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How to Prepare for Impending Retirements

Analyst Insight: APQC's research indicates that organizations need to prepare for the future in terms of supply chain talent. New supply chain hires are often only somewhat prepared for the jobs they will be doing, and although most organizations recognize the need for talent management programs directed at supply chain staff, many have not created such programs. What does this mean for organizations that have large numbers of employees on the brink of retirement? – Andrea Stroud, Research Program Manager, APQC

How to Prepare for Impending Retirements

Managing talent within the supply chain discipline is an issue of great interest to senior-level executives. This is increasingly true as supply chain becomes a more strategic function within the enterprise and many senior supply chain professionals prepare to retire. Organizations are looking for employees who can meet the demands of a complex, global economy, and they may not be able to obtain all the skills they need through recruitment alone.

In APQC’s recent 'Recruiting and Developing Talent in the Supply Chain' study, only half the organizations surveyed have formal supply chain talent management programs.

Among organizations with formal programs, 81 percent agreed or strongly agreed that formal talent management is a top priority, as opposed to only half of organizations without formal supply chain talent management programs. This difference is rather alarming because it means that a significant subset of organizations is failing to recognize talent management as a priority.

As part of the study, participants were asked to rate how prepared previously interviewed supply chain candidates were with regard to various areas of the supply chain discipline. The scale ranged from 1, which denoted that candidates were not at all prepared, to 5, which indicated that candidates were very well prepared. On average, the respondents rated supply chain candidates’ skills lower than 3.6 on every area included in the survey. Procurement, inventory management, and supplier management were the areas where previously interviewed supply chain candidates were most prepared. Candidates were least prepared in the areas of research, financial management and international experience.

The data is clear: Individuals seeking supply chain positions need further skills development. Organizations can help candidates come in more prepared by working with universities to improve the curricula in supply chain programs. Supply chain functions can also prepare onboarding and training programs that emphasize skill areas where new hires tend to be lacking. Career development opportunities not only build new employees’ skills but also act as engagement and retention tools, helping organizations secure and keep the best supply chain talent.

Mentoring is a key method of transferring and developing soft skills such as ethics, problem solving, customer focus, and teamwork—all of which survey participants listed as among the most important skills for supply chain talent. The results of the study show that organizations with formal supply chain talent management programs are more likely to match supply chain new hires and high performers with senior leaders for mentoring purposes. Mentoring serves many talent management objectives. It helps engage both mentors and mentees by providing opportunities for growth and connection. It also supports knowledge transfer, ensuring that the organization retains vital know-how and expertise when employees leave or retire.

                                                         The Outlook

Organizations must set objectives regarding talent management in the supply chain function, and those objectives must align with organizational objectives. In order to prepare employees for roles in the supply chain function, it is important for organizations to create formal supply chain talent management programs that use training and career development plans to enhance employee skills and capabilities. By properly developing these programs, organizations can reduce the potential for skills loss through employee retirements.

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