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Senior Supply Chain Executives Must Empower Supply Chain Employees

Written by Al-Azhar Khalfan

Senior supply chain executives must empower supply chain employees to support strategic mandates. The right tools can set them up for success.

Far more people across Canada now realize the important role supply chains play in their lives. And while multi-year trends have put pressure on those supply chains, the tumult of the past few years has sparked an evolution in the field. No longer do supply chain professionals simply buy and move goods, immersed in functions like purchasing, logistics and transportation alone.

Of course, those functions remain at the core of the field. But supply chain professionals are now often involved in roles influencing the strategic goals of their enterprises. Whether it’s sustainability and ESG, digital transformation, diversity and inclusion through supplier diversity practices, or issues of Indigenous awareness, supply chain now has a role to play in strategic enterprise decisions.

With this elevation in status has come an exacerbation of the supply chain talent war. Phrases like “the great resignation” and “quiet quitting” are gaining traction. But it is important that we peel back the layers behind these trends and understand the crux of the issue. Why are more leaders concerned about talent attraction and retention today when this has been a persistent supply chain challenge for the last five years?

A recent study managed by AlixPartners found that 72% of CEOs fear losing their positions in 2022. The number rose significantly compared to last year, when 52% of CEOs responded with concerns about their career prospects in the midst of the pandemic. According to the survey, 80% of executives worry that the ongoing labor shortages will be permanent, while 77% said actions taken to address supply chain woes were not effective enough.

At Supply Chain Management Association Ontario (SCMAO), we have 4,100+ members and a broader supply chain community of 10,000+ supply chain professionals – most being from mid-senior to director level within their teams. The point of view shared by our community directly correlated with this finding. With the increasing focus on the supply chain profession, comes increased responsibility.

Amidst the heightened workload and decision-making, what’s missing is the sense of acknowledgement and appreciation for employees for their relentless effort in meeting the organization’s customer expectations. Acknowledgement and appreciation can be realized through an expanded strategic mandate, investment in appropriate technology to facilitate supply chain efficiency and subsequent upskilling/reskilling to succeed in those mandates.

As much as it is said today that supply chain plays a strategic role in driving enterprise mandates, the fact remains that 72% of our community still believe that supply chain function continues to be treated as an expense/cost centre and 50% also agree that supply chain is still not viewed as a strategic asset within their organizations.

Now more than ever, it is time for C-Suite executives to empower the supply chain profession from being merely transactional to more strategic, not just for the growth of the profession alone but also to enhance the quality of intelligence the C-Suite needs in order to make informed business decisions during this period of disruption. Thinking of long-term solutions to address this challenge of labour shortage and labour retention is the path forward for these executives.

The role of supply chain is changing and it is essential to recognize that we must also reimagine the competencies required of supply chain professionals. An expanded mandate in the supply chain ecosystem encompasses roles that involve analytics, pricing, demand planning and management, sustainable procurement principles, supplier relations management, supply chain designs, and more. This is where senior executives can demonstrate their support by reskilling their supply chain teams, enhance their capabilities, and set them up for success.

At SCMAO, our purpose is to promoting awareness of the important role that supply chain plays in an enterprise’s strategic framework, as well as to empowering the supply chain professionals of the future with continued education and upskilling – an imperative in order to stay ahead of the curve in this dynamic supply chain environment. Many organizations that have chosen to partner with us have cited benefits such as:

  • Building new capabilities that align with business goals
  • Demonstrating a commitment to employees’ professional success
  • Bolstering organizational loyalty
  • Fostering team engagement
  • Increasing productivity

We aspire to continue elevating the critical role supply chain plays in enterprise success. This is an important turning point for the profession and now is the time to harness the momentum gathered in the last two years, while embracing the breadth of expertise needed to achieve that.

Al-Azhar Khalfan is President and CEO of the National Institute of Supply Chain Leaders (NISCL).

Email: [email protected]