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How to Build a Supply Chain Planning Talent Strategy

November 05, 2019

Contributor: Sarah Hippold

Supply chain planning leaders must actively develop a strategy to attract, retain and develop talent for their organization.

There’s an ongoing war for talent. Competition is fierce among organizations and even within companies — especially in fields that require data analysis and statistics. Supply chain planning (SCP) leaders who want to attract and retain great talent need to ensure that their function stands out from the rest. 

Learn more: Supply Chain Planning — Your Strategic Guide to What, Why and How

A dedicated talent strategy for SCP might seem like a task for the HR department, but without input and ownership from planning leaders, that strategy might fail to meet true business needs.

“ The thoughtful strategies and objectives we define and the processes and technologies we implement are only as robust as the people that execute on them”

“Amid trade wars, economic volatility, digitalization and labor shortages, SCP leaders have plenty on their plates in terms of devising strategies that combat these issues,” said Caroline Chumakov, Principal Analyst, Gartner, at Gartner Supply Chain Planning Summit in Denver, CO. “But in the end, the thoughtful strategies and objectives we define and the processes and technologies we implement are only as robust as the people that execute on them. Therefore, every planning department needs a talent strategy.”

SCP leaders can build their talent strategy by using five pillars.

Pillar No. 1: Role-based capabilities

Your supply chain planning strategy is underpinned by the capabilities of your workforce. These capabilities are composed of the skills, knowledge, competencies and experiences required to be successful in a specific role or set of roles in the planning organization.

The 100%-fit candidate is a rare species, so SCP leaders should focus on a shortlist of the most critical capabilities the organization needs to remain competitive for the foreseeable future. This might include competencies such as curiosity, collaboration or data-driven decision making.

Pillar No. 2: Career pathways

In a recent Gartner survey, senior leaders in SCP identified the lack of a defined career path as one of the key reasons why planners move on to roles in other departments or leave an organization altogether. This is a red flag. Traditional, hierarchical career paths are no longer enough to engage and retain the average planner, especially for millennial and Gen Z talent

“A career path should allow for not only hierarchical, but also lateral, movement, both within the planning organization and across other supply chain functions,” Chumakov said. “The challenge here is twofold: Creating the opportunities and then making sure that people are aware of them and know what it takes to chart their path in the organization.”

Pillar No. 3: Learning and development

One of the most effective ways to foster adult learning and development in SCP is through the use of the 70-20-10 model. The idea is that 70% of personal development should happen on the job via experiential learning interventions. These interventions could include activities such as stretch assignments or job rotations. 

Relationship-based learning accounts for a further 20% of learning activities. This might include mentorship programs and online or offline best-practice sharing with peers. Manager-led coaching and leadership shadowing are also common learning interventions. Only the final 10% of learning activities are facilitated through formal training, such as certifications, classroom training and e-modules. 


Pillar No. 4: Recruiting and onboarding

We have to come to terms with the fact that recruiting is much more than simply writing or refreshing a job description. SCP leaders must work with their HR departments to identify talent pools that reflect the competencies their organization needs — and then focus their outreach on key attraction drivers for those talent pools. In many cases, this will mean highlighting possible career pathways and development opportunities at your organization.

The SCP onboarding program is equally important and should ensure that every planner joining the organization has a consistent experience. Make sure that new planners understand how their work contributes to corporate and supply chain objectives.

Pillar No. 5: Performance management

Performance management is the process by which most HR departments measure and reward an individual’s contribution to the business over time. SCP leaders can drive business performance by creating tailored development plans for their employees. 

The selection of the correct development goals is crucial. For any given employee, the perfect set of goals sits at the intersection between business needs, the employee’s current performance and their career aspirations.

For example, consider a demand planner who aspires to become the global process owner for sales and operations planning (S&OP). The employee is a strong communicator but lacks experience leading projects and could build greater cross-functional awareness. In parallel, the business needs a revamped S&OP process. Marrying business and professional aspirations, development objectives for this employee could be to build an understanding of value streams while also improving project and relationship management skills.

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