How to Attract and Retain Top Talent
In the digital era, talent acquisition and retention have become increasingly complex. To shed light on the latest strategies for attracting and retaining top talent, a panel of experts consisting of Radu Palamariu of Alcott Global, Stephan de Barse of o9 Solutions, and Santanu Ghosh of Asia Pulp & Paper gathered together. They shared their insights on topics ranging from data-driven recruitment and diversity promotion to enhancing employee experience and mastering remote work scenarios. Additionally, they emphasized the importance of upskilling and reskilling to maintain a competitive workforce. Here are the top five takeaways from their discussion:
1. Evolving Skill Sets:
In the face of digital transformation, organizations are seeking new skill sets to navigate the changing landscape. The combination of tech-savviness, storytelling ability, and deep process understanding is crucial. The emergence of roles like product managers, responsible for different aspects within a software product, can be adapted to traditional businesses. These product managers act as coaches for various functions within the organization, facilitating transformation and staying up to date with advancements.
2. Employer Branding and Reputation:
Building a strong employer brand and reputation is vital for attracting talent, especially in the competitive job market. The panel highlighted the importance of branding, particularly for newer companies. A compelling narrative, company values, and a positive reputation can help in attracting talent in a region like Asia, where unemployment rates are low. Employers need to emphasize their brand image and create a narrative that resonates with potential candidates.
3. Leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI):
The panel discussed the role of AI in supply chain operations and emphasized that AI should augment human capabilities rather than replacing them entirely. AI can automate mundane tasks, freeing up time for supply chain professionals to focus on value-added activities. However, the successful adoption of AI depends on effective communication and visualization of AI-driven insights to ensure acceptance and adoption within the organization.
4. Soft Skills as the Key to Relevance:
While technical skills like data science and coding are valuable, the panel highlighted the significance of soft skills in supply chain professionals. Skills like leadership, communication, and the ability to manage and motivate teams are crucial for success. Instead of attempting to become data scientists or coders, professionals should focus on building high-performing teams and becoming effective communicators who can leverage the expertise of others.
5. Retention Strategies:
Retaining supply chain talent requires a multi-faceted approach. Apart from traditional factors like compensation and culture, organizations should consider the larger purpose of their work and communicate it effectively. Younger generations seek meaningful work and want to contribute to a greater goal. Employers should emphasize the environmental and sustainability aspects of supply chain work to attract and retain talent. Additionally, nurturing a positive team culture, embracing flexibility, and providing opportunities for growth are key retention strategies.
Well, let's start. What is the main challenge for you?
Each of of you guys when it comes to finding talent, what are the key skills that you find extremely difficult to find.
Okay. Let me start with myself. I'm audible?
So I'm from Asia pulp and paper, so it's a traditional commodity business but massive massive logistics operations, sometimes bigger than DHLA pack.
The challenge What we have seen is after Sware's scandal issue. They evergreen. Okay? Before that, as I heard, right? It was never a boardroom topic. The CEOs never bothered.
Supply chain is supposed to be done. Right? It should not be there. So after that, we had to shift things like considering the break bulk, street terms in their containers and things like that.
And everybody was trying to come with their experience, what they have done for the last ten years and fifteen years. And post COVID, what we learned is experience is not the only thing. It has to be a little bit about today's world, today's data, and potentially a little bit I'm not going to use the word AI ML, but predicting what could be the next month or quarter. So usage of tool and the supply chain background, that combination we are still struggling across the board.
There's always a great supply chain who had seen different kind of logistics, different kind of model, And then there is a technology people who are saying, okay, you do this, you'll get a ten percent improvement.
This intersection point is still missing. That's what I would be saying.
I think rather, I think it's become by the hub of some of our clients. I think many, when they embark on the big transformation journey, they set up a COE. And I think the first question is, you know, what are the skills that they need for a CoE to you know do a planning transformation. I think often what we are finding is that companies are looking for new skill set which is a combination of being telling the narrative to your point earlier.
Being tech savvy but also understanding us very well. So we see actually a new role emerging, which is the role of product manager. Like in software companies, it's very common. Right?
You have product managers for any sort of key feature within a software product. But in traditional businesses, you don't have that. And I always explain it like let's say you you you know like Manchester City you want to win the champions league. Right?
