Leading companies are focusing on longer-term survival strategies and making investments in technology to transform their supply chain. By accelerating digitalization and leveraging data to gain visibility, they can develop “intelligent forecasting” and run predictive models to manage inventory and various risks. But when evaluating supply chain performance, the focus has often been on the customer—yet it’s just as important to focus on talent, which is and has become an increasingly critical component of resilient and sustainable organizations.

Talent is a significant part of a company’s internal enablement structure, allowing it to respond to customers and suppliers, to the speed of the market, and to ongoing supply chain disruptions by leveraging knowledge and expertise. As companies look to the future, they’ll need to build programs that mitigate risks related to attracting, retaining and upskilling employees—and ensure talent development is at the forefront of their digital supply chain transformation.

For the customer experience to translate into cultivated, nurtured and long-lasting relationships, those relationships will depend on the connections made by internal talent. If that talent leaves, the company will lose those connections to their customers, suppliers and vendors, and the time, energy and care invested in those relationships is lost.

If organizations see their people as an asset and invest in their advancement and learning, they can leapfrog into the future. If they don’t invest in the people they have already, there are many opportunities for internal talent to jump to other organizations—particularly given the so-called Great Resignation—that can give them a sense of purpose and growth, and fulfill their learning needs.

Talent challenges and concerns

It has always been a challenge to find the right people—and to hold onto them—but the war for talent has been intensified, even more so with the effects of the Great Resignation. With the pandemic, it hasn’t gotten any easier to attract and retain talent. In fact, recent KPMG research indicates that while nearly 80 percent of business leaders surveyed need more workers with digital skills, more than two-thirds are having trouble finding and hiring needed talent.

To be successful with digital supply chain transformation, firms need to focus on nurturing talent and developing their people to build resilient teams with the right skill sets. The good news is that, according to KPMG’s 2021 CEO Outlook, a third (32 percent) of Canadian CEOs are placing more capital investment in developing their workforce’s skills and capabilities. However, 76 percent also said that the accelerated pace of digital transformation brought by the COVID-19 pandemic “will not be sustainable without first addressing burnout” among their workforce.

The upskilling and reskilling of the supply chain professional

Today’s supply chain professionals need to wear multiple hats. On one hand, they need to be technically strong in one or more areas of the supply chain. On the other hand, they require strong business acumen and commercial skills, and they need to be strong communicators. They also need to be tech and data savvy so they can keep up with emerging and disruptive technologies in the supply chain.

While the supply chain has traditionally been viewed as a technical field, it also requires soft skills, such as carefully dealing with customers and negotiating with suppliers and ecosystem partners. The ability to communicate effectively with people of different backgrounds in different parts of the world—and with perhaps different mentalities and mindsets—is a skill set that will be increasingly in demand for supply chain logistics.

Soft skills such as empathy are now a cornerstone skill that can help strengthen the supply chain, as empathy is required to strengthen current relationships and build new trust channels among internal functions and different parts of the supply chain. This presents an opportunity for businesses to look inside the organization for adjacent skill sets that complement the traditional skill sets of supply chain professionals. These adjacent skill sets could be nurtured and developed through additional training, coaching or mentoring, helping employees move into new roles within the organization. This allows for more nuanced, intelligent decision-making, but it also increases employee engagement and, in turn, increases loyalty.

Indeed, this is something that younger generations will come to expect, which means firms need to think about their workforces differently. Generation Z will have multiple career paths in their lifetime; few will stay in the same role for more than a few years at a time. Millennials will represent 75 percent of the workforce by 2025 and more than 75 percent of them want to change jobs every two years, which makes it challenging to retain talent. But this also speaks to the importance of continuous learning and recognizing micro-credentials to expedite upskilling and, hence, retention of employees. But for many businesses, this is only the first step.

Creating cross-functional teams for the workforce of the future

Leaders need to understand the evolving needs of the workforce to implement retention strategies. Having an analytical mindset is important when working with data, but emotional intelligence is increasingly considered an asset—such as creating a safe space for team members to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work and help contribute to the culture of an organization.

Safe and inclusive spaces start with creating cross-functional teams that bring new voices to the decision-making process, which ultimately leads to better employee engagement, but it also means recognizing that, in the new digital work-from-home era, employees may feel more disengaged and exposed, which will trigger wellness, balance, connectedness and accessibility needs that will need to be addressed.

It’s also important to embody psychological safety through an anti-oppressive and anti-racist organizational culture—and address the issue of burnout and mental health in the workplace—with an overarching commitment from leadership. By embodying a more inclusive culture, people are empowered across all levels of the organization to contribute and even challenge the status quo, but also to take accountability for their teams, their work and, ultimately, the supply chain.

Global supply chains are experiencing rapid change, forcing organizations to adapt and evolve. But at times there can be a tendency to focus more on process and technology and not so much on people. To enable supply chain resilience, organizations need to ensure they’re creating an environment where their workforce can flourish, continually learn and be part of interesting and novel projects in which they feel their contributions are valued. This helps to retain talent, but also to move them into other areas of the organization to ensure business continuity and agility.

A successful customer-centric supply chain starts with your people and a healthy, inclusive, safe space. Organizations need to bring talent development to the forefront of their supply chain strategy, ensuring employees are empowered with the right skill sets, technical skills and soft skills, to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the future supply chain.

From talent strategies to employee engagement and change management, our KPMG specialized teams can help you transform your supply chain and equip your workforce for the future.

Contact us to discuss your business needs and objectives.

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