I interviewed Rodney Apple who discussed How Companies Can Up Their Game When It Comes to Recruiting Top Supply Chain Talent.
Can you provide a brief background of yourself?
Absolutely, Dustin. Thank you so much for inviting me to participate in this interview. So, I've been recruiting for over 20 years with the last 15 plus years in end-to-end supply chain. And I'd say I’ve spent over half of this time on the corporate side, working for some pretty large corporations that include the Coca-Cola Company, Kimberly-Clark, The Home Depot, Cummins and PwC. Now I lead SCM Talent Group which is a national supply chain recruiting and executive search firm that recruits across the full spectrum of the supply chain discipline.
I have personally filled over a thousand professional to executive-level supply chain positions across the country, everything from sourcing &procurement to logistics, transportation, warehousing and inventory planning. Have down quite a bit in the manufacturing sector as well and customer service and so forth. So, I have a fairly seasoned background in supply chain recruitment that runs pretty deep and pretty broad. And I look forward to speaking to how companies can improve how they go about sourcing and recruiting top supply chain talent.
Can you first tell us where you find talent?
Sure. That's a great question. Over the years, we have been developing a database of candidates. We've put a lot of investment into what I would call internet marketing. So, everything from developing a robust website that attracts candidates to blogging and developing and distributing content. I actually serve as the career coach for APICS so I put together a lot of content for them such as webinars and white papers on just about every aspect of supply chain career development.
And so, we get a lot of good referrals through those efforts. We belong to the major supply chain associations as well. We definitely tap into the associations, the membership directories, getting out and about with association chapter meetings and so forth. We don't do a lot of advertising as this typically doesn’t yield the best quality and quantity of candidates. We typically will develop a customized sourcing strategy for every single search that we accept and that includes developing a target list of companies and target industries that we can tap into. So, once we put that list together, it's basically just having an omnichannel sourcing approach to reaching out to these candidates, whether it's through email, phone, text, connecting on LinkedIn and so forth.
So, those are kind of the primary sources that we use and then we also pay for some databases through salesforce.com and other tools. I like to use the word "omnichannel." That's a pretty popular term in the supply chain/logistics arena. We have the same concept when it comes to sourcing talent. And I think companies need to really start to think outside of the box. You can't just get away with posting positions and sitting back and waiting for candidates to come to you. You absolutely need to put together a sourcing strategy that includes a lot of different channels on how you can reach out and network with people and so forth.
What challenges have you seen with talent acquisition?
I have seen a lot of challenges and a lot of companies making the same mistakes when it comes to supply chain recruitment. I like to look at things from a people, process and systems perspective as it relates to talent acquisition strategy and programs. It's imperative that you understand from an overall business perspective, where have we been, where are we at now, and where are we trying to go as it relates to hiring and putting together a plan and partnership with the business leaders and HR leaders.
So, you have to kind of set that baseline. What's our growth trajectory? What's our retention? What kind of attrition do we have? And then from there, making sure you have the right resources in place. When I say resources, that comes down to having very, very good people when it comes to talent sourcers and recruiters that can drive the process and results.
If I was to hire someone in supply chain recruiting, I would definitely want someone that has a strong network, that understands supply chain, because obviously, it's a very complex field. And I think it definitely helps to understand the terminology and to be able to size up candidates and assess candidates, you really need to understand all aspects of supply chain.
So, it starts with getting really good, talented people. You get what you pay for.
I would also emphasize the process too. You want to have a streamlined recruitment hiring process. The less touch points, the better. Because the more touch points you have, the more things that can fall through the cracks. You can create a pretty frustrating candidate experience that, instead of attracts candidates, could deter candidates. So, you want to streamline it and make it exciting. Make sure you're not just asking the candidate questions. You need to be selling the opportunity as well. Because right now it is a candidate driven market with supply chain and the talent gaps that we have.
And then on the systems side, it's extremely important to have a robust applicant tracking system (ATS). Again, the less clicks, the better. I've worked with some pretty awful recruitment systems in the past. So you want to put in some really good technology. You'll definitely get that return back on the investment. So, think top-level people, a streamlined process, and a very robust recruitment system. And in addition to that, paying for tools, like the LinkedIn recruiter package, which we subscribe to here, and any other databases that you can get your hands on. And that also includes joining and participating in supply chain associations, being active members, getting out into the local chapters and whatnot.