You do not only need to have the players, but you need to have a good coach for a striker. It's a good coach for your defenders.
A coach for your goalkeeper sensor four, but then an organization who's the coach of your demand planner? Right? Who is the coach of your supply planners? Like, we need to transform and think about ultimately moving to that coach player model where the coach is a product manager, understand the technology and understand the process, cannot only enforce and run the transformation, but also stays on top of what's new and happening and can motivate the teams to get it done. And I do not see many organizations that have put a COE in place with that skill set and that's why often we fall back to the traditional silos and just, you know, going from Excel to Excel.
I I guess I'd talk about a couple of things. I mean, if I looked and asked the audience how many people know the company Bayer, I guess most people would probably put their hands up. If I ask, who knows Envue, they would probably be stealthy science one of the things as a personal challenge is as a new company is brand.
You know, the employee brand and and that reputation. So I think certainly in terms of attracting talent, especially in Asia at the moment where, you know, it's extremely challenging, you know, unemployment's very low. You mentioned supply chain. So attracting talent as a new company is a challenge. From a skill set perspective, I think you talked a lot about it in the last session around narrative.
You can I can find supply chain people? I can find good planners, good people, and logistics from an executional point of view.
But people who can convert that into what does that mean for business? And I think particularly, again as a lean organization, we need planners be able to engage with relatively senior commercial leaders, facilitating SNOP process, things like that, they need to be able to and engage. And I think that's something that is a challenge that I see that that softer skill set.
Even as a global lead ship team, we we did an exercise recently around strengths find them in the different domains and and supply chain influencing, you know, we can find people that can execute, complain, and deliver, but but influence is not a natural skill set, I think, within the supply chain community.
And and maybe I'll just piggy bank on on what you said with the brand, because Even the big brands in fairness, when you look at supply chain within the organization, within the bigger brands and the supply chain leader, and I was on the call last night with one of them.
And I actually told him, look, I do believe I've talked to a lot of companies. I do believe you're one of the best supply chains. Yeah. I mean, I'm not talking garden or supply chain because that's a pay for play, I might be biased.
But it's it's a really good supply chain organization, but you're not sharing anything. And I told the chief supply chain officer, why don't you do it more? And he was like, oh, I don't have time and I don't Yeah. But, you know, if it is a priority, you make time.
And I I do things strictly related to talent. I'll give you an example. We have a super candidate right now.
I'll I'll give some some background. She's a woman. She's in engineering. She's at VP level. Specifically came to us. We are literally like I felt like I'm the Christian Ronaldo agent.
You know, she came to us exclusively. She said, look, I'm happy in this company, but You know what? Too many changes, I'm out. I trust you guys. Can you, you know, we work exclusively.
Put me out there in front of a couple of chief supply chain offices. Now, a couple men ten for us. We put her, you know, we sent her a a profile to ten chief supply chain officers that we have a relationship with. Eight interviewed her. I I you know, I and this is within two weeks. Yeah?
She's gonna have two or three offers. I mean, I I can put my hand in fire. Now, ultimately, she's going to select. Of course, it's gonna matter chemistry and a bunch of other things.
But employ a brand. Now, what does that mean? What do you put out there? Like, you know, do people even know what you're doing?
And I was do they know what you're doing in supply chain? Do they know projects because a lot of supply chain organizations are actually quite advanced and there's a lot of stuff, you know, from artificial intelligence, it's a buzz word, but, you know, from automation, from robotics, from actually saving and and sustainability initiatives, but it's just not shared. Supply chain people are not putting themselves out there enough. I mean, How many of you have posted on LinkedIn in the last one week?
Okay. It's still there's still some hope. Yeah. It's like thirty percent of the room.
LinkedIn is a platform to do that. Yeah. I mean, it's it's the way that no matter the and Nick, you're doing it. Yeah? No matter if if the company is known or not, you yourselves can be known and can build a brand, and then you are hiring managers.
And then they you will attract the right talents. I I would say, I just want to make this point of emphasizing that it don't to me, it's extremely critical if you want to attract the right talent to have a good employer brand, and narrative and so on. It's within your power to put yourselves, and LinkedIn is a free platform to do it consistently. Just for yourselves, if your tank, if your company doesn't do it, okay, fine. But for yourselves and for your teams, you can definitely do it.
