CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
November 13, 2019
Forward Thinking

Supply chain talent shortage looms

Researchers at MIT predict that companies will find it increasingly difficult to find supply chain managers with the broad range of skills they need.

The United States is saddled with a high unemployment rate and many experienced people are seeking jobs right now. Even so, companies will confront a serious shortage of supply chain talent, warns the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Transportation and Logistics in a white paper titled "Are You Prepared for the Supply Chain Talent Crisis?"

The supply chain talent shortage will stem from a combination of layoffs and a changing skill set needed for the job. Companies that shed staff during the depth of the economic downturn may soon need to rehire practitioners, some of whom will have found work in other areas or at competing firms, analysts wrote.

In addition, today's supply chain professionals require a broader set of skills, a need brought about by globalization, market uncertainty, and shifts in workplace demographics. Other factors behind the requirement for more skills are supply chain management's increasing role in strategic decision making and its emergence as a "bridging" function that interacts with a variety of corporate disciplines.

Practitioners also need both "hard" analytical skills and "soft" leadership skills. Today's supply chain manager must be adept at managing ambiguity in these uncertain times and appreciating the big picture, and they must be able to communicate effectively both vertically within the organization and horizontally across supply chain participants.

The international scope of supply chains means that managers must be comfortable in operating in a global enterprise. That requires practitioners to be capable of dealing with individuals from different cultures and communicating across various time zones, as people who report to them will likely be based outside the home country.

The report notes that finding qualified individuals remains challenging, even though the supply of candidates has grown due to the increase in more specialized supply chain management programs at colleges and universities. One way to help address the talent shortage, the report's authors suggest, would be to raise the level of awareness of the profession in order to encourage more young people to enter the field.

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