Learning curve: Rewards and recognition

by Tracy Clayson


Supply chain professionals are earning more this year. As reported in the Annual Survey of the Canadian Supply Chain Professional, the average salary across the supply chain this year is $85,178, up from $82,800 in 2011, and it’s a raise that is very well deserved.

During lean times, austerity measures often meant wage freezes, reductions in bonuses and cutbacks to paid overtime rates, but if salary increases reflect improvements in corporate earnings, then supply chain managers have certainly contributed to those numbers with a strong emphasis on cost cutting.

Today’s supply chain managers are highly skilled at demanding better rates and offerings from vendors and diligently monitoring and controlling costs. Supply chain leaders are able to find efficiencies and work with suppliers to increase productivity and reduce redundancy. All of these accomplishments highlight the financial contributions supply chain professionals make, and justify increases in compensation.

In addition to financial management successes, the supply chain is getting better at managing sustainability issues. Supply chain managers are turning to environmentally aware producers and distributors, are making it a requirement to use green technology and transportation solutions, and are sourcing materials from politically stable and socially conscious regions to increase their brand value and consumer approval rating. While there are cost considerations, especially in the short-term, for investing in resource efficiency and conservation efforts, the long-term gains will be worth it, especially as more and more legislation is enacted to enforce compliance and environmentally responsible practices. The efforts will also help turn typical or average supply chains into best-in-class organizations.

Not only are they being better compensated, they are consistently moving up and gaining importance in the corporate world. The focus on cost-effective, environmentally responsible and globally resourceful supply chains makes supply chain managers uniquely suited to executive-level decision making.

The job market seems to be mobilizing and employers are reporting an increasingly challenging recruiting and retention situation as the economy slowly strengthens and supply chain professionals seek better opportunities for both career and personal goals. Attracting strong supply chain talent means offering top wages, great benefits, meaningful work and rewarding challenges. New entries to the field are a must, and offering competitive salaries will make the difference for some business school grads who have not considered the supply chain as a high profile career choice. So will programs that ensure new hires are provided with training and mentoring opportunities.

Younger leaders bring more technology skills, which better organize workflows and identify bottlenecks in information exchange. They are more inclined to pursue system solutions that improve a range of processes than some of their more experienced colleagues. Older supply chain professionals, however, are not being left behind. The best are staying competitive in the workforce by upgrading their skills and expertise in financial analysis, environmental sustainability, transportation innovations, global logistics models and distribution, warehousing and sourcing materials.

Unfortunately, it does take an effort for people to keep up with new trends once they’ve been employed in the supply chain for a while. According to Dr John Gattorna, a supply chain expert and author, the older generation of supply chain leaders tends to stay in one position at one firm and have limited opportunities to engage in new thinking. This leads them to becoming stuck in a maintenance mode of thinking.

There is no reason for this to occur. Historically supply chain leaders have demonstrated they are perfectly capable of adding to their skillsets. Many started with engineering degrees and later added business degrees to enhance their profiles.

Supply chain is a discipline made up of all types of skills and specializations including planning, analysis, procurement, 3PL management, sourcing, compliance, and systems and finance. Gattorna describes the supply chain as a patchwork quilt, stitching together different parts to build the full montage. A broader range of experience, combined with a deeper involvement in core functions of the business can push the supply chain manager up the executive ladder where strategic thinking, inventive approaches and challenges to the status quo are the norm. While finance, sales and marketing have long-standing status in the corporate world, supply chain falls into the category of cost centre. Supply chain leaders have to prove their value by controlling costs, ensuring minimal errors on all deliverables and working closely with an expanding network of third-party players. The closer one is to the profit and loss statements and balance sheet results, the more directly responsible one is for the overall success of a company.

With corporations placing a higher perceived value on supply chain functions, and with the growing competitive edge supply chains can give companies, it is more and more evident that supply chain professionals make significant and critical contributions to the business world.

Tracy Clayson is managing partner, business development at Mississauga, Ontario-based In-Transit Personnel.