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The shortage of talent in the demand planning field is a reflection of the overall talent shortage among supply chain middle managers, says Breault, managing director for supply chain planning at the recruiting firm. He notes that the Department of Labor predicts a 21-percent year-over-year increase in logistics industry jobs between now and 2020. “With that type of job growth, the vacancies will only increase,” says Breault.
Additionally, demand planning is experiencing a skills shortage because of all the new technology that has been introduced in recent years. “Historically, for demand planners Excel was the ‘go to’ system,” Breault says. “People with 15 to 20 years experience in the field don’t have experience with the new demand planning systems that are out there, which creates a skills gap.”
When companies hired demand planners in the past, they looked for individuals who could crunch numbers that someone else would use to make business decisions. “Today you need an individual who can not only analyze and crunch numbers but who also can make sense of the numbers and who has the emotional intelligence to help executives make necessary decisions based on the numbers,” he says. “This requires someone with both left and right brain strengths, which is unusual.”
“The difference between a good and a great demand planner is the ability to connect cross-functionally across an organization and help different departments make decisions with demand data,” he says. “This includes the ability to push back on individuals when needed and to do that in such way that they can come back month after month and do it again and again.”
That makes for a lot of stress, Breault says. “Demand planners are rarely right and when they are right, someone else usually takes the credit.” Companies that are really successful at recruiting and retaining demand planners are those that use demand planning as a stepping stone to other parts of the organization and that provide a lot of reinforcement and support for people in the job, he says. “Most frustration with work comes down to a lack of communications or recognition.”
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