Consumer demands are escalating by the day. People want more choices, personalization and flexibility — all delivered at rapid speed. To meet these expectations, the world’s largest supply chains are looking for new ways to evolve nimbly and to improve their performance and cost proposition.
Some are using virtual reality and artificial intelligence in manufacturing; others find new ways to connect products and personalize the customer experience or employ drones for last-mile delivery. However, too many of them neglect the area most critical to success: building a diverse, inclusive and talented workforce. Only with this key attribute in place can today’s supply chains heighten performance by bringing forward unique vantage points, perspectives and solutions.
While supply chains evolve, the supply chain workforce has yet to adapt to reflect the customer bases being served. Rapid technological advances and the convergence of physical and digital manufacturing processes require new and diverse skillsets. To gain a competitive advantage, companies must change how they approach employment and hiring practices.
According to Deloitte’s “2016 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index,” global manufacturing executives rank talent as the top driver of competitiveness. At the same time, the U.S. manufacturing industry faces an estimated shortfall of two million manufacturing workers over the next decade, and companies report that six out of 10 positions are currently unfilled due to the talent shortage.
To drive innovation and value creation, businesses must be intentional about building an inclusive culture where people feel valued and heard and believe they belong. Making the changes needed to improve diversity and inclusion in supply chain won’t be quick or easy; however, there are multi-pronged approaches — including education and professional development — that can help.
Inspiring the next generation
As the need for supply chain talent increases, the number of university supply chain programs also is on the rise. From 2014 to 2016, full-time student enrollment in the top 25 supply chain programs rose 43 percent, according to Gartner. But grooming talent for future supply chain work involves more than just recruiting students into a supply chain major. There’s an opportunity to raise awareness from a young age by reaching out to girls; connecting women and people of diverse cultural and experiential backgrounds; teaching the right mix of classes and skills; and getting students appropriate job experience during college.
Certain skills — including abilities in math and science, as well as problem-solving — are important for competing in a global marketplace. Known in the United States as “the nation’s report card,” the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is given to a representative sampling of U.S. students to gauge their proficiency in reading, writing, math and other core subjects including civics and science. Breaking down the NAEP scores by gender, 45 percent of females met or exceeded the proficient level, compared with 42 percent of males. Yet, several studies have shown girls as early as age six start developing the idea that they’re not inherently good at math. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found many girls lack self-confidence in their ability to solve math and science problems and thus score worse than they otherwise would, which discourages them from pursuing science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) fields.
The disparity found in the NAEP report was even more dramatic among racial groups: 56 percent of white students met or exceeded the benchmark for proficiency, compared with just 18 percent of their black peers. To address this, several multinational corporations are working to counter negative perceptions against STEM at an early age, while helping to ensure that sparks of interest in STEM fields translate into meaningful careers. At Johnson & Johnson, for example, through our Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Manufacturing and Design initiative, we are giving young girls, female college students and professional women the tools, resources and opportunities they need to excel in the areas of STEM, manufacturing and design.
Specifically, Johnson & Johnson is partnering with existing organizations on aligning K–12 curricula, augmenting program-based learning and engaging employees around the world as mentors to young students. We are not alone: APICS recently started a K–12 STEM program, which teaches kids supply chain concepts through relatable activities. For example, kindergarten and young elementary school kids learn about supply chain by setting up a lemonade stand to explore how many lemons they need, where the lemons come from, how they get the lemons, where to place the stand, how much to charge and more.
Johnson & Johnson also is partnering with academic institutions and the National Center for Women and Information Technology to develop high-impact strategies for increasing the number of women enrolling in and graduating from STEM programs. And in 2017, our Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain started a diverse talent invitational at the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority southern regional conference to find and engage talent from underrepresented populations and further drive diversity and inclusion.
Return on investment
At Johnson & Johnson, we believe more diverse and inclusive teams lead to more engaged employees and better results. For us, it’s not just a commitment; it’s the reality of how we live and work. “The Deloitte Millennial Study 2018” supports this viewpoint. It found 69 percent of workers who described their senior management team as diverse thought their workplace was stimulating and motivating. Further, Glassdoor’s “50 HR and Recruiting Statistics for 2017” found that employees who work for a female manager are 6 percent more engaged than those working for a male manager.
