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Some Misconceptions About Supply-Chain Talent Management

Supply-chain talent management is Topic A for many executives -- even though they harbor a number of misperceptions about the subject, according to Shay Scott, managing director of the Global Supply Chain Institute at the University of Tennessee.

The success of any business rests on the quality of its people. But with the expanding definition of “supply chain,” the requirements for candidates in that sector are more broad-based than over. The “big tent” definition includes procurement, logistics and related operations within a well-integrated organization, Scott says.

Both executive and Wall Street are becoming more aware of the value of supply-chain excellence to the organization. As such, the need to develop talent in that area is becoming increasingly important.

Companies typically focus on the lower and upper ends of their supply-chain teams – individuals being hired straight from university programs, and senior leaders. The big gap, says Scott, is in middle management.

“When we combine that [oversight] with the globalizing nature of many businesses,” he says, “we see a disparity in supply-chain talent opportunities.” In addition, schools in various regions and countries don’t subscribe to the same definition of supply chain. In the U.S., the term typically embraces the cash-to-cash cycle, from procurement all the way to final sale. Other regions of the world take a more limited and traditional view of the discipline. As a result, it’s hard to find a commonality of skills among candidates from various countries.

“It’s one of those things that is keeping senior supply-chain executives up at night more than it used to,” Scott says.

One of the biggest misconceptions among companies today is the assumption that their efforts need to be focused on day-to-day or quarter-to-quarter operations. “People are too busy,” says Scott. “But the learning process requires not only seeing and grasping new content, but internalizing it into a framework that an individual can actually use in the future. There really needs to be some formality around that.”

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