The Top Ten Myths….

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about Supply Chain talent development.  For years we have been writing about the war on talent for Supply Chain organizations.  It has been on the top ten list of CPOs and Chief Supply Chain Officers for years.  If you think the talent shortage is bad now, just wait until all the baby boomers start retiring.  As a result, universities all over the world have introduced Supply Chain majors (both at the undergraduate and graduate level) to help meet the growing demand for this skill.  Many of our clients have hired these graduates and still find a gap in skills.  While these programs do a great job in providing functional skills, they do not teach those strategic skills (e.g. change management, communication, collaboration, etc.) that are just as (if not more) important than the functional skills. 

This gap will not close on its own. According to an article in CSCMP’s Supply Chain Quarterly, The Top Ten Myths of Supply Chain Talent Development, some organizations are treating it as a major risk and developing risk mitigation strategies to ensure talent availability. Unfortunately, according to a white paper published by the University of Tennessee, “very few companies are truly ready to view supply chain talent as a long-term, strategic asset to be invested in and continually improved upon.”  They go on to articulate the ten myths about supply chain talent development which may be getting in the way of progress.  When I read the list I smiled because it is EVERYTHING we at TMG have been talking about and practicing since we opened our doors in 2000 – that was over 15 years ago.  The funny part (if there is one) is that there are no shortcuts here.  If you are a supply chain organization that wants to be a competitive differentiator for your company then YOUR PEOPLE are your greatest asset and you need to be investing in them as such.  Take a close look at these myths and I bet there is NOT one of them that you can argue with.  Also, take them seriously because every year the shortage get bigger and the issue is not going away.  

  1. “Talent development is HR’s responsibility” – talent development is the responsibility of the Supply Chain organization. HR can be a valuable partner but it must be led by Supply Chain.    
  1. “Returns on talent development cannot be measured” – Supply Chain competency can be tied directly back to the financial results of the company and is a perfect way to ensure you are given the budget required to development and grow that competency.
  1. “The cost of investing in talent development is too high” – developing and retaining current talent is much less costly then search and training costs associated with bringing on new hires. If you treat your employees as assets that require investment with a corresponding return, your attitude toward talent development will completely change.
  1. “Talent development is primarily about teaching supply chain content” – we respectfully disagree. Yes, functional Supply Chain skills are important but strategic competencies such as change management, communication, problem solving, collaboration, etc. taught in the context of the Supply Chain processes are key differentiators.
  1. “A one-size-fits-all training solution will be effective” – don’t waste your money on off-the- shelf solutions. Even if they raise individual skill level (not competency) they will not raise organizational competency.  That is where you get the biggest bang for your buck. Remember training should be considered an investment and needs to provide a healthy ROI.
  1. “Internal (or external) resources are always better” – we believe that all companies should develop this competency internally. BUT using external resources to increase your organizational competency through both classroom and on-the-job training can help to accelerate your journey.
  1. “Talent development primarily happens in a classroom” – absolutely NOT. It can begin in the classroom but competency is developed only through application (on the job application).  If your talent development program does not include BOTH, then don’t waste your money. 
  1. “Talent development will happen naturally and informally” – sure it can happen but it usually does not.  The advantage of a formal talent development program that is delivered to the entire organization is that there is great power in developing a common lexicon and building a learning environment.  We often have clients tell us that the value achieved by having their employees learn together was an unexpected benefit that surprised them.
  1. “Talent development is less important than the “issue du jour” – is there ever a time when your organization won’t be faced with issues? Talent development needs to be a priority and you, as leaders, need to be committed to following through.  There is no message more powerful than showing your employees that you are investing in their future.  
  1. “It’s too late to start a talent development program” –  it’s never too late but the war on talent is not going away.  The time is now to take this issue seriously and do something about it.

Well, I am waaaay over my word count for this blog.  Frankly, I could keep going.  Talent development is a passion for us at The Mpower Group.  It is where we started our practice over 15 years ago and have only gotten better with age 🙂 !  If you are ready to make a commitment to talent development, give us a shout.  We have worked with thousands of client alumni – most of which still use everything we taught them.

Let us know what you think and join in the conversation . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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Anne Kohler
Anne has been leading consulting and financial management organizations for over 25 years. She has extensive expertise in Strategic Sourcing, change management, contracting & contract management (both the buy side and sell side) organizational design and supply chain management. Anne has a passion for collaborating and educating her clients while helping them to uncover hidden value in their organizations. In addition, Anne has been named by Supply & Demand Chain Executive as a “Top 100 Provider Pro to Know” every year since 2007 and a 2013 Top Female Supply Chain executive.
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