In today’s constantly evolving world, technology is coming at us so quickly, rapidly changing and advancing; how can anyone keep up? The second we implement the latest and greatest new software or tool, it becomes outdated and we find something bigger, better and faster.
If it affects recruiters like me, think of how impactful that same constant change is within the complex world of supply chain logistics.
Supply chain logistics has never been an easy industry. With many different pieces, parts and partners, it’s a fluid environment. Most companies are embracing lean initiatives, and everyone has their mind set on better, easier, and more streamlined and efficient ways of doing business.
With each advancement in technology, the way companies do business internally, and with each other is changing.
This is very evident in the supply chain management (SCM) employment market as well.
There have been so many advances in the industry over the last century, starting with Ford inventing the first moving assembly line in 1913. In the ‘50s we had the ocean container, the ‘60s EDI, the ‘70s the UPC, the ‘80s the ERP system, and in the ‘90s the birth of the mainstream Internet.
Those changes, albeit over a long period of time, have significantly advanced our industry. But since the ‘90s, the technology has come so far and so fast that I could not list it all in this article.
This leads us to a few questions:
How does this technological advancement affect the labor market?
How do companies ensure they are hiring to the technology?
Finally, how fast can a company change direction with a new system, software, or tool and expect the team to keep up?
Train for the new needs of the workplace
If you are looking to have a future in SCM, then you need to be smart, fast, flexible, engaged, intuitive, and above all else analytical. Companies have more complex roles to fill than ever before, which drive this super-technical environment we now live and work within.
It is now much more common to find a manufacturer looking for a Supply Chain Director with an engineering background than one looking for a warehouse worker. Just twenty years ago, it was the other way around.
Cisco Systems’ SVP of Supply Chain Operations, John Kern, recently said “The supply chain industry is undergoing one of the most massive talent shifts we have ever seen.”
To prepare future professionals to survive and thrive in the talent shift, universities need to do a better job of preparing SCM students to handle the quick moving and rapidly changing environment. Students need more cross-functional internships with real life hands-on training.
When considering a university program, think about how well prepared you will be at graduation. Academic education can only get you so far. Hands on training, internships, field trips, and real word experience from professors or professionals who have recently worked in the industry is what will provide you the best start to a promising career.
Students need to dive in and get their hands dirty.
They must have the ability to multitask, change direction with flexibility, and they must possess the discipline to ask questions until they find the right answers. They need to think for themselves under great pressure and analyze solutions.
According to a recent article in Inbound Logistics, The Top Universities for Supply Chain Technology Education, “It has never been more important for new professionals in the supply chain field to have experience with the digital tools that are essentially the backbone of major supply chain operations.” Because of this importance, they partnered with Software Advice, who compiled a recent ranking of top SCM programs in the U.S.
These programs are doing a better job of incorporating software and technology in to their SCM programs, and are a good place to consider for either an undergrad interested in the industry or as a returning student looking to remain relevant and current for their career advancement.
Make a lifelong commitment to technological training
Since jobs are becoming more and more complex, and companies have a lot on the line when hiring someone to handle these large and ever-changing supply chains, we implemented some tools of our own to use in the hiring process.
We have started using video interviewing to offer our clients a better picture of who our candidates are. We think this gives the company a more complete picture than just a resume alone.
However, we found that the software we use, allowing the candidate to login and control the time, pace and place of their interview, causes difficultly for most people over 50.
In comparison, the Millennials sign in, and with little effort turn in a high quality video.
The younger candidates are, in most cases, using better computers or tablets, and are comfortable enough to be articulate and expressive. Frequently, their responses about the process are that they are impressed with the ease and simplicity of getting their first interview out of the way.
Many older candidates, however, push back on having to do it at all, and usually stumble with technical difficultly. More often than not, the video comes back to us as unusable. It magnifies the challenges older candidates struggle with when using new technology and it brings up the obvious concern – will they be able to learn and use the technology on the job?
My recommendation for those that are not very tech savvy, is to brush up on new technology in any of the following ways:
- Follow blogs
- Sign up for industry newsletters
- Listen to podcasts
- Watch videos on YouTube
- Become active on social media
Become as familiar as possible with the technology being used within your organization, as well as in the industry. Beyond staying current with technology, certifications are a great way to ensure that you are still learning about industry trends.
Everyone needs to get on the same page
After doing some evaluating of the most difficult positions to fill, we decided to partner with our clients in offering candidate aptitude and performance predictability testing, along with the ability to create a job benchmark to ensure that we are hiring the right person for the job.
As it turns out, many roles have become so complex that each person on the hiring team often has trouble agreeing on what skills are needed to do the job.
Creating a job benchmark, which the hiring team agrees on, and then hiring the person who most closely matches that benchmark, ensures success.
Studies prove that going through this added value process increases both employee job satisfaction, as well as better job performance and stability for the company.
It is because of the complexity of these jobs that we, in the supply chain recruitment industry, are embracing new technology ourselves in order to deliver the results that clients expect to see when placing new team members into their organization.
Looking into the future of supply chain
Looking toward the future, there is a lot of talk about, Big Data, IoT (the Internet of Things), total connectivity, increased cloud-based solutions, and even robots.
Robots? Who thought that would happen in our lifetime? All of this will continue to drive advancements in SCM.
In the end, with every step we take in technological advancement we still must strive to master the basics.
We seek to increase transparency and visibility while controlling development, replenishment, maintenance, production, transportation, delivery and customer satisfaction.
Then, of course, we need to do all this without forgetting to drive efficiencies and mitigate risk and loss.
It is a good time to work in this industry: jobs are plentiful and salaries are increasing at a rapid rate. According to the U.S. Department of Labor,
“Employment of logisticians is projected to grow 22 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment growth will be driven by the important role logistics plays in the transportation of goods in a global economy.”
With a very strong prediction for record growth in an advancing industry, we now all need to do a better job of learning and embracing the technology that drives that growth. Our jobs, and our future, depend on it.