Why – and How – to Diversify Next-Gen Supply Chain Talent

In order to succeed in the years and decades ahead, supply chain operations need to become more digital, sustainable, innovative and diverse. The question is how to get there.

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For supply chain organizations to succeed, we need to take down the barriers that prevent women, Gen Zers, people of color and other under-represented groups from coming on board. And it’s not a one-size-fits-all undertaking.

Too often, the same issues that confronted women way back when are still tripping up women today: a lack of encouragement and mentorship and need for more inclusive pipelines.

Today there is a war for talent, and the need to re-recruit diverse talent every day is more acute than ever. The support of diverse leaders in removing a “broken rung,” helping to advance the careers of young talent is critical. One of the most important steps is identifying the barriers that stand in the way of the groups that companies want to attract and retain and then creating specific diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) initiatives to address and remove these barriers.

In order to succeed in the years and decades ahead, supply chain operations need to become more digital, sustainable, innovative and diverse. The question is how to get there. Putting real muscle and intent behind DEI efforts is key to not only attracting the best talent, but also to unlocking the full potential of operations to better deliver for customers and consumers.

The value of young minds

Demographics are changing. The workforce needs to reflect the communities in which they live and serve – globally, regionally and locally. If you have a workforce that understands these groups in a personal way, it will be reflected in product sales and customer loyalty.

A 2021 Gartner article highlights how Millennials and Generation Z employees, in particular, place great importance on gender and racial/ethnic diversity in the workforce. Having a strong DEI agenda in place not only reflects inherent company values but also allows companies to remain competitive. Additionally, by adding more Millennials and Gen Zers to organizations, they tap into the talents of “digital natives,” who innately understand the opportunities that digitization brings to organizations.

In the supply chain space, the goal is to operate in a “digital-first” world, where the capabilities of people, the power of data and the benefits of technology combine to accelerate growth and deliver better outcomes for customers, consumers and businesses. Integrating “digital natives” into your teams is vital to capturing that mindset.

Looking different, thinking different

Diversity fosters innovation and collaboration – critical areas needed to accelerate and build best-in-class global supply chains. When it comes to race and ethnicity, according to Forbes magazine, companies with above-average diversity produce a greater proportion of revenue from innovation, which translates into better financial performance. Differing opinions and a culture of inclusion fosters innovation and drives agility, which is key to building a supply chain of the future.

A DEI commitment is just the start

Most companies recognize the importance of diversifying their pool of next-gen supply chain talent, and while there’s a commitment to DEI in supply chain organizations, there’s still a lot of work to be done to move from commitment to action.

According to a 2022 Gartner study, while 75% of supply chain organizations consider ethnicity and race in their DEI strategies and objectives, only 40% of them are working on specific supply chain DEI initiatives to make those goals reality. Today, less than 41% of the global supply chain workforce and only 19% of supply chain officers are female.

Over the past few years, the number of women at all levels in supply chain has steadily increased. In turn, it’s greatly increased the number of women entering the supply chain pipeline for companies all around the world.

The industry needs to be accountable to prioritizing diversity every day. Let’s commit to identifying the barriers standing between us and the diversified next-generation talent needed to succeed. Then, let’s go further and take specific steps – building the programs, practicing inclusive leadership and improving talent pipelines – that will ensure the right supply chain team is in place for what’s ahead.