With expats returning from overseas in huge waves over the past 18 months, landing a leadership position in the local supply chain is highly competitive. Tony Richter, Founder of Bastian Consulting, explains the top three skills you need to know for 2021 and beyond.
‘Home for the holidays’ is a phrase many people relate to when it comes to important reasons for families and professionals to return home. But how about ‘home from the pandemic’? Although it doesn’t have the same merry ole jingle to it, this is an increasing cause to the flock of expats returning to Australian shores. This is having an effect on the supply chain in more ways than one. With a pool of extremely talented executives battling it out for leadership positions in Australia, how do you make yourself stand out from the rest?
Tony Richter, Founder of Bastian Consulting, an Asia Pacific supply chain recruitment agency, says COVID-19 has driven more organisations to prioritise resilience and explore different ways of working such as onshoring. However, this comes with its own unique challenges.
Finding the right person to join an organisation is often a lengthy process in the supply chain space. “The pandemic has really highlighted top employability skills that companies are seeking. These can be narrowed down to three important skills that are needed for this year and beyond,” Tony says.
TOP THREE SKILLS YOU NEED FOR 2021
So, what are these three skills that will increase not only your chances of being an attractive candidate, but will allow you to further establish supply chain resilience? Tony says that in 2021, it’s important you can showcase design and data skills but also a thorough understanding of e-commerce. The average skills aren’t enough this year, it’s about leveraging unique talent and combining practised employability skills.
In terms of the “new basics” including design, data and e-commerce knowledge, Tony says these can be combined with leadership and management style to showcase further potential. Design, whether that be through business processes, network structures and physical infrastructure, visibility or operational structure, Tony says it’s vital to showcase an understanding of design efficiency and creatively present what’s working and how to manage solutions in a different way.
It’s no secret that data is the fundamental core in this era of digitalisation. However in the supply chain, Tony says the magnifying glass is on the decision making from the interpretation of data analytics. “Making an appropriate decision from data isn’t easy. But to demonstrate that skill shows how your organisation can transform the way they define and manage their supply chains.”
Online shopping is off to a strong start in 2021. According to a February e-commerce report update, Australia Post reported that national online purchases in January 2021 grew 44 per cent year-on-year (YOY). Australia’s household online participation remained high in January, with over 5.2 million households making an online purchase.
Strong ongoing consumer engagement with online shopping indicates that customers continue to turn to e-commerce more readily for their day-to-day shopping needs. This also means that there is a rising demand for e-commerce skills across the board — from retail chains looking to improve their online experiences to enterprise-level companies and start-ups looking to increase revenue. To boost their competitiveness in an increasingly digital marketplace, companies require skills from knowing the latest in successful fulfilment, last mile and automation requirements to enhance an e-commerce operation.
“The pandemic shined a light on supply chains and exposed what was working and what wasn’t. Many businesses have had rapid growth and have struggled to keep up with the growth trajectory, which is why these specific three skills are more employable than ever before,” Tony says.
THEY STILL CALL AUSTRALIA HOME
Thousands of Australians have returned from key overseas locations in advanced supply chain regions over the past 18 months. Tony says that is creating a highly competitive market.
At the time of print, the Australian government was working on a plan to create a travel bubble with Singapore. Singapore’s prime minister said he hoped the country could start reopening its borders more widely as vaccination programmes advance.
Australia’s deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, confirmed the government was working on the plan. But will it keep Australian supply chain leaders in overseas markets, or will they continue to come home?
Globally, there has been a reduction in expats. Tony says in Middle Eastern and Asian locations there has historically been a need for experienced supply chain expats. However, with policies put in place to provide more leadership opportunities for locals, reductions in salary and remuneration, many families are flooding back to Australia, which is creating competition at the senior level of supply chain management.
“Many executives relocate to Asia to broaden their experience and capabilities. Singapore is the key hub for Asia Pacific’s supply chain, but when companies have cut salaries and shifted priorities to hiring locals, it’s forcing families to reconsider their options, having their kids in private international schools and a high cost of living, instead they have moved back to Australia” Tony says.
At the executive leadership level, this is creating fierce competition as roles are being highly sought after from expats returning home. “In Singapore there is a push to hire locals which is restricting expats, not to mention government tax subsidies on offer for hiring locals that is forcing this movement for supply chain professionals to seek roles on home soil,” Tony says.
HOW TO BE THE PERFECT FIT
More than ever, supply chain organisations employers are prioritising diversity and inclusion initiatives and investing resources into making sure their talent reflects their company’s values.
Workplace diversity leads to innovation. “It’s exciting to see more companies prioritise senior females and culturally diverse candidates to join supply chain organisations in executive positions. It’s well overdue and allows companies to reflect on their values and culture for 2021 and beyond. Every company has a unique set of goals, and your diversity practices must align with them to be successful,” Tony says.
He says it’s refreshing to see more women in leading roles, however there is more work to be done this year to rebalance the ongoing power structure. “There has never been more talent available. Companies are going through extended recruitment processes to ensure their perfect candidate ticks every single box. They want the person to be a 100 per cent fit for their company, role and culture.”
So how do you become the perfect fit? Tony says it depends on the company, but as Australia is a global destination market, candidates from overseas and locals are battling it out to prove their worth.
In a recent report by Bastian Consulting that assessed the impacts of COVID-19 on supply chains across key Asia Pacific locations, 24 per cent of supply chain executives in Australia said the demand for their products or services decreased during the pandemic. This highlights the thirst for problem solvers that can offer unique skills from either local or international experience to help manage the ongoing ‘ripple effects’ across the entire supply chain.
“A decade ago many companies were open to transferable skills, but now it’s about specific skills that can help a certain channel of an organisation,” Tony says. For Australia’s growing opportunities in local manufacturing, tech and start-ups, for example, it’s crucial to stay ahead by constantly developing technical, management and e-commerce skills to help strengthen the local supply chain and contribute to the future of the economy.