Difficulty of Finding Qualified Supply Management Candidates is the headline of a major research project by CAPS Research. I am glad that they are bringing renewed attention to this issue. My problem is that if you go back in the history of our profession, this issue has been in the top three issues of EVERY poll, research, think tank pronouncement, conference, etc. for close to two decades! My history goes back over three decades in the world of Supply Chain and I can remember in the early 90’s when this started to become a critical issue. And yet, here we are gathering insight yet again. We started this conversation by first defining who YOU are. Clearly not a scientific analysis but close enough for government work. We then drew some insights from the profile that was created.
Let me take the liberty of using the title to develop my call to action. Let’s start with DIFFICULTY. The question we need to ask ourselves is why are we dealing with difficulty? Clearly we are facing difficulty as a result of whatever we did or more importantly did not do in the past. We have never identified talent as a top priority in our organizations. And before you quickly pull out your strategic presentation to point to the slides, my first question will be to ask for a history of your training investment over the last five years. In fact, take a look at your total investment over the last five years in supporting your Talent strategy and compare it to other investments that your corporation has made. I bet it is nowhere close!!! How does your new hire program fare under that scrutiny? Has it been increasing over the last five years? Is the leadership in your Supply Chain organization specifically measured AND incented on the maximization of Talent? Are your people specifically measured AND incented on acquiring new competencies (not skills, not training . . . . . more on that later)? These are but some of the things that would explain the inclusion of the word DIFFICULTY in the research. At our last NPX conference and a recent Gartner event, numbers like 50, 100, 200, and 400 were being tossed as the current need of some major Global corporations in their Supply Chain organizations. I will let you digest those numbers for now and we will come back to them later. By the way, once you decide to invest in your Talent, there is an incredible amount of lead time that is required to make that happen. Those companies that are looking to hire 50 to 400 new people should have started 12 to 18 months ago.
If you are still defining FINDING as developing a job description and handing it off to your HR rep and waiting for the candidates to roll in … good luck! You need to step back and understand what your real needs are in terms of competencies for the roles that you are looking to fill. Because FINDING is also a function of what you define as QUALIFIED. You then need to develop an aggressive, comprehensive approach to attract and retain the right candidates. And unless you have thought your way through that entire life cycle, you will never resolve the issue. Let me illustrate with an actual case study. We were asked by the CFO of a major bank to help figure out why they were not able to attract any candidates to even show up at the campus job fairs for their New Hire program. We helped them realize that their brand name was not enough to attract candidates anymore. The real issues were that the prospects did not know what they wanted to do in banking yet and did not want to commit so early in their life. We redesigned the entire New Hire program to include structured six month rotations for the 1st two years (and their selections would be considered), a leadership member assigned as a formal mentor (and feedback provided by mentored to CFO on mentoring), internal job fairs by senior executives of various organizations in the bank, a “friend” assigned from the previous rotation “class”, formal group meetings where the entire “class” would get together to provide feedback, etc. And then we redesigned their marketing strategy (yes, you need to have a marketing strategy!). They had lines forming up at the campus job fairs!
As I mentioned in the last paragraph, ALL of these issues are intertwined and tied together (but I’m jumping ahead of myself). For example, if your definition of QUALIFIED does not really match your needs, you will always have DIFFICULTY FINDING candidates. The definition of QUALIFIED has to be based on the real needs of your “clients”. One of the constructs that has proven very powerful as an image that we use with our clients is to think of your organization as a consulting company. You would quickly realize that your ONLY asset that delivers value to your clients is your organizational competency and talent. Therefore, you must match your competencies to the needs of your clients, both for today and tomorrow. Otherwise, you will always be FINDING because developing organizational competency has a significant lead time.
Case in point: We just had a conversation with the CIO of a Fortune 20 client leading to the conclusion that his organizational competency was geared towards new solutions that his group had been rolling out very successfully. His problem was that his clients had not yet “adopted” the solutions yet … meaning that they had not been fully deployed. The Intended Consequences of the clients had not yet been realized. What he quickly realized was that he needed to immediately develop significant deployment competencies. Think of it as surveying your market to understand what their needs are going to be so that you can ensure that you have the right organizational competencies to deliver the value when your clients need it. Ideally, you should be a step ahead.
Finally, what do you define as a SUPPLY MANAGEMENT CANDIDATE? I guess we first need to decide what Supply Management is. Because if your definition is focused on the Supply Base and managing costs and lead times and someone else is looking at the entire value conversion process, then your SUPPLY MANAGEMENT CANDIDATE is going to look rather different from your competitor. If you think the role of Supply Management is to run an efficient process to ensure lowest cost, then you are probably not looking for candidates who can look upstream and downstream and start maximizing the entire system as opposed to the tail of the dog (supply base). If you think that Supply Management is all about the process of defining requirements and negotiating contracts, then you are probably don’t want candidates with all those so called soft skills (collaboration, teams, problem solving, etc.). Now you can see why we seem to have DIFFICULTY FINDING QUALIFIED SUPPLY MANAGEMENT CANDIDATES.
Stay tuned for our next post where we discuss Competency Based Talent Management (CBTM) as a platform for solving some of the issues we have raised here. If you are interested in getting involved or would like to follow this topic further, here are a series of critical activities coming up:
- Release of the results of the Executive Forum we just facilitated at the IACCM Global Forum for Contracting & Commercial Excellence on Talent Management.
- A major research project to not identify the problem one more time but to identify Next Practices to solve the problems.
- A webinar with IACCM on CBTM.
- A White Paper to focus on Next Practices in CBTM.
Please contact Crystal Jones at crystalj <at> thempowergroup <dot> com for more information.