Inside Logistics

Supply Chain Canada: Fixing the mismatch between available jobs and skills

Accenture offers advice about finding, retaining and training employees


May 10, 2012
by Julia Kuzeljevich

MISSISSAUGA, Ont: Employers are contending with a low awareness and understanding of the supply chain sector, especially among younger workers. This is leading to many difficulties on the recruiting and retention side, but adopting several best practices can help target the problem.

Speaking at Supply Chain Canada’s annual conference Chris Hoban, senior manager, talent and organization, with Accenture, said that the consulting firm has put together a number of complementary research projects on the key drivers for supply chain talent.

“As we look forward, some of the challenges as they relate to and impact organizations will only accelerate”, said Hoban. “It’s counterintuitive to think about high unemployment rates and thousands of unfilled positions within companies. It indicates that there is some mismatch with regard to skills requirements, availability and supply.”

Executives continue to identify Supply Chain and talent related issues as one of the top five challenges to meeting their business goals.

In the ‘new talent landscape’, workers need not just one skill, but a robust portfolio of skills that are ever more complex, while organizations need ‘just in time’ skills they can tap on demand, noted Hoban.

“The talent market may be global, but talent mobility is a challenge. The more complex skills sets include functional excellence as well as business skills and knowledge to coordinate and operate across the supply chain. Individuals need to be able to work up and down the supply chain, being highly specialized within their own roles but also able to understand the interdependencies in the different supply chain roles,” he said.

Strategies and leading practices that can help attract, develop and retain supply chain talent include looking beyond specific skills.

“Few organizations consider all of an individual’s talents and capabilities. We’ve seen that traditionally organizations define the skills requirements a bit too narrowly. An individual’s ‘developable fit’ could also be looked at, like strong problem-solving, analytic capabilities, etc. The other thing is really looking at cultural fit for individuals within these roles,” suggested Hoban.

Competency modelling allows companies to better define and catalogue their current skills and match those against the skills needed to successfully implement the human capital strategy.

Companies that mine their own organization for hidden talent, and deploy it flexibly, will also be at an advantage, as will be those who actively search for external talent using rich data and information.

“A lot of this starts to move into some of the recruiting techniques-a lot of organizations are moving away from traditional methods of recruiting. Some are moving to social media techniques. We need to use the tools that young people are using, we need to speak their language,” said Hoban.

Leveraging external talent, through the broader ecosystem of partners, providers, freelancers, even competitors, and actively seeking opportunities to connect with external partners, rather than thinking of some of those relationships as too competitive, serves to reduce barriers as well.

Hoban said that an area that has had a lot of attention is that of embedding learning into everyday work to more quickly develop the skills of your own people.

It’s said that around 80 percent of learning happens ‘on the job’, but employees, while now taking more responsibility for their own skill development, have identified that employers frequently do not take enough initiative to develop employee skills.

That’s why enabling learning to happen in a continuous way, mapping learning opportunities to career models and ladders, and aligning business objectives to the skills sets is a best practice Accenture advocates.

When it comes to retention, “there is significantly greater job satisfaction among employees who are provided learning opportunities-these build the capabilities needed for success and lead to higher talent attraction and retention,” said Hoban.

Organizations may also adopt a commonly overlooked solution: redesigning work itself to enable a fluid, demand-driven approach to skills, and creating transparency into the world of work and the skills you need.

“Many workers don’t understand their employers’ skill needs,” said Hoban. “The bottom line is that companies need to move quickly to address skills needs and gaps or really risk losing competitive advantages. The broad availability of workers since the economic downturn can really be misleading.”

Having the skills they need where and when they need them will be formidable competitive advantages for organizations.

“We’ve seen a significant increase in focus around the talent issue. We see a lot of organizations revamping their competency models and frameworks, taking more comprehensive approaches to building and sustaining talent development,” Hoban said.