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Why the right skills hold the key to navigating supply chain disruption

By Scott Dance, Director of Hays Procurement & Supply Chain

 

It will have been difficult to escape, in recent months, the press coverage given to the escalating supply chain crisis in the UK and the way it’s been impacting our access to critical goods and services, whether that’s food and drink, fuel or medical supplies. A perfect storm of labour shortages, global supply chain constraints and soaring energy prices caused both by the lingering effects of Covid-19 and the UK’s exit from the EU have exposed the fact that demand has recovered from the low levels seen during the pandemic much faster than supply.

As a sector already very much in the spotlight as a result of Covid-19, procurement and supply chain has seen its fair share of unprecedented challenges over the last 18 months. The flexibility and resilience of teams has been sorely tested, with the pandemic reinforcing the importance of strategic thinking as well as accelerating the adoption of digital supply chains.

Soft skills now key to strategic leadership

Technical understanding, of course, is critical to procurement and supply chain roles, but on the softer side, human judgement remains irreplaceable. A lack of emotional intelligence is always going to expose the limitations of automation, and it remains crucial to areas such as relationship management and negotiation, as well as data manipulation – not just understanding what the data means, but how it can help give businesses their competitive edge.

Soft skills, arguably, have become more demonstrably essential to success for procurement and supply chain professionals as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The same challenges that have called attention to the strategic value of the function over the past eighteen months have also illustrated the need for more sensitive and diplomatic communication. A hybrid skillset, which combines technical understanding with effective supplier relationship management and influencing skills, will become increasingly critical to success for ambitious professionals looking to progress in procurement and supply chain.

How can organisations ensure access to talent?

A consequence of the disruption to the procurement and supply chain landscape is that competition for talent is fierce. Employers will need to act fast to secure the professionals they need to help their organisations navigate the challenges still to come, meaning hiring managers should be briefed as a matter of priority as soon as a vacancy is identified. With many candidates often having up to four or five job offers to choose from, speed-to-hire is more important than ever.

A strong EVP (employee value proposition), not only from a company-wide perspective, but a personal one, is also critical to attracting the right talent. Pre-empting crucial questions candidates might be wondering about an organisation’s values, culture and progression opportunities show not only an understanding of what’s important to them, but a genuine interest in fulfilling their expectations of you as an employer.

The value, furthermore, that professionals increasingly attribute to diverse and inclusive hiring practices cannot be ignored. Committing to the use of inclusive language and diverse imagery in recruitment materials, ensuring hiring panels are convened to take in a range of opinions and providing conscious inclusion training to key stakeholders, are examples of purposeful action that will help to attract and retain talent staff. 

How can professionals manage their opportunities?

For professionals looking for a new role in procurement and supply chain, prioritising where attention should be focused will be key. Skill shortages are causing widespread competition for talent and consequently, there is a diverse variety of opportunities in procurement and supply chain, but it’s important for professionals to consider what else is important in a role other than remuneration.

An organisation’s investment in professional development, willingness to provide opportunities for flexible working where possible and engagement throughout the recruitment process should all be key factors that provide an indication of whether the role is the right one. Working with the right recruitment partner will be crucial here – as their unique understanding and insight into a business can help narrow down available opportunities and establish where attention should be focused.

What does the future hold for procurement and supply chain?

There can be no doubt that procurement and supply chain is a changed industry, and the skills critical to success have changed with it. Knowledge of data analytics is increasingly becoming key to supply chain roles – understanding what data can do, and having the ability to extract meaning and value from it plays an important role in being able to map the future and adapt to change. Operations are further being transformed by the increasing digital literacy of leadership teams, with more and more mobile apps and web platforms being used to streamline processes in the supply chain. Furthermore, social media, and the way it has transformed the way information is distributed will help to shape future buying decisions and, consequently, impact the availability of labour.

As the procurement and supply chain function continues to evolve, organisations will not only need to re-examine its role, but how it operates and where its strategic focus needs honing. Understanding how new and developing trends are impacting supply chains on a global scale will be the key to mapping its future direction and navigating the challenges that may arise.

For more insights and advice, or to find out how we can support your career or help fill a vacancy at your organisation, speak to one of our expert consultants today.

About this author

Scott joined Hays in 2002 as a Trainee Consultant, and is now Director of Hays Procurement & Supply Chain. With over 15 years’ experience, Scott advises clients on workforce management solutions, works with the industry institute CIPS as a trusted knowledge partner, and provides strategic leadership to Hays’ procurement and supply chain recruitment experts.

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