Welcome to the talent wars

From the February 2024 print edition

Many of us fall into our supply chain careers. For instance, decades ago I worked for a global company as a customer service representative. I wound up buying replacement parts from one of the company’s US divisions. My interest in the buying side of the transaction increased, and soon I was looking for a supply chain position closer to home.

Lisa Fenton is supply chain and inventory manager, Custom Plastics International Limited.

In the late 1990s, McKinsey & Company published an article entitled The War for Talent,
a phrase that would ultimately grow more popular.

I have heard of and lived the 5S journey – a Japanese quality tool for workplaces – but I’d never heard of the 5Bs of workforce shaping. The 5Bs of workforce shaping is an ongoing scenario-based activity. It’s also probabilistic. Workforce shaping should be undertaken by a small, resolute team to update constantly the most likely workforce scenarios. The aim is to inform and make decisions about the optimal composition of the workforce. Five helpful considerations are:

Buy – Who to recruit from the external market.
Build – Who to upskill and reskill, and in what areas.
Borrow – Which tasks to outsource.
Bot – Which tasks to automate.
Base – Where to locate roles, and where the base of operations (including hybrid and virtual) should be.

Labour shortages
A paper from KPMG, called The Future of Supply Chain, mentions labour shortages impacting supply chains. If there aren’t enough people with future-fit skillsets, it’s understandable there would be a war for talent. What does a future-fit workforce look like?

It includes leaders who can adopt a digital mindset while emphasizing human skills, awareness that everyone is an innovator, a growth mindset, the courage to act and challenge, and a people strategy featuring industrial and employee relations. Criteria include:

Who – Includes various levels from entry level to executive roles.
What – Challenge of acquiring top-tier talent when there is a scarcity of individuals with high-demand skills and expertise.
When – Concept has been around for decades, with the phrase popularized in the late 1990s.
Where – Highly industrialized regions, economic hubs, global logistics hubs, emerging markets, demographic factors, technology clusters.
Why – Globalization, technology advances, retirement of experienced professionals, e-commerce growth, complex supply chain networks, and specialized skills.

If there are so many positions available and so many individuals seeking opportunities, why is there a war for talent? One trend in 2024 is The Great Reprioritization, as highlighted in The EWS article, Top Talent Trends for 2024. The Great Reprioritization involves the rise of the selective candidate. These candidates only explore new opportunities if they fit certain criteria, typically around working patterns, culture, and non-compensatory benefits. Crucially, even for roles where there is a good competency fit, if these criteria are not met, selective candidates say “no” far sooner. A major challenge for recruiters is the selective candidate who turns down opportunities if it does not fit a certain lifestyle. A company must offer intangible variables and focus on areas like green and sustainable practices.

It is not surprising that many top trend lists note that talent is the primary concern for the C-suite because there are simply not enough people to run supply chains. We are not alone on trying to figure out how to do more with less. It’s therefore understandable that organizations are turning to digital transformation and artificial intelligence (AI) as productivity boosters.

As well, many industries have an image crisis among entry-level candidates. The stats are bleak, with estimates of 60 million baby boomers retiring by 2030 in the US and more than five million in Canada.

It’s baffling that companies have candidates jump through hoops for a position, yet with virtual interviews making the process easier, candidates may accept a position sooner with another company.
Companies must realize they are not only competing with each other, but also with their future selves. Workers are looking elsewhere to find opportunities more often than you may think.

Solutions include being a place where people want to work; giving people what they want; offering flexibility; recognizing mistakes; acting fast to outpace change; and being a cultural role model.
For job hunters, keep sharing updates, insights, and results. Focus on attending events, conferences, and online sessions. Include personal notes, show interest in others’ work, and network. Your value and visibility will keep you top of mind in the war for talent.