After COVID, developing the right digital supply chain talent will be harder than ever

A digital supply chain requires companies to organize and behave in ways significantly different from the past. New business models, new data sources, new technologies, enhanced processes and increased risks all contribute to an operational landscape that requires new ways of working, and most importantly, new skills to match.

But finding and recruiting new talent is not enough. Where can traditional firms uncover and attract digital talent? Are your recruiting strategies updated to account for your more digital competitors? Firms also face the reality that bringing bright new digital skills into traditional processes may not necessarily deliver improvements in supply chain performance and may meet resistance.

In our annual Digital Supply Chain survey, a majority of firms acknowledged that their current talent pool is inadequate to execute their digital business strategies. At the same time, respondents also noted they were either unable to or haven’t taken significant actions to close the digital talent gap. Further, in our conversations with supply chain leaders, we found that the digital skills gap was top of mind, yet few firms had begun to address the challenge.

Given major disruptions related to COVID-19, it’s imperative that companies consider how the current operating environment changes their response to talent and skills gap issues. For example, many companies have made an immediate shift to online learning as a means of continuous learning and development during times of social distancing. Companies also reaffirmed the increased importance of more integrated cross-functional behaviors. Development efforts must deliver on-line action-oriented learning programs to support this shift in mindset. Supply chain leaders also mentioned an inevitable shift of employment to more online fulfillment as a means of coping with the changes in customer behavior, as well as the displacement of some value chain partners.

To address these issues, DSCI has developed a three-part talent model, designed to provide a robust action-planning framework. The three components of the model are:

1) Attract and acquire: Capturing the right talent

The best performing companies showed us that specific actions were taken to signal potential recruits that they were seeking employment at the right company. Digitally savvy companies communicate to recruits that they value digital skills and they offer more than a traditional transactional job. The roles these companies are seeking to fill focus on creative business problem solving rather than simply technical skills. The most accomplished organizations project an “Employment Brand” that is data-driven, community-oriented and non-traditional, in ways that resonate with desirable digital skilled candidates.

2) Build and develop: Developing digital talent and skills

Once a company has successfully attracted and recruited digital talent, it must have plans in place to further develop that talent. The organization must build on key skills talent will need for the specific business environments in which they will perform while developing them as collaborative contributors across all business units. These performance behaviors are usually not developed naturally; they require explicit training. Building a culture and community of data-driven employees requires setting leadership examples and rewarding digital skill-building behaviors.

3) Integrate and perform: Driving cross-functional integration and high employee performance

Developing a community of data-driven performers is not the end of the story when seeking to drive digital supply chain transformation. New and innovative digital business models and segments depend on highly-integrated processes and information. In the best examples, a supply chain is “end-to-end” when its planning, sourcing, manufacture and delivery to customers seamlessly delivers high levels of customer happiness at managed costs.

This seamless integration doesn’t happen on its own. A well-crafted digital supply chain talent plan takes organizational efforts and not just individual attributes. Integration involves organizational re-design, as well as new employee mindsets and cross-functional behaviors. Sustainable supply chain transformation is not just about hiring new talent; it’s about creating the conditions for higher levels of organizational performance and commitment.

Dave Kurz, Ph.D., is a Research Fellow for the Digital Supply Chain Institute. He is an expert on organizational learning and leadership development. Kurz advises global organizations such as Coca-Cola, J&J, Colgate Palmolive, General Mills and Mastercard on innovative learning and leadership development strategies. He currently holds a faculty appointment as a clinical professor in the management department of Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business.

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