Getting back to work

From the August 2022 print edition

I’ve seen many changes in supply chain during my 12 years as a Certified Supply Chain Professional (SCMP). Many of these changes have gained the support of chief procurement officers. This support is noted in several recent surveys, including one published by Deloitte.

That survey notes that, for the first time in 10 years, the number-one focus is no longer cost reductions, but operational efficiencies.

Why is this shift in focus so important? Such efficiencies emphasize the management side of operations. Stakeholder and supplier management, data validation, contract management and other areas all represent areas for potential efficiencies.

What does this have to do with supply chain needing mothers back in the workforce, you might ask? Note that operational efficiencies in this digitized environment get us focused on resiliency, assessing gaps, innovation and improving by using digital apps.

Leading skills
The top skills CPOs are looking for relates back to a 2019 report from Oliver Wyman, a consulting firm, stating that eight out of 10 of those skills focus on stakeholder and relationship management. Mothers who have been off work in caretaker roles have developed many of these skills.

So how can we support mothers looking to get back into the supply chain workforce? We can work to put in place initiatives like C-suite sponsorship, culture, recruitment, development and promotion, parent and family support, flexible work options and measuring and tracking progress toward gender diversity.

Supply chain tools can also help returning mothers map and determine how to improve their visibility and identify potential bottlenecks for their return to work in the supply chain. Combining problem-solving steps along with a gap analysis to map and create a gameplan, allowed me to understand the business environment, as well as the shortcomings that I had to becoming employable. Some questions to ask could include:

  • What local companies are doing well? What positions are they posting for?
  • What are the top-three skills those companies are looking for?
  • What skills do I currently have?
  • How can I upgrade my skills quickly and cost effectively?
  • Can I find someone to watch my children before and after school, or non-school days?
  • Can I volunteer to get a current reference?
  • Can I update my attire, get a new hairstyle, update my social media presence, and create a networking card?
  • Can I contact former bosses and colleagues for support, then send each of them my resume and cover letter?
  • Can I attend industry events and network?

Then place the data from your questions into the following problem-solving steps:\

Executive Summary – This is a detailed summary with a strategic perspective allowing your reader to understand the direction you are taking in implementing your decision. It will briefly outline your relevant background and other issues. Write this section last.

Issue identification – This section identifies short- and long-term issues and numbers them in order of importance. What is the main issue and why it is important? How does the environment influence the issue or issues?

Environmental and root cause analysis – This is a detailed analysis supported by quantitative arguments that also identifies the root cause of the issues.

Alternatives and options – This argues for your chosen direction. Include a pro-con analysis with quantitative support.

Recommendations, monitor and control – What will you do? Outline specific steps you will take. Set priorities or a specific timeline for actions. Explain how you will gain buy-in and how to deal with negative consequences.

You can use a gap analysis tool to help identify where you are, versus where you would like to be. It also enables you to focus on needed upskilling efficiently.

There are ways to find opportunities. You can attend industry events, read economic reports, and be present and professional on social media. It’s also possible to partner with recruiters, watch for news events, attend online events and network after those events. You can also try reaching out to event speakers and moderators, have detailed discussions with weakest links – they are more likely to recommend you for positions beyond your previous level.

Finally, here are five reasons a mother returning to work after a gap should consider a career
in supply chain: it gives you the opportunity to be successful and have a profitable career while making a difference; you can enter and re-enter at different levels, such as support, mid-range and professional; supply chain is now a path to the C-suite; there is less of a pay gap than in some other industries; and you can learn while also progressing along the way.


Lisa Fenton, CSCMP, is supply chain manager at Rapala VMC Canada.