I interviewed Daniel Stanton who discussed Supply Chain Talent and Supporting the Education Community.
Please provide a brief background of yourself?
Hi Dustin. And thanks for having me here today. I’m the Vice President of Education and Workforce Development with MHI, the non-profit trade association that serves the U.S. supply chain, logistics, and material handling industry. I came into this role after 20 years as a supply chain professional and project manager, with a particular interest in training and education. Most recently, I was working at Caterpillar which has an immense global supply chain. And it became clear that while there were many opportunities to drive improvement through processes and technology, that talent was a critical factor in building and sustaining supply chain improvements.
What are the pressing issues today pertaining to supply chain talent?
The simple answer is that we have a shortage of talent. We have a number of studies that back this up, and we’re starting to see real problems when companies can’t find and keep the supply chain talent they need.In some cases, the work just doesn’t get done and both the companies and their customers suffer. In other cases, the jobs move to places where there is a healthier supply of talent to support them. But one of the good things is that it also creates a ripe environment for innovations and technology.
Baby boomers are retiring at the rate of 10,000 per week, and they are taking with them the years of experience that it takes to really understand many of the supply chains in global companies. The generations coming behind them don’t have the same knowledge and experience, and there are fewer of them. So that’s leaving a void. On top of that, the participation rate for the Millennials is shockingly low, meaning that they are choosing to enter the workforce later. So whatever we’ve been doing to recruit talent into our industry and train them is too small and too slow to meet the needs of todays companies. And, by the way, as
I think in terms of supply chains, and for the past few years I’ve been looking at this particular challenge in terms of the supply chain for talent. It kind of makes sense, really. Companies have a certain demand for talent at any given time. There are places they go to get talent – their suppliers, and there forces that pull talent out of companies.
How can these issues be addressed effectively?
Usually, when you are trying to wrap your head around a supply chain – at a strategic level – you have to start by characterizing the demand. So what kind of talent does the company really need to support its supply chain? Are they talking about managers, or engineers, or middle-skill folks – who have some education beyond high school, but perhaps not a college degree. Are you looking for people in the beginning of their career, or do you need people that already have experience? Then you can start to ask questions about how many of each they need, where they need them, when they need them, and how much they are expecting to pay them.
You really need to do that demand planning step before you start to look at supply. Because once you know what you need, then you can make smarter decisions about where you need to be spending your time and money to build recruiting relationships.
But once you know what you need, then you can make smart investments in suppliers – particularly in schools – where you are most likely to find candidates who meet your needs. And if you can’t find the suppliers you need, then you’ve found a gap. You may need to look for other options, such as starting your own training program, but at least you can diagnose the issue and start working on the real problem… rather than wasting time looking for candidates that don’t exist.
Where have you seen success?
The companies where I am seeing the best results are the ones thatare really connecting the dots between talent and profitability. So that’s what it takes at the company level… usually there is some kind of crisis – either a bunch of supply chain people leave at the same time, or the company creates some critical new positions but then can’t fill them. Then they get religion, and start finding ways to host events, provide scholarships, serve on advisory boards, and do things to raise their profile, build better relationships, and promote their employment brand.But the key is to sustain this commitment. Talent is a supply chain, but it has a really long lead time and requires a long-term commitment to relationships with suppliers. Once leaders make the shift from thinking about the talent crisis as a “touchy-feely HR issue” and see it as a serious risk to their business. At that point, it suddenly becomes much easier to justify the investments in recruiting, development, and retention.
But the truth is, while companies can do some things to reduce the impact of the supply chain talent crisis on their business, we’re still facing a major deficit as an industry. And that’s really where organization like MHI and others can play a role… bringing together the collective resources of our members to raise the profile of our industry, make it more attractive to candidates, and ensure that they have access to high quality training and education. For example, MHI sponsors a group of engineering professors called CICMHE – the College Industry Council for Material Handling Education, that promotes supply chain technology education at the university level. And MHI’s Career and Technical Education program supports high schools and community colleges that offer classes that ensure students have both the technical and professional skills to enter the workforce as soon as they graduate. One of the coolest things that MHI does is a program called Student Days that we sponsor during our trade shows. Our trade shows are the largest gatherings of supply chain professionals in the United States. The shows start on Monday, and go through Thursday, and we’ll have over 800 exhibitors and from 23 to 40,000 attendees. But on Wednesday, we invite around 250 students in for a special program, and we turn the show floor into a classroom. They get guided tours, a special program of speakers… first-class treatment. All as a way of making the industry attractive to young people, and helping to ensure that they get an opportunity to see it up close and personal.
Thanks for having me Dustin. These issues around supply chain talent are serious, and it’s something that we all need to be working on together. Every little bit helps, and I appreciate having the chance to connect with your audience. Thanks
Thank you for sharing.
About Daniel Stanton
Supply Chain Executive