Survey says: talent management is hardest at the mid-level

Each year, we run a massive global study of supply chain professionals to get a pulse of the profession (Haven’t completed it yet? Do it now!) Our excitement over the wealth of information that comes from the study has our research team already looking for key themes from this year’s survey. Talent management is proving to be a critical battleground for 2014.

Half of our respondents say the biggest talent challenge is coming at mid-level functional roles. No doubt that keeping our strategy seat will require focus at all levels, but this mid-level group serves as the most immediate pipeline into senior positions. Solving the problem here directly solves part of the problem at the senior level. What can be done?

Chart explaining that talent challenges are greatest at mid-level.

The second greatest challenge is offering talented staff a compelling career progression, with 78% calling it either “somewhat” or “extremely” challenging.

Table listing current talent issues facing supply chain.

Most companies have formal career path programmes with defined tracks and known rotations. Continuing to chase a formal process is not the answer. Nor is additional training. 41% of the 2014 respondents (so far) say that they spend 2-5% of fully loaded personnel costs on training and development.

Perhaps an indicator of the gap comes directly back to data on strategy. For the third straight year, over half of respondents from our CSCO study state that supply chain is absolutely understood as an equally important part of business success as sales, marketing, R&D and product development. With over 850 responses recorded for 2014, however, it looks like we may just barely crack that 50% marker.

It is a minor slip from 58% in 2012, but a hugely important minor slip. The good news is that fewer than 10% in 2014 say that their CEOs don’t really appreciate the alignment of business strategy and supply chain strategy. The challenge to keep our seat at the strategy table will be won by continuing to grow talent at all levels of the organisation.

If the supply chain community says that CEOs’ and executive management teams’ appreciation of our role in business strategy is slowly slipping, it is likely that strategy has been too far removed from mid-level functional leaders.

Strategy cannot be a closed-door process reserved for the few. While not everyone in the organisation can be involved in setting direction, it is the mid-level functional leaders that have the most fundamental roles in making the vision a reality. Finding the right ways to involve them in the strategy process could be a big enough stone to knock off two very challenging birds; offering an interesting career progression and solidifying supply chain’s role in business strategy.

For more on this topic, please see our Supply Chain Strategy: Like Clockwork report.

And we’d love you to be a part of the 2014 debate. Complete the survey by clicking here.

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