Today’s supply chain organizations are faced with the need to re-tool their talent to take better advantage of new technology, adapt to regulatory changes, support corporate initiatives, and meet increasing customer demands. At the same time, an aging utility workforce (among the highest of all industries in the United States) and a new generation of workers with different goals and expectations are creating a complex talent environment. Supply chain organizations that have not prepared for these challenges can expect to be heavily impacted by a fast-approaching loss of tribal knowledge and business experience.
Category management is an essential supply chain function that can be used to illustrate the challenge. Good category managers have deep relationships with suppliers, as well as internal customers, and possess extensive market expertise and a strong technical foundation for the goods and services they manage. The critical skills for this position are often “grown” internally versus acquired externally, a significant investment. These category managers also rely heavily on internal customer resources (e.g., technical and engineering roles), who play an essential role in maintaining consistent specifications and partnering with their supply chain counterparts to source and manage key parts, equipment, and services. Both groups will be impacted by growing attrition amidst an increasingly dynamic environment and more demanding customers. What steps should a supply chain organization take now so that they can not only maintain but continue to drive improvements in category management?
Although the current business environment has delayed expected retirements and softened the impending “cliff,” it does not negate the staffing issues facing supply chain organizations in the utility industry. However, this delay does provide time for supply chain organizations to assess their current situation and strategically plan and prepare for the inevitable changes in staff and the marketplace. This approach for workforce planning has proven to be a significant determinant of an organization’s ability to effectively manage its talent—the best companies have a robust and well-integrated workforce planning process that aligns the company’s workforce with the strategic objectives and plans of the organization.
Workforce planning, simply stated, is a systematic process to identify gaps between the workforce of today and the needs of tomorrow. Step 1 is to “Set Strategic Direction.” This means producing the strategic plans that will achieve the vision for the supply chain organization and then connecting the strategy with the positions and competencies needed to achieve it.
Step 2 is to “Conduct Workforce Analysis.” This means analyzing the current workforce supply and projecting future trends as a foundation for establishing an effective workforce plan. During this step, performance of existing staff is evaluated against key competency requirements. Critical gaps are then identified and strategies to close those gaps are created to build a sustainable plan.
Step 3 is to “Implement Workforce Plan.” This is about actually doing the work (e.g., recruitment, training, succession planning, etc.) to close the gaps that were identified in Step 2.
Step 4 is to “Monitor, Evaluate, and Revise.” Continuous improvement is necessary to ensure the workforce plan remains aligned with staffing demand and talent supply changes. In addition to this regular monitoring, a comprehensive workforce plan review is conducted every two-to-five years, often as part of developing a fresh strategic plan. In this way, the organization can ensure workforce plans address shifts in industry trends and the most pressing organizational challenges.
What shifts in industry trends are happening today and how will they impact supply chain talent requirements? To further discuss ScottMadden’s insights, please contact us.
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