Let's Let me ask you also the elephant in the room, yeah, or maybe the buzzword in the room, AI. Yeah. So AI is gonna take over.
Actually, I don't know even why we bother with these things yet because it seems to be If you read the news, it seems to be a given. Certain people thinks that they are given. But joke aside, how do you see artificial intelligence playing out in the next couple of years? And specifically, how will it disrupt also what kind skills and what kind of people and what kind of mindsets we need in the organizations. Any of you can start?
So then I'll I'll I'll start. So let me let me start with an example because I mean, there is plenty of AI use case and there will be more. Right? So that that's coming and that's going to transform how we think about supply chain planning and decision making for sure. But to make it relevant in terms of, you know, the narrative. So we worked with a a big tire manufacturer.
And what we did and this was now four years ago. Right? We applied a lot of the the drivers instead of just the historical sales and we were able to improve forecast accuracy by fifteen percent to twenty percent So we were all excited, they were all excited, and yet when we came to the consensus, the month playing meeting, the m l forecast that we created just got ignored.
Right? And sales organization said, no. It's not going to be like this. It's like this and like this and like this.
And then the axles came in and obviously, you know, there was a high positive bias in the consensus forecast and the forecast accuracy of that forecast was much lower and we were just simply not understanding, you know, why they would not just adopt to the ML forecast, which based on all the metrics by forecast accuracy, you name it, outperformed the consensus.
And that was actually a good way for us to look in the mirror and say, yes, you can have the best algorithm in the world. It doesn't mean that's being adopted by the business at all.
So we actually had to go back to a drawing table. Right? It's not, you know, creating the best Python code with all the drivers and so forth. Is actually, how do you explain the forecast back to the sales organization?
How do you give visibility to what truly drives them on? I think when we did that exercise, what was actually interesting?
And in this case, it was a tire manufacturer.
We did this in the United states and they sold through both the OEMs, right, the auto OEMs as well as the dealer networks. And one of the things that we learned is a lot of the data insights we simply had to repack that and provide that back to the sales organization. So now what we were doing is say, hey, there is this dealership in Texas.
And we know that if we look at the zip codes around this dealership, here is the type of cars and given the weather and age of the cars, here is the type of tires that this dealership should have in his or her assortment.
Why? Because what is driving your decision for a tire? If you go to dealership, you follow the recommendation of the dealer because, you know, people don't really care. Why would the dealer make the recommendation? Guess what? He has the tire in stock.
So, we changed the way we talked about forecasting where we are providing insights to the sales organization so they can have better assortment discussions with the dealers and as such, we got more and better data back into planning from all the dealerships, their stock levels, their sell out and support, which then improved the forecast sequentially tremendously.
So I think we as a software company three, four years ago were always like, you know, the better algorithm wins.
We found that's not the case at all. So we actually had to sort of rethink, right, how we do forecasting and present that back to our clients. And I think with any AI use case, is not so much about just blindly adopting that. It's the way we visualize that and present that back.
Right? Why do we all follow Google Maps? Because the moment we hit traffic, you know, we see that it turns red. And we've now hit traffic ten times at exactly the point where the where it turns red.
So, we trust it. You know, they have spent a lot of time in visualizing and explaining AI. And I think that's what's needed. But still companies, they're just solely focused on there's a data science team and there is a supply team and they're not necessarily being connected and I think that's where the opportunity is for AI.
Yeah. I mean I think I guess we're all here because we're in did in, you know, advancing our planning solutions and driving our supply chain and digital transformation. I'd I'd I'd think personally, or maybe it's just because I'm old and a bit of a dinosaur. I I I don't think AI is gonna replace humans in supply chain.
I think it's about how does it augment your capabilities? How does it free up time for people to perform value adding tasks? I think, Stephanie, you talked about some of the things earlier, the new generation of talent that, you know, they wanna come in and you pitch a good story, and then they're if they come and join, and then they're faced with dealing with seventy different Excel books for planning. You know, that's not adding value.
