When headlines scream about supply chain risk related to the coronavirus, logistics constraints from online merchants and recession warnings generated by statistics from a national supply management organization, it is evidence that procurement, formerly a staid operations supporting function, has finally joined the top business echelon.
In other words, it is cool to work in supply management.
The evolution and growing importance of the profession has created a need for qualified professionals with interdisciplinary skills. Demand for skillful supply management talent has outstripped supply, creating a shortage, exacerbated by low unemployment levels and other equally interesting career paths.
Colleges and universities have responded by ramping up their supply chain programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Job boards and social media networking sites are full of postings for positions ranging from analysts to on-site supply managers. Salaries are up and executive recruiters are trying to poach high performers to change teams.
In order to identify and hire qualified employees, hiring managers need to approach the task as they would in finding qualified suppliers for any other commodity; they need to use their strategic sourcing skills to identify candidates that will provide the highest level of value to their organizations.
What can a company do to attract, engage and retain professional staff?
Align your supply management strategy and your staffing needs
Companies work hard to design their sourcing and supply management efforts to meet corporate objectives. Organizations should carry that same alignment through the make-up of your staff. Data analysis will require a different skill set than supplier quality audits. Supply management employees are not one size fits all. Employees who are comfortable in their jobs will perform better and stay longer.
Work with human resources to create reasonable job postings
Be specific in the skills you need and the expectations of the job. Is the position one that focuses on data analytics, supplier relationships or commodity management?
Some supply management job postings ask for a career’s worth of skills for entry-level or intermediate positions, telegraphing an intense workload and a lower pay scale. The initial posting may be the only time to capture the interest of that potential employee. Look at it as a marketing opportunity.
Improve your company reputation
Are you a good company to work for? Better yet, are you a good customer? Companies that treat employees well most likely have a culture that treats suppliers well, and that reputation will attract candidates.
Constant recruitment for similar positions is not always an indicator of a growing business. It could be the sign of a company that cannot hold on to staff. Low employee turnover is a key performance indicator for supplier stability. It is also an important metric for potential employees to assess.
Become actively engaged in your industry and the supply management profession
Don’t underestimate professional and company evangelism when trying to recruit new employees. Supply management educational conferences and local and regional association meetings are full of potential candidates who may be enticed to apply to your company after chatting with you at a booth or attending a professional development workshop where you actively promote professional and company accomplishments. Networking events are marketplaces for new employees.
Allow for professional mobility and growth inside and outside of the supply management department
The advent of flatter organizations has hindered upward mobility for employees at all levels, creating logjams at certain positions and a lack of opportunities for advancement. Companies replace promotion with job expansion and new responsibilities without a change in title, status or salary.
Job candidates may be enticed by opportunities for career growth, and existing staff may look to move up a level or two in the organization. Some will move laterally to gain new skills. Supply management professionals sometimes take assignments in operations, planning or logistics to gain experience and take advantage of opportunities for advancement that may be absent in their current department. Coach employees on career development as a retention strategy.
Plan for employee turnover
Staffing shortages and employee burnout are two constants in the supply management profession. Economic pressures, societal changes and generational traits are impacting all employers. The short-term quarter to quarter thinking in the C-suite cascades down to the rank and file, often setting the stage for quickly changing priorities, shifting loyalties and constant turnover.
The job seeker of today reflects fluid and uncertain business landscape. As you adjust your supply management strategies to meet changing conditions, do the same with your recruitment and retention strategies.
This story was first published in our weekly newsletter, Supply Chain Dive: Procurement. Sign up here.