The Supply Chain Talent Shortage: From Gap to Crisis

The supply chain industry has a clear challenge ahead of it in tackling the talent shortage issue, companies have made progress, but there’s still a long way to go, as such, there are tremendous opportunities for improvement. By DHL Supply Chain

July 26, 2017

By Lisa Harrington, president, lharrington group LLC and senior research fellow, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland.

The supply chain sector is facing a talent shortage that is quickly escalating from a gap to a potential crisis.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that jobs in logistics are estimated to grow by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020 while one global study estimates that demand for supply chain professionals exceeds supply by a ratio of six to one.

Others put those numbers even higher.

“For every graduate with supply chain skills there are six holes to be filled, and it could be as high as nine to one in the future,” warns Jake Barr, CEO of BlueWorld Supply Chain Consulting.

The situation is exacerbated by the exodus of baby boomers from the workforce.

Some studies assert that 25 to 33 percent of the current supply chain workforce is at or beyond retirement age, and the backfill pipeline is inadequate to satisfy replenishment demand.

Leading companies understand they must act to resolve this situation, or face the effects of having the wrong kind of talent to run their supply chains.

The potential consequences are worrying – in some industries the talent gap could threaten the ability of companies to compete on the global stage.

So, what are organizations doing to address the problem?

To find out, DHL Supply Chain surveyed over 350 supply chain and operations professionals in the five major regions of the world.

This report summarizes the key findings.

Survey Results: High-Level Takeaways

  • The factor with the greatest impact on the talent shortage is changing job requirements.
  • Today, the ideal employee has both tactical/operational expertise and professional competencies such as analytical skills. Fiftyeight percent of companies say this combination is hard to find. But tomorrow’s talent must also excel at leadership, strategic thinking, innovation and high-level analytic capabilities.
  • Nearly 70 percent of survey respondents list “perceived lack of opportunity for career growth” and “perceived status of supply chain as a profession” as having a high or very high impact on their ability to find, attract and retain talent.
  • Only 25 percent of the survey participants say their company views supply chain as equally important as other disciplines. In contrast, 40 percent see supply chain talent’s value in a situational context – i.e., either a commodity or corporate asset, depending on the level and position.
  • Leading companies are working on the shortage problem. They are taking steps to create more robust talent pipelines, and develop their supply chain workforce – through clear career pathing, education, cultural adaptation, talent development partnerships and other means.
  • One third of companies surveyed have taken no steps to create or feed their future talent pipeline.

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