can a company overcome these obstacles? Here are four ways to get things back on track in 2017:
1) Use benchmarking to identify the skill gaps.
According to Supply Chain Leaders Insights, the first step in closing critical supply chain knowledge gaps is to know which ones are most likely to handicap performance. Gaps in benchmarking knowledge can easily lead to taking the wrong approach, prompting mistakes, the author writes. This limits improvement and can be detrimental, resulting in higher than necessary supply chain costs and misplaced improvement efforts. “On the other hand, companies that fully understand benchmarking and use it to lift performance to best-in-class standards are able to operate at half the cost of those which don’t benchmark effectively.”
2) Tap into executive supply chain education and certifications.
The supply chain field — and the requirements that go along with it — are constantly evolving. To help your employees keep up, check out the various executive supply chain education programs available. These are offered by universities, community colleges and industry organizations like APICS. Programs range in depth from “quick hit” refresher courses taken online to full-blown MBA programs. Abe Eshkenazi, CEO at Chicago-based APICS, says supply chain certification can help companies fill in some of the newer skill gaps that are surfacing in supply chain, such as big data and analytics.
3) Encourage employees to learn from and collaborate with one another.
In some cases, enhancing supply chain knowledge can be handled within the organization. Often, a goldmine of knowledge and hands-on experience already lies within the existing workforce. “With the Baby Boomers heading into retirement, and with a high number of supply chain job positions to fill, we definitely need to be mentoring younger folks and driving leadership within supply chain positions,” Lisa Angell, department chair and instructor of supply chain management at Fox Valley Technical College, told SCMR. “Put Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials together and not only will they understand one another better, but the process will also open everyone’s eyes to new ways of doing things.”
4) Implement cross training and job rotation initiatives.
“If you truly expect someone to grasp all aspects of the supply chain and your organization, then you must give them job rotation activities to participate in,” Eshkenazi advised. A warehouse manager, for example, would benefit greatly from understanding how the procurement, production, and marketing departments operate. It would be useful to know those departments’ core goals and what strategies they use to achieve those goals. “Go beyond finance and supply chain,” he added, “and introduce your supply chain employees to all aspects of the organization.”
To learn how to better integrate your supply chain, check out our infographic!