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Written by Phil Smithers

It’s time to better educate the supply chain sector!

Market pressures driving change

Supply chain and procurement professionals are having to face a daunting new reality as the ongoing effects of COVID-19, Brexit, the conflict in Ukraine and volatile inflation rates impact the day-to-day operations of their function. These disruptions are increasing professionals’ workloads, whilst making fast, efficient decision-making evermore important. Often professionals need to respond to cost pressures and new legislations at the drop of a hat, making agility absolutely key.

As professionals grapple with economic instability, they’re also having to contend with a challenging talent market – where it’s extremely difficult to attract and retain employees with the necessary skills. Against this backdrop, it’s no surprise that senior professionals feel overwhelmed. As reports of stress and burnout multiply, it’s imperative that supply chain and procurement functions seek out innovative solutions for improvement – before it’s too late.

Truth is in the numbers

Supply Chain
The seriousness of the situation has been exposed by our recent research. This lays bare the range of concerns front-of-mind for supply chain professionals. Well over half (56%) are worried about supply resilience, 48% are worried about maintaining visibility across the supply chain, 46% are challenged by the need to keep driving costs down.

At the same time, when the need for more people with strategic skills is greater than ever, 43% of professionals are worried about skills shortages in the function. The current climate only amplifies the problem, as the workload on professionals means that they feel skills shortages even more accurately. Every time someone leaves, it compounds the issue. Almost all: (99%) of supply chain professionals are concerned about the consequences of high employee churn.

The picture for procurement professionals is not so dissimilar. There’s a clear appetite for strategic skills, with procurement strategy and digital procurement skills top of the wish-list for 43% of senior procurement professionals. This is closely followed by operational procurement skills. Not only are procurement leaders searching for these skills, they’re also struggling to retain them. Almost all (98%) of the procurement leaders we surveyed are concerned about decreased employee retention.

The evidence is mounting: procurement and supply chain professionals are facing a skills crisis. While extricating themselves from this will not be simple, with dedication and creativity, it is possible.

The need to educate internal teams 

Organizations need supply chain and procurement professionals to be able to operate in this  new, volatile world– and this means upgrading skill sets. While finding the right skills in new recruits may be the usual reaction, it can be extremely difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

There is, however, another route that more and more organizations are taking. This is to upskill existing employees who already understand the culture, systems, processes and goals of the organization. Not only is this a more efficient approach, it’s also more scalable, cost-effective and rewarding for both employees and their organizations.

In order to determine whether their existing teams need to be upskilled, organizations should consider the following questions:

  • Are we doing enough to bring our teams together to improve our bench strength and our knowledge?
  • How can we energize our teams and motivate them in a positive way to help them navigate the far greater demands and responsibilities on their shoulders, whilst leveraging the changing pressures on the function as a source of opportunity?

There are numerous ways to educate and upskill existing employees. In our next blog, we’ll look at the importance of developing a communication strategy while initiating training, and how companies recognize eLearning as an opportunity to unlock higher levels of performance within their teams.

Phil Smithers Interim Global Head of Sales Skill Dynamics