So it's how do you, you know, use AI machine learning? I think you referenced a bit about you know, transit times predicting rather than, you know, updating and maintaining master data, how can you use technology to do some of these more perhaps mundane tasks to really free up the supply chain talent to add the value to the business. Drive the profitability, improve the cash flow, do the things that add value to the to the top line and the bottom line. So I I think it's an augmentation tool.
And being very clear on the purpose of doing that, rather than it just being technology for technology's sake.
I'll just add with probably two or three use cases over here. I totally agree. Supply Chain is a area where Humant cannot be just replaced. It will be augmented.
Upstream wise, you will see most of the time, people are still struggling that what is the situation of the inventory with my you know, the stores level, even at the particularly in Asia where we call Kinara stores. And then based on that, you think of what is your manufacturing requirement and stuff. This is Still a problem after ten years, even people call different route to market. In the middle logistics part, what we are seeing is the matching the carriers, what kind of rates you can get, So potentially some augmenting capability will be helpful, particularly when you are working with more than ten carriers, which is our case. And finally, the most important part in the COVID learning is the upstream area.
Should you go for a long term contract for a particular commodity or short term contract or what kind of variability should be there. Particularly, for example, if you're buying chemicals and things like that for your manufacturing, So these are, I would say, a little bit combination of old data, plus some intelligent capability. I don't know, you call AI or not. That will probably still help and long way to go and it is long overdue, I would say.
Very good question. Making sure that everybody heard it. What's in the age of AI, what skills should supply chain professionals work on to stay relevant?
I think it's the same example. Right? I think there's no way, right, that the supply chain professional being supply chain for the past twenty years can become a very good data scientist for instance. Right?
I mean, there's now kids graduating that, you know, better speak Python than English. Right? So I think there is this entire movement of leveraging that skill set rather than all trying to become coders ourselves. Sometimes they see companies and say, oh, should we all be able to write Python code and my perspective is absolutely not.
I think it's all about how do you find the key ingredients that have to come together to build a high performing supply chain organization.
And I think one of the changes that we are seeing is obviously that becomes much more data science, data engineering, and support centric. So I think it's all about I think the role of a head of supply chain bring those different functions together, let that operate as a one team. And then to Rada's point earlier, sort of then build the case for change as well as for transformation, you know, which is all, you know, based on business case and narratives. And rather, I think you mentioned that before I think we got one of those questions with a large actually paper pulp and packaging provider in the US.
They were trying to build the business case for actually setting up a data science team And instead of just saying, hey, we need this because all other companies are doing that and we are not so good in data and whatever, they build a story and said, here, the ten use cases going wrong in the business. Here's how we would quantify it. And then they asked the CEO how do how often do you think this happens in in the business? CEO said, Oh, not ten times, two hundred times, so approved and and let's go.
So, I think it's it's more about trying to figure out what are the use cases going how do you solve that and how do you find the team rather than all of us trying to go back to school and and, you know, learning to code and and stuff like that. But I don't know your perspective.
I'll just add one thing.
Quite often this use cases comes in our organization and people always say that what are the reasons it cannot be done. Okay? People will say, my best SKU is in wrong, raw materials are wrong. The fundamental problems which I think most of the organization have.
And these are the development development factors, which actually stops you to go a little bit ahead. I would say the success is no need to fix all internal problems about your data process, and then go for it. It should be run-in parallel. And that is fundamental getting the external signals from the market, that's where probably AI capability should supply chain professional listen.
I mean, think of the break bulk was the scenario for last year. And suddenly, the container price dropped. If we wouldn't have known, we would have continued and paying the damage fees a lot way. So external signals, you cannot just read from the LinkedIn or different parameters on a continuous basis.
At least those are the parameters should come, and then supply chain professionals should know which signal is more important compared to others.
I'll I'll just quickly add one one thought, to me, soft skills are the hard skills.
Soft skills are the hard skills. I think it's we we perhaps, you know, like, Yes. You can learn data data science. You can learn to code Python.
Do you need to, though? I think that the the skill that is is is there is can you manage? Can you get the best out of your people? Can you get a team that has different experts that do different things and get the best out of that team?
Can you be the coach of Manchester City? Because also Manchester City, for a long time, if you follow football, they have a lot of stars, they had zero results. Very little results because the coach was lacking. Yeah.
