Recruiting, Retaining, And Developing The Right Talent Is Now More Important Than Ever

A conversation with Nick Nanos, Chief Supply Chain Officer, LCBO, on building the right environment to foster talent in volatile circumstances.

Some significant milestones in environmental and social-political history have ushered in the decade of the 2020s. The pandemic and subsequent return to normal, the war in Ukraine, the backlog in manufacturing, reshoring from China, and many other shifts, have resulted in a volatile economic environment. In fact, a World Economic Forum report cites a “cost-of-living crisis” among the top risks in the next two years, followed by environmental and socio-geo-political hazards.
Our Canadian supply chain teams have built a tremendous amount of resilience in the past three years. However, building resilience does not mean that we won’t fail. But it does indicate our ability to get back up fast and remediate inefficiency in the process. At the core of this resilience is people, leadership, and culture.

Al-Azhar Khalfan is President and CEO of the Supply Chain Management Association Ontario (SCMAO).

Now is a challenging and yet, if I may say, an exciting time for supply chain professionals. That’s especially true for the leaders in the profession who are on the cusp of making some game-changing transformations related to a more agile IT infrastructure, better end-to-end visibility tools, and the ability to flex in a contested environment – all with a focus on people.

As a leader of an organization that is home to one of Canada’s largest communities of supply chain professionals and as someone passionate about empowering teams to deliver supply chain excellence, a topic that comes up in many of my conversations is the significance of people as the most valuable asset, and how we can continue to elevate those people.

This was a topic I recently explored with Nick Nanos, Chief Supply Chain Officer, LCBO, and a widely recognized supply chain leader across Canada. Here is our conversation.

Al-Azhar: Money is a critical factor for employees, but what are some of the other drivers when it comes to attracting or retaining talent?

Nick Nanos: Today, the dialogue is much more than just money – employees today want to work for organizations with a purpose. They want to work for a company or an organization that has purpose, and whose values align with their own. We’re a Crown corporation and our net income is transferred to the government to help fund key public programs and services including education, healthcare, and infrastructure. These are the types of things that employees today take into consideration.

Most Ontarians look at the LCBO as a retail organization. But we are a supply chain organization with a retail and wholesale arm, and I think that’s important because within that supply chain, we import from 80 countries from around the world, we have 28 different strategically located consolidation points, we bring in over 100 million cases of throughput, we have 1.6 million cases of warehousing space, and we service almost 2,000 retail outlets. This requires the right people to be doing the right jobs – jobs they are motivated by.

Al-Azhar: What role do you think the organization’s commitment to employees’ training and development plays in talent retention?

Nick Nanos: Well, we want this to be a good place to work and people need to feel that we’re investing in them.

People want growth and development, and we have a responsibility to prepare them for their current role and upskill them for the future. When you look at the disruption of the distribution network, we know that technology is going to transform how we do things at the LCBO. But here’s the kicker: technology is not the silver bullet; it’s training people on how to use the technology to its full potential. We have to recruit the right people. We have to retain the right people. We have to develop the right people so that they have the skillsets to leverage the technology and that enablement is key.

We also recognize that development is different for everyone, so we also provide self-learning resources to all employees which provides more than 3,800 courses and thousands of videos, books, and audiobooks across categories including digital skills, business skills, leadership, diversity and inclusion, and more.

Based on what we heard from Nick, it is evident that organizations have to be intentional about recruiting, retaining, and developing their teams. At SCMAO, as we build a three-year plan, our focus has expanded from empowering individual supply chain professionals to enabling organizations to empower their team of supply chain professionals.

We are constantly building world-class training and development infrastructure that gives supply chain leaders the tools to empower their teams with the knowledge and expertise they need to drive transformations. Our recent addition, the all-access subscription model, is a game-changer in this area and gives teams across the enterprise unrestricted access to our suite of 60-plus training offerings.

The sign of a true leader is when they help develop other leaders. Now more than ever, this applies to supply chain as the profession warrants more leadership competencies and a 360-degree understanding of supply chain functions, to complement the already deeply ingrained problem-solving skills that supply chain professionals possess. This enables the creation of the right growth environment. And it is incumbent upon our supply chain executives to continue orchestrating that environment for our supply chain professionals, so that the profession continues to build momentum in the years to come.