So, I see companies making these mistakes with just having too big of a process, too many touch points, too many bottlenecks, inadequate systems and so forth. And then, especially on the people side, not having good enough sourcers and recruiters. They like to think, "Do more with less." And you really just can't afford to take that chance. Because if you can't get enough people in your supply chain, in the operations and so forth, you're going to have customer service issues, and that's going to cost a lot more money down the road in losses in terms of revenue, customers and productivity.
The companies that invest in their talent acquisition programs also need to have strong leadership involvement, even from the CEO down, with a focus on putting in strong employee referral programs. These are the companies that do very well and don't have any problems when it comes to finding and hiring supply chain talent.
Can you share some of the mistakes you've seen companies making?
Absolutely. I can even give you some examples. I won't name any company names, but I think when you look at supply chain and compare it to other corporate functions, you've got HR, you've got finance, you've got IT, sales, marketing, and so forth. Many talent acquisition or HR leaders don’t quite understand how difficult and complex supply chain can be to recruit for compared to most other core functions.
A good example is if you're recruiting for Human Resources, you might have a handful of job profiles. The majority of those positions are going to be based in the corporate office, whereas supply chain—at least from my experience with some of these large corporations—I could easily have 30 to 40 openings at any given time. Every single job title is different. The job levels are different. And a lot of these positions are out in the operations all over the country. So, you have that geographical complexity on top of the functional complexity and in a very scarce talent market. So, if you don't put enough resources in place to where you can be proactively sourcing candidates, what happens is you become reactive. And a lot of things are going to fall through the cracks. You're not going to have to enough bandwidth to go out and source candidates. You're going to be funneling candidates that come in through job postings.
So, get the right people in place. That is priority number one. Go find the best supply chain recruiters that you can find. Many companies just don't do that. They think they can hand it over to anyone. And it takes time to develop the network and understanding of what supply chain is, again, because it is very complex. So on the people side, that’s where I see mistakes.
I would also add to that, and we talked about the process a minute ago, just adding too many touch points to the process can create problems. I've seen companies make the mistake of asking the recruiter to do everything from scheduling interviews to walking candidates around, from interview room to interview room. And that just sucks a lot of time away when the recruiter should be focused on value-added work: Going out and finding candidates and getting them into the process.
So, investing in having a staffing coordinator or some kind of administrative support is key. Let the recruiter focus his or her time on developing relationships with clients as well as candidates, and especially going out and sourcing candidates.
So, the organizational structure, the process side, that seems to be where a lot of companies make mistakes. And then on the systems side, I've worked with my fair share of awful, horrific recruitment systems where you have to click through a lot of screens, do a lot of data entry, etc. Some of these systems are extremely outdated. They're not connected to social media or enable employee referrals. So, I think you need to go in and always evaluate from a technology and systems perspective what is the best package out there. Because that can absolutely give you a competitive advantage.
Do you have any suggestions for improving the recruitment program?
Absolutely. It truly needs to start with the things that we talked about obviously. I've emphasized the importance of building a robust talent acquisition program with strong people, processes, and systems. That's just one aspect. I think investing into employment marketing initiatives is important as well so you’re attracting and driving the right candidates to your company. You want to give recruiters as many tools as possible for them to go out and source top talent. Invest into the supply chain associations and conferences as well. Send recruiters out to APICS, CSCMP and other global supply chain conferences and chapter meetings. Because getting out and about, building relationships with supply chain professionals ultimately creates the relationships needed to tap into for referrals and candidate leads.
I would say the biggest source of hires is candidate referrals. So, it's imperative to put together a robust referral program that employees can participate in. I think that needs to be driven from the CEO down. Getting employees active, making sure they understand what kind of openings exist within the various departments, and enabling them to be proactive when it comes to seeking out referrals is a best practice. With social media, it's pretty easy with the click of a few buttons to share positions on your LinkedIn feed, Twitter, and whatnot. So, I think it's important to do that and perhaps provide an incentive to motivate employees to generate referrals. Maybe it's a trip to the Bahamas for a week or some kind of a cash incentive for the person that generates to most referrals and hires. That's a great way to get involvement.
About Rodney Apple
Managing Partner - Supply Chain Recruiting & Executive Search | APICS Career Coach