Effectively Manage Your Supply Chain Talent

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Want to stay up to date on the trends and issues impacting your supply chain?

I understand that Tompkins will only use this information to contact me about business opportunities. By completing this form I am confirming that I have read and accept the Privacy Policy.

Published February 28, 2019

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In April 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 7 percent increase in jobs from 2016 to 2026 in the area of logistics. Other forecasts have estimated this rate of growth to be as high as 26 percent.

Is there really a talent gap or is there a management gap in developing resources to meet the needs? With the supply chain taking on more and more of a leadership role in driving strategy, the time is now to capture the excitement of the best talent and help them understand that they can make a real difference in a business.

Change in Perspective

The supply chain has historically been relegated to the “back room” of the business, ensuring things got done to support the sales effort. The time has come for this view to change and for the supply chain to have a leadership role at “The Table” in defining the future direction of the business. Recent same day and next day customer demands now require the supply chain to drive sales rather than support it.

With today’s tight margins, struggling firms are victims of a lack of appreciation for the value strong talent can bring in managing the supply chain. Engaging well-rounded business problem solvers to engage in complicated supply chain issues is critical to unlocking the “hidden” costs in the supply chain.


Extrinsic rewards and financial compensation have historically been the way to motivate employees. While it is still critical to provide equitable pay for work completed, today’s worker is equally motivated by intrinsic rewards. The feeling of commitment and adding value to an organization has become equally critical in keeping employees motivated. A failure to recommend this new balance will render your rewards and compensation approach ineffective.

There are four main factors one must consider:

  1. Sense of Purpose and Value: For an employee, this is the feeling that you are playing an important role that adds significance.
  2. Choice Empowerment: This is the trust in an employee to appropriately address or solve a critical business issue.
  3. Team Appreciation: Every hard-charging associate wants recognition for their accomplishment and value-add. High-potential associates want to be challenged, and once the objective is completed, they want to be recognized for the achievement.
  4. Career Growth and Investment: Associates want the business to invest in their professional growth and development. This could be in the form of an internal mentorship or job challenge, as well as external training and education.

To deliver on this, one must create an engaging culture that promotes a free exchange of ideas and solutions.

Talent Competence

Teams must understand the new skills that are needed to solve today’s problems. Until teams recognize today’s fundamental skills requirements, (data management, data analysis and system interface understanding) they will continue to hire and train the wrong talent for the wrong roles.

Competence Construct

Managers have the responsibility to assess talent and groom it for the good of the firm and the associate. If there is a talent gap, is it a lack of capable candidates or a lack of vision and foresight by managers to groom this talent for today’s needs? 

Capable leaders recognize the market trends and begin early to hire talent with capabilities that will be needed to tackle the next strategic problems.

What tools do most managers use to highlight gaps in capabilities? How do leaders a better understand the team’s skills and conduct strategic training? How can capability assessment and competency gaps become a regular part of talent assessment?

Competency assessments must be easy to complete and readily available. While teams may be data rich on this information, few have consolidated it into an easy-to-digest visual. Simplifying the data into a comprehendible graphic is the lynchpin to the data being understood versus just being data.


Competence comes in two fundamental forms:

  1. Functional Competence: This competence focuses on defining the level of knowledge of the associate on the functional roles and responsibilities of the firm. This helps a leader understand the opportunities associated with content exposure and/or job rotation.
  2. Technical Competence: This competence focuses on the associate’s level of technical (e.g. Excel, Access, SAP, etc.) skills. This helps a leader understand opportunities for development related to training.

Subject Area Construct

As stated, competency assessments must conclude with visual output. The results must be clear, readily available and complete in their understanding of the area being assessed. The subject being assessed should be clearly defined and one the team understands.

Subject Area Competence Assessment Construct

A subject area (e.g. inventory management) should have no more than four distinct capabilities that define an associate’s competence in the subject. For each of these competence areas, one should assess the associate’s capabilities. This is a time to be critical and identify real needs of growth and development of the team. 

The center circle helps the business understand the strength of the competence in the business. This can help an associate get exposure within the business as well as bridge to outside places of knowledge to further hone their skills and understanding.

Putting it all together, the proposed graphic provides a single visual of a holistic competency review for a subject and provides the strength of an associate. The center core provides a quick visual of the role an associate can play for this competence and whether they can lead or merely support a work effort in this space.

Collections of these charts can be put together in a petal configuration to show an associate’s entire competence. This summary would help identify areas of growth and development for an associate and/or help focus on areas where they have a particular interest.

Technical Competence

While subject area competence is unique to each business, technical competence has more generalized factors that differ mainly in the weight applied to the competence need of the specific business. Technical competence should be assessed on the traditional Maslow Hierarchy of Needs construct.

Scores should be depicted in the technical space for managers to understand the true capabilities of their associates. 

This construct should help each associate understand their level of proficiency in a technical area and help develop a training plan to enhance associates’ skills. When done properly, it will help manage their development and ensure their development and growth are always front and center.


Any gaps in skills and interests can be quickly closed by finding associates with the right acumen and rewarding them intrinsically and extrinsically to tackle those tough issues. Having a process to assess competency and identify critical gaps in team skills is the first major step in establishing the roadmap of training and development needed for the team to grow and meet the needs of tomorrow. Putting a priority on critical subject areas will ensure that focus and attention is given to the skills and capabilities needed for a better tomorrow.

It is incumbent on the manager, however, to have a vision of the changing market conditions and the needs of the team (both technical and subject area) to ensure expected gaps are managed and appropriately planned for. 


In today’s rapidly changing selling environment, teams need to be able quickly adapt and competently respond to issues. 

For those who believe there is a talent gap in the supply chain space, I would suggest it is time to develop a comprehensive competency assessment program and begin to effectively manage teams to win in tomorrow’s world. It is time to tap into the next round of successful leaders and motivate them to deliver using all the tools and data provided to them.

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