Supply chain professionals are in high demand. Organizations of all sizes are seeking people to handle the nuanced complexities of modern supply chain planning – and keep the employees they do have as the market grows more competitive.
In a recent Big Ideas in Supply Chain video podcast, Beth Morgan, Founder & CEO at boom! and Anne Robinson, Kinaxis Chief Strategy Officer, sat down to chat about this critical issue. Morgan framed the conversation around research results from a new boom! survey diving into what today’s supply chain professionals need to thrive in their jobs and careers.
The 2022 survey, What the Thriving Supply Chain Professional Needs to Succeed, set out to discover what it takes to create, develop and grow the teams that run supply chains, especially in a post-pandemic world with more remote and hybrid work environments.
The first question asked what motivated survey participants. Four themes emerged:
- Does leadership guide with vision, clarity and compassion
- How do companies support supply chain professionals in their professional ambitions
- How does having the right tools to do the job become critical to success
- How do companies support the work life needs of supply chain professionals
People seek out leadership with purpose – and humanity
Certain characteristics were important to survey respondents, according to Beth. “They wanted somebody [in leadership] having clear vision, communicating that vision, having a positive work culture,” she said. Of course, respondents also related that these attributes need to play out in everyday management of the organization and be given deliberate care and attention to maintain the culture over time.
Another key area to survey respondents? Supportive, change-friendly leadership. According to Beth, people are drawn to leaders with the “willingness to support change… and that touches a lot of different areas, [including] visibility and access to leadership.”
In other words, it’s important that executives are not doing things out of sight, out mind – that they’re connected to the rest of the company and share their vision for where the company is going with respect to how each person plays a role in ongoing success.
Give talent the right tools they need to succeed
During the podcast, Anne asked Beth how leaders can show compassion to employees while not compromising on results. Beth says she thinks these two things are not always mutually exclusive. For example, everyone was under a lot of stress throughout the peak pandemic times with lots of new workplace challenges to navigate. Many employees grew accustomed to working fully remote, and in turn lots of companies discovered new efficiencies and processes that fundamentally changed how work gets done.
Today, as work shifts back to the office, many leaders and employees alike are experiencing concerns about getting “back to normal” after two years of remote or hybrid work. Supply chain management often requires more hands-on touches, like in-person visits to distribution centers or to meet with new suppliers. These things often took a backseat when quarantines and stay-at-home orders were in effect, but today, most companies are inching back to pre-pandemic routines.
While returning to office either full-time or on a hybrid work schedule is great for some people, others cannot as easily shift back to the grind of commuting or working outside the home. The critical takeaway here, according to the results of the boom! survey, is that supply chain leaders make an effort to understand what each individual needs and give them tools to succeed. And ask how they are doing because “it’s about being human,” says Beth.
Why supply chain professionals change jobs
While finding new talent in the supply chain space is a challenge, another equally critical area is retaining employees in a competitive market. Why do seasoned supply chain managers and planners decide to look for another position?
According to Beth, the boom! survey results imparted some intriguing insights. The good news is that supply chain management professionals enjoy the work they do and have ambition to challenge themselves regarding the problem-solving aspects of their roles. That said, Beth explains that younger survey respondents in particular stated they value career visibility and development – they’ll look for other jobs if they don’t feel they are making enough career progress at their current employer. They also leave when they desire to use their skills more broadly and work in roles that offer access to tools like digital supply chain technology for planning.
Respondents would like to see companies helping to prioritize their ongoing learning, says Beth, especially in the area of sustainability. In addition, they said they want more training in advanced analytics. And then more broadly, they want to explore the potential of digital supply chain transformation and change, as well as areas like machine learning and advanced planning.
Regarding burnout and work/life balance, survey respondents – especially those who are mid-career and up – reiterated the importance of flexibility. Beth says many respondents said when they’re on the hunt for a new job, they seek out employers who offer flexible, remote and/or hybrid work schedules.
A takeaway for leaders, says Beth, is that it’s important to find ways to get together and to socialize in-person, but “we do need to blend what we have learned to meet the current stakes for the best supply chain talent.”