I interviewed Patricia Moser who discussed War for Talent.
It’s nice to speak with you again, Patricia. We’ve done interviews in the past. It’s been a few years, so I’m glad we can talk again today about a new topic you want to discuss, which is the war for talent. Before we start, can you provide a brief background of yourself?
Hi, Dustin, it’s nice to talk to you again as well. Basically, I have been on sort of a long and winding road in regard to procurement and supply chain over the past 20-some years in multiple different industries, both as an executive, as well as a consultant. Everything from health care to government, to telecom, to technology, to retail, financial services, and so on. I have a pretty broad view of the sector as a whole of the field of supply chain and procurement as a whole given that experience.
Thank you. My first question is: What is your definition of the war for talent?
I think what basically we’re reading a lot about and seeing a lot, it’s about how the supply chain expertise and talent for roles is getting qualified people is getting harder and harder to find them. You see a lot of blogs, a lot of statistics, a lot of things out there that are talking about corporations in what seemingly is a war to get the best talent in supply chain to their organization, given that there is what they perceive as a lack in truly qualified candidates who understand supply chain in a much broader definition than just sort of the warehousing, the trucking, and distribution; that it is truly to be effective a cross-functional area that has a lot of soft skills, not only the hard logistics mathematical skills. Again, the war for talent is because there are not enough people across the board as far as a lot of the recruiters and organizations are concerned.
Why are we experiencing this problem?
I think in some ways it is a problem that has been created by both the process of getting people in to supply chain from an early perspective in school and high school and get them excited about what supply chain is. Secondarily, in regard to some of the hiring practices that are currently out there. There needs to be some education in regard to the hiring managers, as well as the HR professionals. What we talked about first in regard to the education, there is not enough outreach and understanding when kids through high school and they enter university.
They go into business in general and finance and marketing and HR are pretty well-defined within the university calendar in regard to business administration and that’s how they focus. I got my M.B.A. many years ago, and it was in marketing, and things haven’t really progressed that much further. We do have some supply chain for certifications and different things like that. There are operational aspects in some of the business degrees, but people still perceive when they go through and say, “Oh, supply chain,” it’s not as well-known; it’s still seen way too much as the tactical of warehousing and trucking and so on or the logistics, the mathematical of renting and optimization and things like that.
It is not supply chain as a profession, to use the term, it’s not seen as sexy from the youth going through the area. I’ll talk about this secondarily, in comparative to wages that you can get in finance and marketing and HR and sales, the wagers in regard to the importance of supply chain have still not caught up to where they should be; they’re still seen at that more tactical level.That’s the education; there needs to be more outreach and more of an investment from supply chain organizations, supply chain professionals to go into the educational institutions and start making a case for people to focus on supply chain.
Then we take from that as well. When you look at women, women are still significantly underrepresented in the supply chain profession. This goes back again to how it’s deemed, how it’s determined. You ask most people, and most women particularly how they ended up in supply chain; it’s by chance. It’s not a focus, it’s not a career direction; they happened to trip into it. From the perspective of you’re missing 50 percent of the population of possible really excellent candidates to make supply chain a profession, it’s still a very male-dominated area.
There are certain areas that are becoming a little bit less so, but the career trajectory and so on is not clear, and women, they don’t see it as a potential opportunity. That’s one of the reasons as well, that you are starting to have not enough people seen as talented people in the supply chain arena.
Then one of the other things is there’s a lot of talk about, a lot of people, the Boomers are retiring, so you have this gap, and a lot of the supply chain people are retiring and so on and so forth. I would almost say it as there are hiring practices out there right now that are saying, “Well, if you’re over fifty, you’re not viable to work in the supply chain arena.” I kind of counter that because a lot of times, corporations say, they try to figure out how old somebody is by whatever means they can on a résumé and so on, and the reality is that there are a lot of people out there who are highly talented, highly skilled, highly knowledgeable who are over 50 or even over 55 who can add significant value to the whole 360, holistic supply chain focus of corporation. In my previous corporate iterations, I actually hired a number of people who were over 55, who had “retired” from their previous roles and were great in the roles that they worked in the organizations with me on.
Because a lot of people say we’ve got to get younger people, well, at least when they’re over 55, you know they’re not looking for their next career jump, so I know I’ve got them for as long as they want to work there as opposed to worrying about not providing the challenges and opportunities for younger people coming up the ranks. Another HR and hiring practice which drives me absolutely batty is when I see so many job descriptions out there that talk about industry experience and that’s a mandated, no negotiation, we want industry experience.
