I interviewed Bronwen Hann who discussed Severe Talent Shortages as Baby Boomers Retire.







I live in Canada, in Toronto, and I’ve been in the recruitment field for over 35 years. I’m probably one of the most well-seasoned recruiters in the Canadian marketplace. I used to work in the more generalized field. I built a company called Pinstripe Group of Companies, which was one of the largest independent temporary staffing companies, which I sold to one of the multinationals.


I started Argentus about 12 years ago. Argentus’s focus is purely in the area of procurement and supply chain. The reason why I’ve chosen to focus in this particular very narrow niche is because there is such a demand for individuals in this massively growing area. There is a tendency in the recruiting field for people to be generalists.


I think that organizations are certainly moving away from wanting to deal with generalists; they want to deal with people who are real specialists, who have a real in-depth understanding of the area of staffing that they’re dealing with. I think that’s true with other areas, such as accounting and legal and thinks like that. That is why, with the advice of many mentors at a very senior level, it was suggested that I do something like this, because there really wasn’t anybody in this particular space. That is where I have positioned myself.


Can you talk about the severe talent shortages as baby boomers retire?


Supply chain is something that touches every—a lot of people do not realize that supply chain touches every single industry. It’s how companies bring their product to market, whether it’s electronics, whether it’s something that goes in to other products, whether it’s something that we consume. The exciting thing is—I didn’t realize this until I really got into it in great depth—it’s an area that touches every single market, and it’s really integral to how companies and business in general operate. It’s really about how companies get to be competitive.


And in a time where there’ve been a lot of global recessions, companies are not making the money on their top line, so they’re looking to their bottom line, which is supply chain, how they can be more globally efficient. That is having a better supply chain. The problem, which is something that I’m very concerned about, is that in the next 10 to 13 years, baby boomers are starting to retire, and they are the people with the real knowledge about the supply chain.


Every year, just in Canada, there are going to be 65 to 75,000 new jobs in procurement and supply chain. With those people leaving the industry, there are not enough people coming in to the industry to replace them. It’s been something that I am very concerned about. I think companies are only just starting to wake up to the fact that, “Hey, we have a real issue here. How are we going to meet those needs over the next fifteen to twenty years?”


Do you have any final recommendations regarding this challenge?


One of the things that I’ve been doing is…I think a lot of it has to do with education. A lot of it stems from a lack of education and understanding from young people as to what supply chain is about. I think that people come up through high school; I think that high school’s become very sophisticated in terms of what they’re teaching kids about technology—and I know this because I have children who’ve just gone through the high school and are going through it now. There’s never any mention about supply chain.


They do careers and they talk about maybe being a banker or this; they have these ludicrous discussions and analyses that they do which says that you should be in these types of things. Some of what I find quite remarkable is that they never discuss or mention or educate or facilitate any discussions about what supply chain is and what it means. As it holds such an important role in the global economy, why is that not happening? I think that if that were happening more often, the kids will be coming out high school and going into university with a better understanding of that.


People think that supply chain is a blue-collar job, it’s on a dock, it’s wearing work boots. It’s not; it’s a very strategic role, very exciting, and very fast-paced. In a world where jobs are shrinking, where, in some cases, 40 percent of the population are underemployed, where they’re having to cobble together jobs, this is an area where there’s a huge need, and young people are not aware of it. I think we need to be advocates in the industry, going out to high schools, writing blogs, having conversations, educating young people at the high school, right at the grassroots level, so when they’re hitting university, they already have an understanding. They’re not saying, “I’m going to go into engineering.” They have an understanding up front that supply chain is something exciting. Women going into supply chain is something that should be really encouraged. Young people in supply chain, really encouraged.


Also, the last thing is that companies are working very hard to reduce their spend in terms of hiring staff on their own. They’re using places like LinkedIn, they’re bringing in-house talent acquisition groups in-house, and that’s fantastic because they’re trying to cut their costs in terms of using outside suppliers, but the reality is those inside talent acquisition groups cannot be excellent in everything. They can’t, one minute, be working on filling a marketing role and the next minute be working on a finance role and also be expected to understand what supply chain is all about. These people are in very, very high demand.


Talent acquisitions, as great a job as they do, they don’t really understand what it is that turns these people on. I think it’s really important that these companies have a good relationship with a third party who has the robust network because it’s really all about knowing who’s looking but not really looking. It’s all about the passive candidate base, and talent-acquisition groups can’t deal with that. They’re skimming off the active candidates. You need somebody such as myself, whose job every day is to work at that very deep mining, because there are many great people; they’re out there living lives, and they’re not actually looking for a job. I think those things are going to help you address some of the needs as they come up. I think, as an industry, supply chain-procurement, breaking out, logistics, planning, forecasting, they need to get out there and talk to students and write and advocate. I think that as groups of executives coming from different areas, I think that we can make an impact globally.


Thanks for sharing on this important topic today.


My pleasure.






About Bronwen Hann


Bronwen Hann.jpg

Bronwen Hann

Boutique Procurement & Supply Chain Recruiter/Thought Leader Executive/Professional Contract & Permanent Staffing


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