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11 - Business Express

5 ways supply chain leaders could save the jobs market

Unemployment levels are increasingly rapidly, but if you’re a supply chain leader, you could be the solution. Here, Craig Powell, Managing Director at Balloon One shares how those in these roles could save the job market. 

The pandemic has had a massive impact on the business world globally, with unemployment rates rapidly increasing. In the UK, these rates are currently sitting at an estimated 4.9% according to data from the Office of National Statistics. Although almost every industry has been affected by these figures, the lack of supply chain talent that was already a problem, is faltering even further.

Craig Powell - Business Express
Craig Powell, Managing Director, Balloon One

But with up to 87% of British consumers utilising online channels to make purchases, it’s clear that suppliers are under immense pressure to hire and train the right supply chain workers, to enhance productivity and efficiency (Statista).

In this article, I will be discussing how supply chain leaders could save the jobs market and why it’s so important to fill these skill gaps. 

Drive growing recognition for supply chain jobs

For years now, the supply chain has been underestimated by people outside of the industry who can’t fully understand its importance. But, with the pandemic ramping up demand for plenty of products and causing supply issues for those who outsource some or all of their processes overseas, the significance of supply chain jobs has certainly been more readily recognised. 

That being said, there is certainly more that could be done to drive this recognition to ensure this has a bigger and longer lasting effect. As well as developing and encouraging more career opportunities for applicants who have undertaken a supply chain management degree, it’ll also be important to focus on sharing awareness of its role. 

For example, sharing real-life examples of how in-demand supply chain work was over the course of this pandemic is a good way of highlighting its value and encouraging others to follow these career paths. When the industry was under stress from logistical issues and being too understaffed to deal with the demand, everyone from airline workers to actors retrained to help deal with the supply chain disruptions, and if you saw this yourself, letting it be known could help drive recognition for these vital jobs. 

Attract school leavers and graduates

The reasons behind the talent shortage in supply chain work vary, but one of the most prominent is the lack of awareness of the industry among younger people. While you’ll always want to hire the best of the best, starting with someone who perhaps doesn’t already have the qualifications or skills needed for the job can sometimes be a blessing in disguise. This is because they are able to be trained up off the back of their basic skills to fit with how your specific company does things. 

There seems to be a misconception that supply chain work is just about packing and unpacking boxes inside of a warehouse, but the reality is that the opportunities are endless, and we need to begin showing that side of the industry more. There are so many other elements that make up supply chain networks, including HR departments, finance specialists, inventory planners, engineers and so many other interesting roles, so ensuring you’re reaching impressionable young people who might have thought otherwise is key to saving the job market. 

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Adapt leadership style for training

Every leader has a different management style, but with unemployment rates on the rise, particularly in supply chain work, it’s important that your leadership style encourages thorough, but quick, training. By getting everyone up to speed quicker, you can ensure there’s less downtime or times of lower productivity. 

There isn’t one set leadership style that’s guaranteed to work better than another as this is subjective to the individuals you’re trying to train and the company culture as a whole but to get things done efficiently, you could benefit from a transformational leadership style. Typically, the most successful in businesses in general, this type of management focuses on integrity and high emotional intelligence, while being renowned for setting clear goals and having good conflict-resolution skills. 

When training someone new, remaining patient, but also being able to empathise and encourage workers to get up to speed quickly will certainly pay off. 

Communicate and measure business goals closely

With the current crisis still wreaking havoc on businesses, it’s likely you’ve had to adapt your goals to deal with slower or disrupted production times, understaffing, and other unforeseen problems. For many companies, this has meant they’ve had to alter their short-term goals, such as hitting a certain quota per day, because of the disruption to the supply chain. 

While it’s of the utmost importance to accurately monitor your business goals, communicating these with your workers is also vital. Firstly, because if they still think they’re working to the original goals it can cause even bigger disruptions, but also if those goals were slightly more ambitious given the current situation, it could cause unnecessary added pressure to your workforce. This in turn could raise staff absenteeism and turnover, so making sure you’re always open and honest about any changes is crucial. 

Introduce automation and management systems

Supply chains are extremely vulnerable to bottlenecking as all the processes feed into and rely on one another. But implementing a supply chain management tool can help control this. These can range from warehouse to transport management systems that can help you to better prepare and work through periods of crises and uncertainty. These will be useful for forecasting your goals, as well as overall streamlining your key business functions. 

The need for social distancing also meant many businesses had to operate at a lower capacity, meaning there were less people working and lower productivity levels. But, by integrating robotics and automation you can futureproof your business against unforeseen circumstances, most notably by providing an extra pair of hands or two so your business can always work at maximum capacity.

The supply chain job market is slowly but surely collapsing on itself, but there are plenty of ways existing leaders in the industry can help save it. By taking my top five tips on board, you can ensure you’re helping to boost it back in the right direction and raising awareness of the importance of it for businesses everywhere.  


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