The fact is, you are limiting yourself significantly when you try to have that as your hiring practice, and in a lot of ways, you’re not getting the best people who are available in the marketplace because industry experience in one way, it’s good if you have some people who have industry experience within the team; however, one of the things I’ve always said is, “The best thing I bring to the table often is ignorance of how you do things in your organization,” because I’m not locked in to, “Well, this is how we do it.” I become the three-year-old child saying, “Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?” I have hired a lot of people—and most people who didn’t have industry experience but had basic skills and certainly the attitude—and it was a great mix because they raise everybody’s game. People who have industry experience are valuable too; I’m not saying they’re not.
But you can’t have all the “like” people, and the fact is that you are, again, limiting the talent pool from where you can choose. Finally, one of the things I mentioned earlier is wages for supply chain professionals have not reached the level that indicates the importance that they have to the organization as a whole. From my perspective—and I know some people might argue with this—supply chain defines the client experience. There is the grabbing the revenue side, but supply chain is the client-retention side. You can actually, and even in supply chain, you can create some uniqueness that is a differentiator in the marketplace that can actually gain clients too, but when you’re looking at why a client stays, it definitively has a lot to do with the supply chain, because that’s the experience they have.
You can go out and you can sell whatever you want to sell, but at the end of the day, it’s supply chain that touches the client, and that is the experience that they have, and they walk away with either positive or negative. Also, when you look at the portion of supply chain and procurement, when you look at the bottom line savings and, as well, innovation that people in procurement create with suppliers, there’s a significant amount of value; the bottom line savings are—total cost, not price, because that’s a whole other conversation, Dustin. Having the cost-savings element, well, that’s as helping the bottom line of the corporation as well, but whereas sales people get commission for their revenue, the savings aspect of what procurement does is not seen in the same way as revenue is, although it so adds to the total viability of a company today and, as well, in the future. Those are some of the things there that I believe. You need to have more outreach to younger people to show them that supply chain is sexy and a really cool place to be, and it’s innovative and creative, and if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be in it.
We need to have more outreach to women and also demonstrate a career trajectory that is effective and appropriate and that, again, also showing that supply chain is a really cool place to be and that there are female role models and mentors and so on who can help to move women up that trajectory. We need to focus on not limiting, always getting the best talent but not limiting it by what you see as somebody’s sort of ready to be, at 50, is over the hill and ready to put out to pasture because, quite honestly, I’ve found some of the best people in that age range. And limiting your hiring practices and not always saying “industry experience.”
Expand your horizons and be open to alternatives from different industries that might think more innovation, creativity, and ask a lot more questions about how things are done in that industry and then bringing the wages up equivalent to sales and marketing, all these other fields that supply chain needs to get up there to also get more people into that profession.
How can the war be won?
I think a lot of things. I think, number one, as I said, you need to, HR needs to challenge the people who are doing the hiring to expand their thought processes. People need to take off the blinders and accept people from a broad perspective. The other thing is, too, don’t always look for people with, same as not just within industry experience; not just with supply chain experience, with overall business experience and with some exposure to the area of supply chain and so on because you can broaden your talent pool just with that. I do believe that, again, just a broader perspective in regard to that.as I said, we need to show a much broader viewpoint of what supply chain is; supply chain is not just about going from A to B and getting the right product at the right time to the right place and so on. There is a lot of cross-functional thought process that can go into it, a lot of strategy and top-line input into the strategy of the company and so on. We need, as a profession, to show the linkage from the supply chain as a whole to the overall corporate strategy. I think from that perspective, it makes it a lot more interesting. People don’t see it as just one area in the company.
One of the reasons I like supply chain is because you do need to know about every aspect of the business to be successful in it. You need to know about sales, you need to know about marketing, you need to know about finance, you need to know, obviously, all the supply chain arenas, and you need to also, production and the people in production. You need to know how to bring all the warring factions—you’re a diplomat; you bring all the warring factions to a common purpose. Supply chain is important and it is a sexy, cool area to be in, and it’s an area that is growing in importance. I also think that it’s important for the top people in organizations—CEOs, CFOs, and so on—to have a very, very clear understanding as to the impact of supply chain, which inevitably should translate into higher wages. People don’t notice supply chain when it’s working well, but they always notice the moment there’s a glitch because of the importance to the end client and how the end client is satisfied with the company as a whole.
As long as the top line in the corporations don’t understand how supply chain intimately and integrally affects the entire organization, you’re not necessarily going to get the wages up to where they need to be. And I also would suggest that in every organization, you have a senior leader who is responsible for supply chain procurement who is at the strategic table, who is there providing their input, because, again, once you have identifiable people in the top of corporations, people will see it as a great career option for them moving forward. In a lot of places, supply chain is still a little bit hidden in the background, and until it becomes in the foreground, we’re still going to have difficulty getting people to go into it from the beginning.
Thank you, Patricia, for sharing today your views on the war for talent.
Thank you, Dustin. It was great talking to you again.
About Patricia Moser
Innovative, Strategic ,Results-Oriented Leader- SME in
Supply Chain, Procurement, Operations, Sustainability