It has to be said that it hasn’t been a good news month for the supply chain industries. If it’s not knee jerk media coverage prompting petrol panic buying, it’s a genuine lack of deliveries of staple goods to our supermarket shelves. A perfect storm of Brexit, COVID and inept government resolved to meet down the pub at the same time and thrash out just how difficult they could make life for everyone.
To be fair some of these problems have been brewing for a while. Much of the potential Brexit chaos was forecasted and well documented but over the year it has become apparent that some businesses have been hesitant to make decisive changes at a senior level across Operations and Supply Chain functions which has most likely exacerbated the situation.
Of course, it is easy to see where the procrastination has come from. While you can’t broad brush all sectors, many felt they had to take a pragmatic view. Even if their current structure or capability wasn’t quite fit-for-purpose, was it the right time to engage in a organisational restructuring or performance management exercise and risk increased volatility through the end-to-end supply chain? Particularly at a time where customer delivery was scrutinised more than ever.
Supply chain challenges are now mainstream news. Which in turn is fuelling higher prices and drops in consumer confidence. Organisations that chose to hold off on key strategic leadership appointments are now realising the lasting damage further delay might have on their performance, competitiveness and longevity.
In tandem, individuals are seeking change again. The recession mindset of “being grateful to be employed” shifts to a desire for change, new challenges and environments. Transformation projects have bedded in, new ways of working are no longer “new” and many leaders have been in role 12-24 months longer than they expect to.
A much more buoyant marketplace. More senior appointments are being signed off. More people pro-active in the search for change. An increased demand for interim talent as unexpected resignations land without a succession plan or external solution in pace.
In the last quarter of 2021 and throughout 2022, we expect to see a shift towards a candidate-led market. Competition for talent will be fierce. Securing the best talent will be more challenging and require a more thorough approach to identification, alongside a pacier process to offer.
In fact, we are already working with individuals securing multiple offers.
So what’s the solution and how can businesses prevent being caught out by this shift in the market?
- Ensure a strong retention strategy – a proactive approach to retaining talent will be critical in the next 6-12 months as volume of external opportunities increases. This needs to manifest in robust succession planning, salary reviews and personal development. Be pro-active and provide stretching opportunities internally, because they will certainly be offered externally.
- Consider the sector-diversity of your talent acquisition strategy. The vast majority of senior appointments within manufacturing and supply chain functions are still individuals within the sector or with prior like-for-like experience. It’s well established that operational best-practice, world-class methodology and successful leadership styles translates from Food to Automotive to Building Products and most other industrial sectors. When you do look externally, be prepared to “widen the gate” and assess a broader, more diverse talent pool.
- Create bench strength. Invest time to meet with talented people before your hiring need arises. This has become a normal and successful approach for many commercial functions, but seems to come far less naturally to Operations and Supply Chain professionals. Even if it doesn’t lead to appointment, the long term investment in potential talent, shared learning and your own network is invaluable.
Disruption to supply chains in 2021 looks set to continue well into the new year. What the industry needs right now is new perspectives and fresh eyes on existing and emerging problems. Now is the time to look at your existing leadership, and now is the time to look for new talent. Those candidates who have experienced, weathered and flourished in similar disruptive circumstances in other sectors may be just the people you want to make the changes the industry needs.
The winners will be planning for this already.
Michael Thomas, Director