Research suggests that a widening skills gap is quickly escalating across all industries globally which could disrupt our fragile post-pandemic recovery.
Within supply chain management, the focus is now on how to prepare for future volatility; from inventory management to supplier and modal selection, even down to transport execution and development of transport corridors, organisations are concerned with how business models and operational approaches can reinforce supply chain stability.
What are the mega-trends that we will see impacting supply chains in 2022 and how are hyper-competition, instant gratification, technology disruption and the pandemic affecting our operations?
- Supply chains are being shortened or even being localised;
- Product lifecycles are becoming shorter;
- Multiple sourcing and multi-shoring strategies are being developed;
- Operations are managed in rapidly evolving market conditions within stricter regulatory contexts;
- Sustainable buying patterns are becoming the norm for both consumers and commercial buyers;
- Technology is rapidly changing operational practices and pushing companies to explore omnichannel strategies;
- Perennial themes of financial pressures, corporate resilience, labour shortages and the energy transition continue to affect both customers and companies alike.
In this dynamic business and societal environment, continuous learning becomes a key success factor for both organisations and personal development. Developing the right skills will enable your team to survive and thrive in the ever-changing landscape and outperform the competition.
Here’s what you need to know to nurture a strong and successful supply chain team:
- Align learning with business strategy
Ensure your learning function is aligned with the business strategy and the objectives of your team.
- Embrace the learning omnichannel
Exploit new learning channels to cope with the demands of day-to-day operations with blended learning approaches. By combining online and physical learners can work at their own pace but also benefit from opportunities to work together with their peer learners when possible.
- Select appropriate learning speeds and exits
Recognise that each team member has different needs and different availability due to the constraints of day-to-day operational responsibilities. By offering learners flexible options, from short courses to full programmes, you can help them develop and follow their own personalised learning journey.
- Develop a skillset vision
Establish what your team skillset should look like, assessing the challenges and identifying the specific skills to be developed. Consider the true needs of the company and allow for opportunities to put the learning into action.
- Acknowledge the workplace landscape
New modes of working, increased entrepreneurial attitudes and the gig economy already shape business operations and strategies. By including topics such as economic theory and market dynamics you can equip your team with the confidence to deal with new business models and deliver the new supply chains that will serve them.
- Upskill to retain a competitive advantage
Overcome the gap between demand for talent and supply, especially for hard skills and tech talent, by upskilling existing colleagues to build your workforce capability quickly and effectively.
- Balance hard and soft skills
Include soft skills programmes in your development strategy, for example concepts and approaches that improve personal leadership, flexibility, innovativeness and resilience. Soft skills have been instrumental in companies surviving the pandemic and will continue to play a pivotal role in supply chain development.
- Financial insight is essential
Understand your cost-to-serve function and how the supply chain impacts profitability. By developing interdisciplinary skills such as product lifecycle costs, supply chain finance, data analytics, information technologies and negotiations, your team will understand the cost of over-servicing certain customers at the expense of under-servicing others.
- Prepare for project-based working
Build project management skills to support project-based working patterns. Skills including negotiation, resourcing, budgeting, managing risk and personal organisation are essential for successful project-based working.
- Nurture and protect future supply chain leaders
The pandemic showed us that those with the ability to reinvent and get the best from their teams were those that survived the storm. When cultivating the next generation of supply chain leaders, ensure they have continued access to learning and development opportunities, and are well supported as their career progresses.
A full version of this article by Dr Yannis Koliousis, Professor Richard Wilding and Mike Bernon was originally published in CILT Focus Magazine, January 2022.
Dr Yannis Koliousis, Professor Richard Wilding and Mike Bernon teach at the Centre for Logistics, Procurement and Supply Chain Management, Cranfield University. They work extensively with organisations from all sectors and are passionate about sharing knowledge and creating action in companies to improve economic, environmental and societal impact.