So I think that those soft skills, I would double triple down on soft skills. And there's the problem with soft skills in some point. It is soft. But at the same time, it is highly tangible.
I mean, narrative influence, ultimately, if you boil it down is communication. Yeah? I mean, And it's not it's not like any of us have not been told. But again, you know, are we acting on it?
Are we getting better at it? And I would specifically say, and this in the book also came through a couple of the contributors, Reverse mentoring, which is the soft skill is being open, and the specific channel is get some of your young people in the team. I learned from my daughter, yeah, she's ten. She managed to break codes into the bloody phone.
She, you know, we tried to put passwords and passwords, and she managed to somehow overlay it. She's, you know, she's a Snapchat content creator. She knows every single thing under the sun. I mean, so I'm amazed.
I I don't know how to use on the phone like that. I asked her like, can you do a video of me? So I'm learning from my daughter.
Jim Rowan mentioned that when he was a CEO of Dyson Heel took a marketing influencer off Instagram to teach him how do you sell you know, Dyson cells, whatever, vacuum cleaners, and hair dryers. How do you sell that using social media? So that skill of specifically, reversing and getting some really smart, sharp, younger generation, we're not gonna be able necessarily to live their reality. But we can learn from their reality.
We can augment our reality with their reality. And that's again, something that I think we should double down on rather than, okay, can I beat this, you know, fifteen year old kids at Python? Probably, you can't. Probably.
Interestingly, I mean, the theme was about retention and attracting talent. And I think one of the things that we need to get better at is is that notion of how important is retention.
You know, do we want people? I mean, I think as particularly with the younger generations as well.
You know, again, coming from Legacy Bayer, where basically you joined you worked and you retired, that that those times, I think, are gone. And I look, I I'm probably not answering the question class, but I think we've got a lot to learners, organizations in terms of how do we make sure that potentially during times of turnover, you maintain a new If your vision and your strategy is strong enough that when, you know, people move out or new people come in, that you don't lose sight of that. I guess, coming back to a sporting analogy, right? I mean, how often do you see times when, you know, a coach change they change a coach of a team and suddenly everything you know, you throw everything out. You know, new players, good players, go, new players come in.
And I think I think institutionally, we've got a lot to learn around how do we manage that and how do we make sure that if we've got to be interesting to ask, you know, that case study from Olympus, right? You've got a six year strategy.
What happens if within that timeframe, there's a change of either leadership at the top at the board level or within the supply chain, does that strategy still hold true? And do we still see it through? Or was it driven by individuals? So Look, I'm probably not answering the question, but I think it is a great one and one we need to wrestle with, but welcome the other panelist views.
I think maybe a good case example would be AB and Beth, largest beer company in the world. So, they started the big supply chain transformation and they started in Canada, and then they rolled it out to twenty five different countries. And what they did pretty interesting was that they created a scorecard for every single country, what should the transformation drive? So there were quantitative and qualitative KPIs.
Right? Service level, forecast accuracy, number of scenarios you run and so forth. But ultimately, every single card was then translated in how much more hectoliter beer they were selling. And the hectoliter beer is something that everyone in the entire organization understands sales, marketing, procurement, you name it.
And then what they did, they continuously promoted people that were successful in the different market organizations in driving incremental hectoliter beer. So they actually use it as a mechanism to say, okay, the transformation drives more beers. More beers drives more cheers to customers.
And the folks that were associated with the program got promoted or were transferred to countries where the adoption was not that great. So I think they all started with there's a CEO alignment that this is important, then you drive the change. You measure, you know, according to the business metrics that everyone in the company understands, and then you promote people that do well in that program, so they got experiences across the globe and in other programs as well. So, at least that is what I found a pretty interesting example of of sort of getting the right people on the train, celebrating value early, and then using those early adopters to give them bigger roles in your organization.
I'll just add one thing compared to twenty years back. I I was fortunate to work with Nestle, which was a very good supply chain information in Europe at least.
But that luxury or that kind of time frame you cannot take today, ten years and stuff. So The sponsor Accenture talks about something called Compressed Transformation.
There has to be results at at least worst case nine months time. Maybe a small. But if you run a program that it requires two years plus to get some results, Even the best talent will leave that program, there will be nobody to support that even if the project started. So this is the most important learning has to be a little bit compressed, even if it is small.