Other recent research highlights the correlation between diverse organizations and positive financial outcomes. For example, McKinsey & Company’s “Why Diversity Matters” found companies in the top quartile for gender or ethnic diversity are more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians. Companies in the bottom quartile are statistically less likely to achieve above-average returns.
Johnson & Johnson efforts in this space include deepening relationships with core schools and professional organizations to uncover diverse talent and, importantly, evaluating and evolving our systems and processes. For example, we use technology and artificial intelligence to mitigate bias in job descriptions. The initial pilot has shown an increase in the number of applicants and in the diversity of those applicants. For these reasons, among others, Johnson & Johnson is passionately dedicated to attracting diverse talent into our organization and promoting an inclusive workplace, with supply chain leaders from all races, genders and backgrounds.
Retaining diverse talent
The second step in creating a robust supply chain talent pool is retaining the diverse employees you have and developing them into leaders. Once companies have a clear understanding of their talent gaps and diversity goals, they need to ensure they have an inclusive workplace where everyone can be themselves and perform their best.
Experts also note that women and minority employees may have different priorities when evaluating satisfaction with their jobs, whether it is reflected in work schedules, ways of working and interacting, or feeling valued as part of a team. In addition, studies show that women are more likely to care about professional development, diverse and inclusive workplaces, and the social impact of their work. When looking at non-white employees, having professional development opportunities ranks 17 percent more important than it does to their white counterparts. Other issues of significance to minority employees include having a defined career path and a diverse workplace.
Companies must provide their employees with opportunities to develop leadership skills. A Deloitte survey recently found that 71 percent of millennials who were likely to leave their companies in the next two years were unsatisfied with how their leadership skills were being developed.
At Johnson & Johnson, we continuously reinvest in our employees, empowering them to grow into the leaders of the future. We encourage them to be lifelong learners and take advantage of different opportunities offered throughout our family of companies. In addition, building inclusive leadership capabilities is a key component of development for all people managers. We also encourage our leaders to mentor high-potential talent.
Last year, we launched DISCOVER, which focuses on the acceleration of people of color into supply chain management and leadership roles. This program is a collaboration and commitment among leaders from companies and industries, including Johnson & Johnson, Ernst & Young, World 50, 3M and the Hershey Company.
We’ve also advanced the conversation beyond awareness to focus on integrating diversity and inclusion into our talent processes by embedding it into performance conversations, succession planning, leadership training and talent acquisition. Tools and resources are provided at key moments in the talent-review process to mitigate unconscious bias and help managers review people inclusively. Our goal is to foster a culture of belonging that helps us create a thriving and sustainable business.
Continuous improvement is key
Once diversity recruitment standards are in place and efforts are made to retain and grow existing employees, it’s important to continually refine and improve talent strategies. For example, while Johnson & Johnson is a recognized leader in diversity and inclusion, we never settle when it comes to raising the bar. Our executives partner closely with our talent acquisition team to ensure we continue to strengthen how our recruiting strategies connect with the business. We’re actively improving upon our efforts, including moving from mentoring to sponsorships of diverse talent.
In addition, Johnson & Johnson knows that diversity and inclusion are not just the responsibilities of human resources or business leaders; they must be embraced by everyone for everyone. We ask all of our people leaders to hold discussions with their teams on unconscious bias, opening the door for real-world, practical dialogue.
Every supply chain is a competitive advantage that can change the trajectory of health for humanity. All companies should constantly seek diverse opinions to ensure they continue to meet the needs of more than one billion global customers each day. It’s our responsibility, as supply chain leaders, to continue to seek out ways to attract and retain the best diverse talent. Our businesses and people we serve depend on it.
Mark H. Benson, Ph.D., is vice president of customer and logistics services, consumer medical devices supply chain, and head of the Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain Diversity and Inclusion Council. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.