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Unpacking hidden value of talent management in supply chain (II)

AS supply chain management progress into the future, it must be understood that people in the supply chain industry typically are expected to wear a lot of hats and carry out a lot of different tasks at various levels.

AS supply chain management progress into the future, it must be understood that people in the supply chain industry typically are expected to wear a lot of hats and carry out a lot of different tasks at various levels.

Supply chain is a multi-faceted function sitting at the intersection of many functional areas and requires individuals endowed with a multitude of skills.

As we peel the layers of the onion, the actual problem may not be that there are not enough supply chain candidates on the labour market, but rather that there are not enough people with the unique combination of skills required in modern day supply chain departments.

A cursory survey of the labour market dynamics seems to indicate a disconnect between what organisations are searching for, versus what tertiary institutions are churning out as graduates.

There seems to be a huge yawning gap between the required skills in supply chain management versus the skills readily available on the open labour market.

As a corollary of the above, supply chain professionals being churned out seem to overly rely on the use of legacy procurement practices. Yester year’s supply chain professionals, who are bent on pursuing legacy procurement practices such as hardnosed negotiation, haggling and pushing suppliers against the wall are slowly becoming irrelevant. Business trends in the past were highly predictable.

Fast forward to this day, the arena has significantly changed. What is relevant today is the need for analytic fluency and design thinking capabilities. Procurement is slowly being tasked to carry out a broader array of functional activities.

The need for a wider range of skills becomes a strategic imperative. Capabilities to maximise the use of current and future digital technologies are also some of the skillsets on demand.

It is true that there are many candidates in the supply chain profession looking for opportunities but it is also true to say there appears to be a shortage of candidates possessing a unique combination of skills and exposure to move in step with the current complexities in the supply chain space.

Supply chain personnel should be endowed with a blend of analytical and problem-solving capabilities. They should be adequately endowed with the breadth and depth of supply chain knowledge needed to take a leading role in transforming the way supply chain networks are leveraged.

The idea being to take the business to the next competitive level. This requires an underlying mind-set revolution paired with an attitude adjustment that is in favour of agility in thought and practice.

The expectation is that today’s ideal talent must be good at strategic thinking, innovation and high-level analytical capabilities.

Recognition of winning talent begins with hiring the right employees with the right skillset and mentality.

But talent retention is also critical. Retaining the right people under your belt can make all the difference in the corporate world. Tracking staff retention levels as well as staff turnover, particularly among high performing employees provides a useful measuring stick on whether the business is on the right garden path.

Research results over the years seem to suggest that the recruitment, training and development costs of replacing professional personnel are usually two to four times the annual salary of the position.

It is generally agreed and acknowledged that a dedicated and loyal internal member of staff’s worth is equivalent to three external employees.

A couple of years back, job hopping was considered a sign of failure. Not anymore. In addition to that, the general trend was that organisations were the ones that would ideally pick talented personnel. Today, the opposite is true. Top talent will pick companies.

The world of work is changing every day. In order to promote sustainable customer experience over the years, succession planning is also critical. Succession plans create an implicit promise of continuity.

This very important process should be intrinsically linked to talent management with a view to create a working environment, which promotes those nearing retirement to pass their accumulated wisdom and experience to future talent.

Supply chain professionals should constantly remind each other that the so-called best efforts today may not be good enough for the unknown tomorrow.

There is a need to continuously raise the bar by working doubly hard to build a robust pipeline of talent that resonates with current and future requirements of the organisation.

It is also generally believed that talent management can easily be a competitive differentiator. Almost all organisations are now producing commodities.

There is nothing unique about today’s products. It is, therefore, easy for competitors to create products that can easily compete with your products.

With increased sophisticated technology, competitors can easily imitate your products. Same way it is easy for rival companies to imitate your strategies as and when you offer price discounts and promotions.

Similarly, rival companies can also find it easy to imitate all other supply chain strategies such as supplier relationship management, early supplier involvement and e-procurement.

But the one and only competitive advantage that competitors may find difficult to imitate is the identification and retention of high-quality and highly motivated engaged employees.

Organisations should, therefore, create sustained conducive organisational cultures that provide opportune moments to stretch and develop employee skills and take on new challenges as they unfold.

This will inevitably attract the best brains and bring high energy and zeal to scale your organisation to the next level. Modern day supply chains should be re-modelled with the future in mind.

Savvy supply chain professionals are required to reconfigure their supply chain practices by creating a conducive environment that is meant to bring the best in people.

Today’s employee prefers to work under a collaborative environment where they are listened to and are accorded the opportunity to stretch their skills.

There is an unspoken understanding that if the organisation takes care of its employees, they will do the same to your customers in return.

The famous textbook philosophy is that organisations must connect, engage and collaborate with their staff and great things will happen.

Talent management seeks to recruit and retain experts who are responsible for results, not effort.

In conclusion, it has become apparent that the success of an organisation lies in everyone’s ability to make that success a reality, including talent.

This seems to subconsciously pervade the thought processes of many, across industries. Without the right set of skills, you can easily run your organisation into the ground.

Those tasked to bring talent should strive to avoid the engagement of staff members who are siloed off away from a company’s key focus areas. The general rule of thumb is that staff members who are siloed off away from the organisation’s focus should not be part of the narrative.

The good news is that every organisation has the capacity to change its story. Your business is as good as the people you hire to be part of your team. Seeing that the world itself has changed at a staggering hard-to-cope-pace, it is hard to find a historical precedent where talent management has been done according to the rulebook with success.

Failures in talent management continues to remain an ongoing source of pain for many supply chain professionals. The largest differential between the winners and losers will, inevitably be directly related to the quality of the workforce in their respective departments.

What should however always strike as obvious should be the commitment to human capital as the organization’s premier asset.

As we review old-aged business thought processes, it is often stressed that, if ever something is ever worth doing, its worth doing it very well all the time.

It is widely accepted and seldom argued that the cost of inaction is higher than the cost of action. After all, it is a fact that profitability is a by-product of talent management.

  • Nyika is a supply chain practitioner based in Harare. —  charlesnyika70@gmail.com

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