The future of supply chain work is now. If you’re not actively rethinking your approach to facilities, pay scales, work environments, automation and digitization, you’re losing ground to competitors for both business and talent.
Gone are the historical bread crumbs that consumer goods providers once relied on to predict demand, thanks to extreme weather, growth of e-commerce and economic uncertainty. It’s more important than ever to have the right talent in place— a supply chain, after all, is only as good as the people you plug into it. Future success depends on retaining, re-skilling and growing your teams.
Leading the Charge
The question is: Are you are going to pay for change now or later? Why not lead the charge, and the change? Operations people want better working conditions, which someone else will be happy to provide if you don’t.
Some human resource pros suggest there aren’t enough qualified workers to meet the demand of new plants and distribution centers under construction. But the best way to solve the recruitment problem is to retain current employees, and have them be promoters and advocates for your shop. Operations folks talk — they share stories about working conditions and pay. It’s important to stay in tune with these conversations and how your shop is being perceived, in order to practice effective retention policies.
As change continues to escalate, operations leaders may lose focus on intangibles like employee morale and working conditions. Yet not knowing how employees feel about working in your plant or distribution center can put your team at risk of losing talent.
Employee expectations are changing. Salaries are but one part of the overall retention equation that many employers continue to miscalculate. Connection to the company, investment in leadership skills for front-line workers, and an awareness of work-life balance are just some of the intangibles that employers are ignoring as the future of work descends upon the supply chain. Getting this equation right means creating stronger cultural alignment within the organization.
Internal Versus External Change
When it comes to effecting change in the workplace, agility is key. It’s crucial to focus on what might be coming around the bend, rather than waiting for it to get here. Those who fail to do so are likely already getting left behind.
Employees know whom they want to work for. If you have competitors building new plants close to you, then their facilities and working conditions could be more desirable to the workforce. Your competition isn’t going to hire people off the couch. They’re likely going to headhunt your crew, offering them modern amenities and tools that make their jobs easier.
Businesses need to underscore the total rewards that attract and retain talent. Compensation still tops the list, but many young employees don’t value benefits beyond base pay. If your company offers health benefits, 401K, life insurance, family leave and educational support, you need to emphasize it. Many will leave you for an additional $5,000 in base salary, not realizing that your total rewards are worth $10,000 more annually.
Employers are vacuuming up young professionals from internships and summer work jobs who have attained valuable supply chain analytics experience. For their part, young people looking to take advantage of job market trends should approach their course study strategically, seeking out mentors and aspiring to becoming an asset to the employer.
Mid-career professionals, meanwhile, can take advantage of these trends by keeping their eyes peeled for consulting opportunities. Supply chain pros with eight to 10 years of operational knowledge and experience can start seeking out side hustles to augment their current salary. Similar options should not be overlooked for leaders in the C-suite.
Such a strategy also helps in hedging career paths during turbulent times.
What About Technology?
Like it or not, artificial intelligence is here to stay. Supply chain organizations that fail to adopt AI as part of their digital journey will be left behind. Again, the mantra is: Either you proactively adapt to change, or change will happen to you.
Many supply chain transformations fail because leaders would rather pay more to fix it later than less now to get ahead of the curve. Be mindful of changes happening around you, and use those external forces to help you prioritize your own internal transformations. Front-line workers can be your barometer for change — tune into what they’re saying, and their needs beyond salaries and pay raises. The quality of facilities, tools, technology, amenities and work-life balance are all playing larger roles in the employee retention equation. Balancing all of this with accelerated sustainability goals and rapid advances in technology can add stress to your workforce. Be the change rather than play catch up.
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