Flexibility and well-being are critical drivers for a future of work strategy in supply chain.
The pandemic has shattered traditional work processes, even in the hands-on supply chain function. As perceptions around the way we work continue to shift, competition for supply chain talent is steep for both frontline and desk jobs. Chief supply chain officers (CSCOs) must now lead and inspire a mix of frontline, hybrid and remote workers.
Question No. 1: Why is the talent shortage such a struggle for supply chain?
Supply chain has difficulty because of the move toward nontraditional work models such as gig work (short-term, temporary or independent contractors) and digital nomadism (working anywhere). Younger generations especially want more control and flexibility over how, when and where they work.
The pandemic accelerated those shifts, and supply chain leaders must ask themselves why they insist on having fixed working hours and mandatory office time when their networks are global and always-on. If they want to attract and retain talent, they must reinvent the work environment.
Question No. 2: How can leaders make frontline roles more attractive?
Frontline roles, such as those based in warehouses or factories, appear to be less flexible. But consider the activities within the role and how to improve the experience, rather than treating an entire role as “on-site only.”
For example, many machines can be operated and monitored remotely. Shift schedule design can be delegated to the workforce using technology, so workers can align work and personal schedules. Some compliance training or administrative activities could be done off-site via personal or company-issued devices. There are many more frontline workers in the supply chain workforce than desk workers, and their well-being cannot take a back seat. Autonomy will lead to happier employees and better business outcomes.
Supply chain leaders have two levers they can pull to increase flexibility:
Introduce shorter shift lengths and put scheduling power in employees’ hands. This is the most effective frontline investment for reducing attrition and attracting new employees according to our latest research.
Innovate to increase additional “flexibility about flexibility” for frontline workers now, including what they work on and who they work with. The supply chain of the future will be marked by more choice in work, and work schedules that drive better retention, recruiting and business results.
Question No. 3: How can supply chain organizations attract and retain the best talent?
Through a well-designed and clearly communicated employee value proposition (EVP). The most effective employee attraction drivers (beyond pay, which must be competitive) for frontline roles are radical flexibility and overall well-being. The most effective investments for attracting new talent are well-being, flexibility and compensation Gartner’s research, including our research on frontline employees, shows that the best employee and business outcomes happen when these elements of the EVP are delivered in a way that results in the best possible employee experience, which we call the Human Deal. The five key elements of the Human Deal are radical flexibility, deeper connections, shared purpose, personal growth, and holistic wellbeing.
“Radical” flexibility simply means employee-led control over when, where and how much they work. With the impact of COVID-19, 83% of organizations experimented with where work was done, and 62% experimented with when work was done. Also, 43% offered employees flexibility in terms of how much work they did, such as giving them the option to work four-day weeks at 80% pay as a way to cut costs without layoffs. According to Gartner research, flexibility in all aspects of work is not only what employees want, but also what makes them 18% better at their job.
When employers take a comprehensive approach to improving employees’ lives, they see remarkably better outcomes. To focus in on another element of the Human Deal, consider deeper connections among team members and between managers and their direct reports. When managers and co-workers know and care personally about their direct reports and teammates, employees report better physical and mental health, financial well-being and even in how well they sleep. Deeper connections ultimately translate into a 21-point increase in the percentage of high performers in an organization and an 18-point increase in employee Net Promoter Scores.
The upshot is a healthier and more productive workforce, with employees who are more likely to stay with the organization for the long haul and recommend it to their network.
Competition for supply chain talent is tight.
CSCOs must now lead and inspire a mix of frontline, hybrid and remote workers.
To compete for top supply chain talent, you must increase flexibility and communicate a well-designed employee value proposition.
Dana Stiffler is a Distinguished VP Analyst in the Gartner Supply Chain Research & Advisory Group. She covers supply chain talent strategies and the chief supply chain officer role as well as supply chain university programs.
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