I interviewed Cheryl Paradowski who discussed Employer Market Survey Shows Support for Supply Chain Profession But No Investment To Develop Professionals.
It’s good to have another interview with you. Today I’m looking forward to hearing your views on the topic of the survey that you’ve done. This is an employer market survey that shows support for the supply chain profession but no investment to develop the professionals. Can you start by providing a brief background of yourself and also a background of the survey?
Yes, absolutely. I’m speaking as the national president and CEO of the Supply Chain Management Association. We are the premier supply chain association in Canada, and our focus really is on to build leadership in the supply chain profession in Canada. The way we do that is through a focus on professional development and on providing the supply chain management professional, or SCMP, designation, which is really the premier credential in supply chain in Canada. We’ve got about 7500 members across the country here, and we work through a network of 10 provincial and territorial institutes to deliver services and education to our members.
Through the national office, a big part of what our responsibility is is not only the development of standards around our education program, but also information that will help us promote the profession and have it recognized as a profession. Supply chain management is actually really pretty young. The term supply chain management itself has only been around for about 25 years, so we’ve got a lot of catching up to do in terms of having supply chain management recognized as a profession.
When SCMA established our last strategic plan, we really decided that our focus, our vision was going to be to ensure that employers understand and value the contribution that supply chain professionals can make to the success of their organizations. We thought it was really important for us to start with understanding what employers thought about our profession, about our association, about our designation. We contracted a survey company that was able to interview for us 531 employers across the country, and they basically created a mix for us that was reflective of our membership both in terms of small, medium, and large employers, in terms of the industry sectors that we represent, and in terms of our various geographies.
The one real advantage for us with this survey this time around was that we didn’t ended up talking to our own members; we didn’t want a survey, for example, that was asking whether people knew about the Supply Chain Management Association when it would just be our members who were answering the questions. It’s kind of like preaching to the choir. We were able to work with a survey company that was able to conduct telephone interviews with some folks that they identified from an independent database and got us those results.
It was a large group, a defensible result, and we felt that we really got some good data and some good intelligence on what the employer community was thinking. We really ended up dividing the results, I guess, into what we thought was good news, what we thought was interesting news and gave us more intelligence into what employers were thinking, and then some of the bad news in terms of where we really needed to focus our marketing and communication messages.
And can you talk about the results?
I’ll maybe use those three categories. From the good-news perspective, we were really pleased to see that 80 percent of the employers that we talked to did think that their company should be recognizing better supply chain management as a function and as a profession that would be able to contribute to the success of their organizations. We felt that was a really positive result.
We also, obviously from our perspective, when we were looking at our designation, we were pleased to identify that 88 percent of the employers that we talked to, when we told them what our designation covered, basically, they were not able to identify any gaps in the information that we were delivering. That told us that our designation, in terms of its content right now, by and large, is meeting employer needs. That was positive as well. And we also determined that there was at least a third of the respondents who would give preference in hiring and in promotion to individuals who held their designation versus those who didn’t. We got some very positive results on that side.
With respect to the interesting results for us, the first area was where we asked the employers which skills and knowledge and competencies they valued most in their supply chain management practitioners. It was interesting to note that the first four areas had nothing to do with the functional competencies of supply chain. They were things like communications and relationship-building, they were negotiation skills, they were leadership skills, they were ethics skills. That told us and it reinforced for us some changes we made about five years ago in our designation program to not only cover functional skills but also cover management and leadership skills in a supply chain context. I think if we’re really looking at having supply chain move to being a profession that is strategic as opposed to operational and tactical, those are obviously the skills that employers are looking for.
The other interesting piece of intelligence for us was seeing when we asked the employers where they thought that their supply chain management professionals were having the greatest impact. It was still what I would call the pretty traditional supply chain function; for example, the reduction of cost, which was their immediate answer. That told us, at least for us here in Canada, that we needed to do a better job of getting the message out that supply chain management can have impacts on a far broader range of functions within a company than simply the reduction of costs. I know that one area in particular, which is risk management, rated quite low with the employers, and yet I feel that’s an area that our supply chain management professionals could really be making a significant contribution to companies.
I think the whole purpose of my wanting to chat with you were the results that I would classify on the not-so-good side, and the biggest piece of that was the very obvious disconnect between employers recognizing that they needed more professionals in this sector and that those professionals could be making a contribution to their organization and yet there’s nothing there within the organization to back it up. We only had 54 percent—only just a little bit more than half of the employers responded that they would actually encourage their staff to take training to develop their skills. And 75 percent of them had less than $100,000 available in terms of a training budget for all of their supply chain management staff combined; that was right up to companies that had more than 300 staff in those departments.
There’s another survey that was conducted in Canada in 2012 by the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council. They had done some work in identifying what I don’t think is unique to Canada but is the upcoming labor shortage. We are going to have a lot of Baby Boomers who will be retiring in Canada, and that’s going to create a lot of attrition in roles of every sector, but supply chain management is certainly going to be included among that. One of the biggest problems is, when you lose that level of individual, you’re going to be losing a lot of corporate intelligence.
The Supply Chain Sector Council, when they presented the statistics to employers about how many vacancies that were going to be coming up over the next five years, they asked employers how they were planning to address that challenge. Over a third of the employers basically responded that they were going to steal the talent from other organizations. For us within SCMA, that just makes us shake our heads because all that’s really going to do is drive up wages, but it’s not going to create a larger pool of employees. Eventually, when the musical chairs gets to the end and the music stops, there are still going to be empty seats.
It’s very evident to us as an association that we really need to focus on getting the message out to the employer community that if you need these professionals being able to contribute at this level within your organization, you are going to need to invest in their professional development, and that can happen through professional associations, it can happen through continuous professional development, it can happen through credentialing, and more and more, at least in Canada, it is a discipline that’s starting to have greater presence within the postsecondary community as well. We can start to be encouraging students to pursue the profession right from the outset and providing them with opportunities to get introduced to it because, otherwise, we remain a pretty behind-the-scenes profession that is unusual for individuals to start out their career saying they want to be in supply chain management; certainly, most of our members right now, if they were asked the question, would say they fell into it, fell in love with it, and that’s how it’s become their profession and their career.
Those, for us, were the major findings that came out of our discussions with the employer community.
Thanks, Cheryl. Did we cover all the points you wanted to make?
Yes, I think so. I hope that’s of interest.
Yes, this is great.
The kind of information you hoped it might cover.
Yep, and thanks for sharing today.
It’s my pleasure.
About Cheryl Paradowski
President and Chief Executive Officer at Supply Chain Management Association