Jonathan Thatcher, CSCP | January/February 2014 | 24 | 1
Finding and engaging new supply chain and operations management talent
Reader G.J. writes, “Our younger, newer hires tell me whenever a training event ends that things are exactly the same as before. It’s so easy to slip back into old routines. How can we be more effective?”
Developing supply chain talent means different things to different people. There are two main challenges, whatever your perspective: finding people with the skills to do the job and the onboarding and continuous learning needed to become a high-performing member of the organization.
Team discovery channels
In many fields, corporations get to know promising young people early through outreach in schools, sponsorships, and extracurricular events. However, this is an underused practice for supply chain and operations management professionals. If your company offers plant tours, consider targeting students in relevant classes or programs. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), industrial art and design, and business are good places to start.
Does your company have a volunteer or community service program? Invite students to join your company to perform volunteer work. Leveraging a community program can lead to internships and job applications. Encourage schools to offer curricula that replicate the actual needs, demands, and standards of the work environment. This includes the materials covered in industry certification programs, as well as the soft skills of effective communication, teamwork, and building business relationships.
Getting on board
Of course, the classroom and the work environment are very different. One represents the ideal, while the other is real. According to the Gallup Business Journal, new employees often find that actual work experiences do not align with expectations once they get beyond the six-month “honeymoon period.” This gap can dull motivation and development. The key is to make the work environment an extension of the classroom.
Consider the following areas when trying to develop new workers’ skills and abilities and make them a valuable part of the team.
Discover individual talents and motivations. Where do your new people fit? What tasks are best suited to their unique mix of preferences and skills? There are a number of online resources available to help, including Mind Tools and StrengthsFinder, as well as formal talent management systems that facilitate candidate assessment, employee appraisal, and compensation and performance management.
Develop a big-picture, strategic view. The first step is to scan the environment. Look for trends in the marketplace or on social media, and capture hard evidence of text, photos, statistics, and estimates. Next, study your own history with the organization. Describe a time when you and your colleagues worked on a strategic issue. Explain what led to the issue, what plans were set in motion, what actually happened, and why. Connect the case study to a current major project, such as a new product launch. This will give you a better perspective of how new hires might approach current challenges in the organization. Invite new staff members to planning meetings, and get their perspectives on the various challenges and complexities at play within your company.
Enable self-discovery. Assign a project to a new hire, such as researching a continuous improvement initiative. Grant limited authority and let other teams know the new employee’s role. The pilot program may help span the gap between the ideal and the real, enabling your new workers to begin to understand what takes time and effort to accomplish and what is the low-hanging fruit in the organization.
While classroom expectations and workplace realities may collide, this can help produce a clear and effective vision of the organization and employee roles and potentials. The goal is to be able to say, “This is what I am good at; this is how I can leverage my abilities for my company in a way that excites me and enhances my career.”
Jonathan Thatcher, CSCP, is director of research for the APICS professional development division. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.