The good news, a new study from DHL notes, is that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports jobs in logistics are estimated to grow by 26 percent between 2010 and 2020. The flip side of the coin, however, is that one global study estimates demand for supply chain professionals exceeds supply by a ratio of 6:1, with others estimating the ratio could be as high as 9:1, the report continues.


DHL surveyed more than 350 supply chain and operations professionals in five global regions to identify reasons contributing to the talent shortage. The report “The Supply Chain Talent Shortage: From Gap to Crisis” was commissioned by DHL and written by Lisa Harrington, president of lharrington group LLC. It highlights key supply chain talent challenges, and also identifies means for companies to attract and retain talent.


“Leading companies understand that their supply chains, and the people who run them, are essential to their ability to grow profitably,” Harrington writes. “However, the task of finding people with the right skillsets required to run these highly complex operations is increasingly difficult—especially at the middle and upper management levels. Unless companies solve this problem, it could threaten their very ability to compete on the global stage.”


The main factors driving the talent shortage are well known: an aging workforce at, or near, retirement age; changing skill requirements calling for employees with tactical/operational expertise and professional competencies such as analytical skills and strategic thinking; and a perception that supply chain jobs lack excitement. I was interested to read that changing job requirements was indeed cited as the biggest single driver behind the talent shortage, with 86 percent of the respondents ranking this factor as “high” or “very high” in terms of its effect on companies’ ability to find the right talent. Furthermore, 27 percent of the respondents indicated their company has difficulty finding talent with solid professional competencies, but a third of the respondents said their company had failed to take steps to create a future talent pipeline or develop their workforce.


Surprisingly, only 25 percent of the respondents said they thought their company viewed supply chain as equally important as other disciplines, and said a common perception of supply chain careers as “lacking in excitement” hurts the industry’s recruitment potential, the report notes.


I was most interested in reading about opportunities for companies to work to close the talent gap. For instance, to develop and retain current staff, DHL recommends offering clearer career paths and a visible commitment to the professional development of its supply chain staff, combined with competitive remuneration packages. To attract talent, the industry needs to emphasize that the future workforce will need skills in robotic management, AI and AV control—job aspects that will be attractive to the younger demographic and help combat the negative perception of the sector, the report continues.


“We recommend that companies start with prioritizing the development of their current talent pool to adapt to the changing job requirements through training programs, and then retaining staff through clear career paths,” says Louise Gennis, Vice President Talent Management/Acquisition, Learning & Development, DHL Supply Chain. “We strive to combat misconceptions surrounding working in the supply chain through highlighting the technological developments which are digitalizing the industry and which are attractive to younger demographics.”


What are your thoughts on the supply chain talent shortage? Does your company find it difficult to recruit talented employees? Secondly, how is your company working to develop a talent pipeline?