So what are you doing to retain the talent in supply chain? So what the heads or what global health should be doing to retain the talent. You know? Right now, we get a lot of opportunities and we are just jumping here and there. And they're getting good opportunities as well. So how do do you want to retain your talents? So just want to hear from you in the heads here.
Start probably. I mean, so young company. Look, I I I would say I think there's a number of things and you can read numerous articles, Deloitte Mackins. You know, they're all published articles around things that in terms of attracting retaining, you've got some basic things which will be around, you know, the traditional compensation culture and values, I think is something that's important. And I think that's increasingly more important. I think particularly in the younger generation, you know, culture, brands, ESG, those kind of things are are potentially more important now than and perhaps the basics of, you know, reward and recognition.
You know, I think leadership is a is a really key one in terms of ing talent.
You know, I'm sure we've all had personal experience of working in organizations where you work with a really good visionary, strong leader.
That's important. I think that that creates employment by an engagement versus maybe weak leadership But I come back to the other point, which is, as well, is I actually think we need to, you know, again, come in a small organization.
Actually, I should be comfortable having people come in and and not wanting to spend ten years. In my company. Right? I should I should be embracing the fact that maybe I actually wanna be a springboard to come in, get new talent, you know, and then provide them opportunities for growth and maybe that they grow outside of the organization.
And I think that's something for companies. I think we're going to have to to look at. Again, I think if you look at, you know, turnover rates, particularly here in Asia, you know, people tend to stay in roles for less time. And I think we need to embrace that and and recognize that, yeah, I can have somebody come in, work for three, five years.
Do a really good job, and we nurture them to go on and do something great elsewhere. So I just probably say the three, four years is long.
That's why we run a very successful business in Asia in particular. I mean, two or three years is okay.
Maybe I'll I'll add a flavor specifically to the generation.
I don't even know what they call twenty to thirty year olds. Yeah.
You know, twenty four to thirty. Let's say, that that that age group, and one of my friends was saying that I'm treating them as if they were I as if I was running an NGO.
And I like that analogy. Because it is actually, to me it makes a lot of sense. Like, twenty three to thirty year olds, and especially if they don't have kids, they don't have responsibilities, they don't they don't give they give a damn about necessarily money or fancy titles or I mean, what's the why are we working? I think is extremely important to them.
NGO, yeah, NGOs are driven by purpose. First and foremost. Yeah. And now, of course, we all run businesses.
Yeah. We don't we we we're not here. We're not mother Theresa. We're not, you know, we're not charity organizations.
But, yeah, you gotta be very clear on what is the bigger goal of what you're trying to to do. And I I do strongly believe that supply chain has the biggest goal which is let's make sure we don't blow up the planet from a sustainability perspective.
Because, I mean, where is the most of the carbon emissions? Where is the most problems. It is within the realms of supply chain, end to end supply chain. I mean, there there is an incredibly powerful vision, mission, whatever you want.
Why for people to come and work in supply chain? But again, I'm bringing it to the problem that I see is is it's communicated enough are you and all of us communicating and speaking about that enough? Do you even believe it? I hope you do believe it, because I I certainly do.
But it's, you know, that age group, that's what they they I mean, they care about a lot of things. Massages included good culture, having fun in the teams. Sure. Yeah.
Sure. But I I think and offers will come. I mean, there's gonna be there's plenty of competition for them and, you know, people like us or other people will will call them. But ultimately, they'll stay for less money if the it's it's a line with their own purpose.
You know, what I'm trying to do is a bigger purpose, you know, I'm adding I'm doing some good, and I think the team matters a lot. Like, Who who am I working with? Do I like them? Do I like the boss?
Like, they're fundamental. I mean, I would I would say. And I think we're big companies will struggle big time in the next years. Huge time.
I mean, massively. It's it's it's not one o HR says this is the standard, you know. You work three days in the office two days outside. You work down at a like Yo.
Hello. Like, you know, you cannot and it's hard. Yeah. I get it. It's hard for a big organization create something that is flexible to each and every employee.
But I think that's where we're gonna end up. Yeah. Because, you know, you need that flexibility, and I think that almost customization. So that's what just a couple that came to my mind.
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