7 Strategies to Attract and Retain Supply Chain Talent

Recruit and retain more employees by listening to what they want: more flexibility, better opportunities and a workplace invested in their success.

man and woman sitting in chairs having a lively discussion

Recruit and retain more employees by listening to what they want: more flexibility, better opportunities and a workplace invested in their success.

The supply chain has not proven immune to the Great Resignation. In the United States, 77% of professionals in supply chain and logistics have said they plan to change roles this year.

According to experts, this ongoing turnover is driven by several factors related to the pandemic. Disruptions in the supply chain have created increased hiring demand, while workers who are choosing between multiple job offers have a new ability to prioritize flexibility, balance and their personal goals.

To recruit and retain great employees, procurement and supply chain managers must do more than raise salaries. You’ll have to evolve your workplace to offer benefits and training opportunities that are responsive to employees’ desires, expand how you recruit staff, and strategize for future turnover.

Here are seven strategies to attract and keep the best supply chain and logistic talent.

1. Train employees for promotions

Provide ongoing educational benefits and offer employees opportunities to grow within the company. This will give them incentive to both join and stay, and give you a leg up in filling other roles. The Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) offers several training and credential programs that you could offer to your team.

Experts suggest focusing on upskilling (that is, teaching additional skills) and reskilling (preparing employees for other positions in the organization) as well as offering career coaching and creating opportunities for employees to shadow others. Your next forklift operator could be someone who’s working as a picker right now.

Giving employees the chance to try working in other departments can increase job satisfaction, help place people where they might be a better fit, and fill internal needs without having to start the recruitment process.

You can also offer employees financial incentives to continue mastering new skill sets. This will make ongoing training feel more meaningful both in the short and long term.

2. Show employees you value them

According to Supply Chain Brain, 89% of workers surveyed are more likely to stay at a company that encourages and listens to feedback, and two-thirds of workers surveyed want the opportunity to provide monthly feedback to their employers.

Managers should put in effort to engage genuinely with employees and respond to their feedback. And managers and the company itself should work to make employees feel invested in and valued — for example, by actively planning for promotions in each performance review.

Don’t overlook the importance of investing in better equipment, even if it’s just a comfier office chair, better snacks in the breakroom and a second computer monitor. It shows your team that you care about their daily experience.

3. Offer flexibility to reflect changing workforce realities

As in other industries, workers in logistics and supply chain have seen the benefits of working from home when possible during lockdowns. Rising gas prices and child care needs, among other factors, also impact employees’ decision making as they decide what job to take and even whether to drop out of the workforce.

Employers can adapt by offering flexible scheduling, such as weekend shifts or four-hour shifts, and evaluating which parts of a role could be accomplished just as well remotely.

Consider, too, upping the perks for employees who come into the office: buy them lunch once a week or use in-person attendance to raffle off prizes.

4. Increase compensation and incentivize better work

More than half of supply chain and procurement professionals believe they will receive a pay raise in the next year, according to a recent survey from DSJ Global. Although increasing compensation alone will not be enough to attract and retain employees, it’s important to be responsive to the pay offers you will likely be competing with in your employees’ and potential employees’ eyes. Experts also suggest tailoring bonuses to, for example, completing a 40-hour workweek.

5. Use analytics to adapt in advance

Consulting firm McKinsey & Co. suggests using digital performance management tools and people tools to manage labor flows and identify areas of need within a company before problems crop up.

In one successful use of people analytics, a trucking company identified the quarter of drivers most likely to leave the company, analyzed the reasons why those drivers were dissatisfied and implemented changes accordingly, leading to improvements in both retention and new hires. 

Analytics can also help you become aware of new needs and skills emerging in the field, and the data can give you a head start in training employees to move into those specialized roles.

6. Recruit broadly

Attend networking events such as supply management conferences, association meetings and professional development seminars. Tap into industry job boards like the one run by ASCM. Offer employees bonuses for successfully recruiting family, friends and acquaintances to join the company.

You may need to rethink the messaging you use for different recruitment audiences. For example, it might be worthwhile to create a dedicated microsite for students who are looking for their first jobs.

7. Broaden your talent base by reevaluating job requirements

Across industries, companies are reevaluating whether a four-year college degree is truly a prerequisite to employment: 62% of occupations are less likely to require college degrees than they were in 2017, according to the Harvard Business Review. Perhaps one candidate has some, but not all, of the skills needed for a role — your company could provide supervision and training that can help fill that gap.

Be proactive about creating the candidates you want. Speak about logistics careers at high school career days. Meet with local community colleges and technical training schools, and let them know what experience and knowledge you want in new hires — you could end up influencing their curriculum. Share what opportunities might be open to their graduates. This can better help them prepare students for careers with you.

The bottom line

Adapting to the industry’s labor shortage will require you to show your potential and current employees that you value them, hear their concerns and want to help them grow. Providing better work-life balance and flexibility, as well as more training and opportunity for promotion, can make your workplace a more attractive place to join and stay.

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