To remain competitive in an ever-changing environment, chief supply chain officers (CSCOS) must apply advanced strategies to develop and train supply chain talent, according to Gartner.
“Despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are moving forward with their digital objectives or even accelerate the automation of their supply chain,” said Caroline Chumakov, principal analyst with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice. “This means that the war for talent with skills in fields such as machine learning and artificial intelligence will continue. Rather than fighting to compete, many CSCOs will look to make do with what they have and work to improve the digital dexterity and data literacy of their existing workforce.”
CSCOs can focus on four strategies to develop the right skills and capabilities for their supply chain organization.
Supply chain organizations are complex by nature, often supporting complex workflows and processes, while working across numerous time zones, countries and languages. Over time, this structure has resulted in equally complex people capability requirements. However, to sense disruptions and respond quickly, employees must be enabled to react with agility.
The most impactful work design strategies focus on simplification and elimination. Less essential workflow tasks and competency requirements are eliminated, and systems and tools should be simplified or consolidated. “When we design work to be simple and, thus, reduce complex expectations of talent, it will be easier to plug employees into work throughout the organization,” Chumakov added.
Adapting to new technologies and effectively leveraging data and analytics in supply chain will require new skills and competencies. According to Gartner research, only 27% of supply chain leaders agree that their function has all the talent needed to meet current supply chain performance requirements.
“If CSCOs want to keep up with their companies’ digital ambitions they need to make sure that their employees are properly trained to work in a digital environment,” Chumakov said. “This includes skills in data literacy, but also general digital dexterity competencies. Employees have to be willing and comfortable to take on new roles and work iteratively with unclear requirements.”
As supply chains become more complex and as remote work becomes standard, leaders need to trust their employees to make quick decisions on behalf of the organization. This makes it necessary for employees to have the right training and understanding of supply chain and organization strategy and objectives.
Gartner research has found that “connector managers” can improve their teams’ performance by up to 26% because they know one person cannot do everything. Instead, they recognize and access the wealth of knowledge that exists across their network and use it to build and foster their teams.
“Connector managers will improve connectivity both within specific teams as well as across teams — allowing for opportunities to break down silos, meaningfully develop employees and even allow for greater career visibility,” Chumakov said.
Traditional learning programs in supply chain tend to overemphasize formal training and focus heavily on functional skill development. Although both are valuable in building foundational skills, they do little to tangibly prepare the supply chain workforce for digital or facilitate more complicated learning outcomes.
“For more complex capabilities, such as competencies under digital dexterity, 70% of learning should be experiential – on the job development through interventions like learning-based career paths, stretch assignments, and action learning groups. Only 10% is formal training. The remaining 20% of learning should be focused on relationship-based learning via peer interactions and coaching,” Chumakov concluded.