Stocking Your Supply Chain Management Talent Pool

Facing the challenge of recruiting and maintaining quality talent head on

The topic of supply chain talent management is becoming ever more urgent, and increasing numbers of organizations are waking up to the challenges of recruiting, rewarding and retaining the high-quality executives they need to run, ramp up and refine their supply chains. AMR Research laid out the scope of the challenge facing organizations in a recent report called "Supply Chain Talent: State of the Discipline" by David Aquino and Lucie Draper. "Supply chain management's rapid, but at times disjointed, growth and evolution have contributed to executive confusion about the discipline's priority and span of control," the analysts write. "As a result, there are serious deficiencies in bench-strength…"

This challenge has not sprung up overnight, and professional organizations and consulting firms have developed toolkits to assess and develop core skill sets within a supply chain team. For example, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM, offers its Supply Management Assessment Tool (SMART) service; consultancy ADR International ( offers its Web-based Development Needs Analysis (DNA) tool; and the firm Greybeard Advisors ( offers services to identify, and "fill," organizational skills gaps, including through cross-functional training. (See and, respectively, for examples of ADR and Greybeard projects with clients.)

Forward-looking organizations are being proactive in putting in place programs to attract, develop and hang onto supply chain talent, as this issue's cover story on Ruan Transportation Corp. demonstrates. As I've been out on the conference circuit over the past year, I've heard supply chain executives talk about similar programs being put in place at other companies. The common thread linking Ruan and these other organizations is the recognition among senior management that supply chain is a source of significant value and competitive edge in our increasingly global and interconnected world.

In the United States, the long-term challenge facing the supply chain profession — ensuring an adequate talent pool over time — is reflective of a broader threat confronting U.S. policymakers. In his keynote presentation at the Ariba LIVE user conference in May, Charlie Wheelan, a lecturer at the University of Chicago, noted that high school graduation rates in the United States have been essentially flat, or even declining, since the 1950s, while flat college graduation rates have masked a decline in rates for men behind an increase in graduation rates for women. Wheelan's point was that, as a nation, the United States risks losing its own competitive edge if it fails to ensure an adequate pool of talent capable of generating the kinds of innovation that drive growth today. And if that happens, the best supply chains in the world won't help.

Is the supply chain talent crunch affecting your company? How are you developing the talent pool within your own organization? As always, I look forward to hearing from you at [email protected], or share your views online at