Joys of upskilling

From the August 2023 print edition

Would you or your company spend five per cent or more of your salary on upskilling?

If so, how would you spend it? Would you research and do a gap analysis first? Looking back on returning to work after 12 years, I researched skills needed to rejoin the workforce. I combined that with a personal gap analysis. I spent $1,600, which I thought was a lot. But it worked out to 4.25 per cent of the annual salary that I earned when I started working.

I looked at the top-three jobs that I was applying to and the top-three skills common from each. I ranked them in order of importance along with the cost and a timeline to get me to my desired state. The question I asked myself once working again was, ‘what can I do to ensure they can’t say no when I transition to my next position?’

Organizations want to attract and retain talent and supply chain professionals must ensure they have the skills and ability to match what organizations want. If you’re unconvinced, here is a stat from The World Economic Forum: for workers planning to stay in their roles, the share of core skills that will change in the next five years is 40 per cent, and 50 per cent of all employees will need reskilling. The top skills employers see rising by 2025 include critical thinking; analysis; problem solving, active learning, and flexibility. This article addresses the following issues:

  • Why must supply chain professionals upgrade their skills? Why is it important now?
  • What are the dangers of not getting those skills?
  • What skills should one acquire or develop? What soft skills are needed and why? What technology should you familiarize yourself with and why
  • Where can you get help with skills development?
  • How can you use technology to gain those skills

As supply chain professionals, we want to stay competitive, contribute to our organizations and to overall business success. There are several reasons why it is important for us to upgrade our skills:

Evolving industry – the need to stay updated with the latest tools, strategies, and practices.

Globalization – the need to be knowledgeable in international trade regulations, logistics strategies and cultural differences.

Cost optimization – the ability to identify cost-savings opportunities, implement lean practices, optimize inventory levels, and negotiate favourable contracts.

Risk management – managing challenges and protecting against disruptions.

Collaboration/communication – communication with cross-functional teams while ensuring coordination across the supply chain.

Sustainability and ethical practices – how to implement strategies related to them.
Enhanced efficiency and productivity – knowledge in data analytics, lean management and automation to optimize supply chains for productivity and cost reduction.

Growth – personal and professional knowledge, deeper and new industry perspectives.

Job market pressure
Multiple factors in the job market make it especially important to invest in upskilling. These include rapid technological advances, increasing complexity and globalization, as well as supply chain disruptions. As well, data-driven decision making, sustainability and ethical practices, and evolving customer experiences, increase the importance of gaining new skills or updating existing ones.

The dangers of not getting these skills are many. There’s the risk of becoming obsolete and losing ground to technological advancements. Skill requirements change, and there is increased competition and less job security. Many organizations promote a culture of lifelong learning, require remote work and digital skills, while the requirements of specific industries can change.

Here is a list of skills to work on that can help you become invaluable in becoming more efficient, competitive and successful:

  • Data analysis
  • Supply chain planning and optimization
  • Supplier management and negotiation
  • Logistics and transportation management
  • Risk management and resilience
  • Communication and collaboration
  • Technology and digitization
  • Continuous improvement, leadership, and management
  • Sustainable and Ethical practices

Some people undervalue soft skills, as they are more difficult to measure and often thought of as common sense. Yet they are necessary, and you can develop and refine them. Soft skills to develop include communication; collaboration/relationship building; adaptability and flexibility, among others.

Navigating these skills can help us position ourselves for success while ensuring we unlock opportunities and achieve personal fulfillment. As well, help in developing our skills is not far away. It does not have to cost a lot or take much time to realize. One could break their upskilling plan into short- and long-term timeframes to deal with the time and cost involved. Resources include professional associations or organizations, online learning platforms, university programs and certifications, industry conferences/events, publications, internal training and development, and networking.

There is a wealth of knowledge among experts that we can reach out to for help with developing our skills. They include mentors, managers, colleagues and peers, subject matter experts, professional networks, external training providers, and online communities. Technology can also help.

To reap upskilling benefits, invest in personal growth, embrace professional development, enhance your knowledge, acquire new tools and strategies and adapt to emerging industry practices with an upskilling plan in 2023 and beyond.