Supply Chain Talent Gap: Right Person (and Experience) for the Job

by Mike Starling

We’ve all heard that old expression, “use the right tool for the job.” That idea also applies to filling that vacant job position. This is especially true for today’s supply chain talent requirements. The growing talent gap between the older and more experienced supply chain professionals and the new and relatively inexperienced supply chain professionals should be of concern, especially as it relates to executive management’s expectations for operating expense control and containment, not to mention the impact of supply chain expense on operating cash flow.

I recently saw a good example of this “talent gap” at a retailer’s distribution center. The front line managers (i.e., the receiving manager, shipping manager, and operations manager) each had less than 10 years' industry experience, with very little of that experience in actual logistics operations. Worse, none of these managers understood what operating cash flow was, much less how their roles contributed to the improvement of same via their management focus and efficiency in executing their daily tasks. Rather than fostering a team atmosphere from the receiving door to the shipping dock (something that comes with experience and operational survival understanding), there was almost an atmosphere of resentment, and a feeling that the upstream manager was the source of the downstream managers' problems. No coaching or true DC management influence appeared to be in place and working to turn this group into a well-oiled logistics team.

While “school learning” is important and helps to establish a baseline understanding of supply chain and logistics, it is no substitute for the actual challenges and rewards that come from operational execution. Supply chain and logistics executives and management need to consider the depth and breadth of experience of the talent they hire to fill key supply chain positions, and they need to consider, at the time of hiring, what impact the new hire's talent and experience may have on the operations for which they are responsible.

It is sad to see a supply chain executive or manager who lacks depth of experience in the area their subordinate is responsible for. All too often, when a subordinate's job performance falls below expectations, the executive or manager is quick to blame that subordinate, even though the problem may be that the manager failed to hire “the right person for the job.” Don’t let this happen to you!

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