Build a Modern Supply Chain Workforce

Supply chain leaders must build organizations ready to cope with the continuous change of a digital world.

The many digital trends impacting the supply chain mean more complexity and constant change. Digitalization means more data, more digital connections, higher expectations around customer experience, more collaboration within a supply chain ecosystem, and in all these areas, faster change.

Supply chain leaders need teams equipped with new skills to cope with this new, more dynamic landscape. Gartner research vice president Dana E. Stiffler explains what skills are needed and how to build them in your organization.

There’s no magic bullet to suddenly create your ideal employee; it’s a case of leading the workforce better

“Supply chain leaders name talent shortage as the No. 1 external force impacting their supply chain organization, and employee skills gaps as the No. 2 internal issue,” says Stiffler. “There’s no magic bullet to suddenly create your ideal employee; it’s a case of leading the workforce better to evolve the skills your organization needs now and in the future.”

Gartner has three pillars for building the next-generation workforce.

Agile, collaborative leadership

When employees are organized into rigid silos led from the top, agility suffers. While each silo may perform its function well, this is not enough for an organization to succeed in the rapidly shifting sands of digital business.

“We recommend that supply chain leaders embrace an ‘enterprise leadership’ approach,” says Stiffler. “This means going beyond individual, top-down relationships to build collaborative networks across the business.”

This combination of individual and networked leadership helps break down silos and build agility and cross-functional savvy in teams. It empowers employees to expand their range and builds their confidence to act autonomously when needed. Agility and autonomy drive the best outcomes for the organization in a digital world.

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Continuous workforce transformation

In the continuously changing world of digital business, the workforce needs to keep pace. It’s much better to build a workforce that can adapt, rather than a workforce that depends on leadership to dictate changes.

Enable quicker hiring processes to grab in-demand skills from the marketplace before your competitors

“The idea of continuous workforce transformation may seem like a recipe for chaos to many people,” says Stiffler. “The key here is to create and deploy broad guidance frameworks based on the overarching supply chain strategy that engage with the workforce, prepare employees for continuous change and foster a more agile mindset in teams, but still keep a coherent direction.”

Agility and autonomy will come through bringing together employees and stakeholders to co-create the new strategies that affect them. Enable employees to own implementation plans, and provide tools to help them define success metrics and the details of changes.

Innovative talent sourcing and development plans

No matter how well you lead and prepare your existing workforce for continuous change, you’ll need to hire new talent and skills.

“Start by working with HR to get better at talent analytics,” says Stiffler. “You’re flying blind if you can’t audit current competencies and map what you will need in the future to the abilities or potential you have in-house.”

Prioritize digital dexterity, a combination of analog and digital skills and traits, over pure technical know-how

When you know what is needed and can’t be developed in-house, look outside the organization. As more organizations pursue digital business strategies, competition will intensify, so make sure your processes are fit for the digital age. This means looking at new sources of talent information, like social matching and data mining. Enable quicker hiring processes to grab in-demand skills from the marketplace before your competitors.

Read more: 5 Places You Didn’t Think to Look for Digital Talent

When hiring, prioritize digital dexterity, a combination of analog and digital skills and traits, over pure technical know-how. When you build an agile team, you need people with an agile mindset. Remember, you can contract in technical expertise for a price when you need it, but an agile employee who can network and connect across an organization and autonomously rise to challenges and improve processes is harder to contract in.

“Finally, forge working relationships right across business units and silos,” says Stiffler. “The more interconnected the supply chain organization is with the wider business, the better it will be able to drive growth and meet top-level priorities.”

Gartner clients can read more in “Leading the Next-Generation Workforce: A Supply Chain Perspective” by Dana E. Stiffler.

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