Keeping talent

From the June 2023 print edition

In the post-pandemic world, the supply chain field is showing renewed signs of life. According to the 2023 MHI Annual Industry Report – an report published each year by MHI and Deloitte and presented at the ProMat show in Chicago in March – organizations have been spending more on supply chain.

Michael Power is editor of Supply Professional magazine.

The report, called The Responsible Supply Chain: Transparency, Sustainability, and the Case for Business, shows that 90 per cent of surveyed organizations plan to spend over $1 million on their supply chains, a 24 per cent increase over last year.

This spending means more investment in technology, with organizations planning to purchase wearable and mobile technology, 3D printing, robotics and automation, and other innovative products.

Yet one data point that stands out from the report is the emphasis organizations place on workforce challenges. The report shows hiring and retaining qualified workers (57 per cent) and the talent shortage (56 per cent) were the top supply chain challenges cited by survey respondents.

The picture the report paints shows a shortage of labour and talent. Yet a new report from Statistics Canada seems to question the idea that, overall, Canada is experiencing a labour shortage. True, the country’s job vacancies hit over one million last year. But according to StatCan, the picture is rather subtle. Vacancies appears to depend on how much education the job requires.

For example, there were 113,000 vacant positions requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher in the fourth quarter of 2022, but 227,000 people with that education level were unemployed during the same period.
For positions needing a high school diploma or less, the shortage of workers started in the third quarter of 2021. This doesn’t necessarily mean that labour shortages don’t exist, including within supply chain. Rather, those shortages may not be as extensive as previously thought.

For employers trying to fill vacancies needing a post-secondary education, the report says their hiring challenges cannot be due to a lack of workers with those qualifications alone. It may be due to a mismatch in skills needed for the job and those that people actually have. Another factor could be that wages aren’t on par with what’s expected in the position.

So, what can organizations do to entice workers into areas with shortages? Increasing compensation is likely a good start. As well, focus on retention and keeping the talent you have. A positive work environment can help this.

So can training. Technology’s role will increase in places like warehouses and distribution centres, so providing knowledge of how to use that technology, and opportunities to do so, can help entice people to stay.

A campaign emphasizing how great a supply chain career can be is also important. That positive PR push should start at the high school level.

No doubt, there are shortages of workers for certain supply chain jobs. As organizations focus more on their supply chain, finding ways to make such work appealing and potentially better paid should be a priority.