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Supply chain recruitment in the year ahead

recruitment

Tony Richter, Partner at Bastian Consulting, explains the trends, demands, expectations and lessons at work in the supply chain recruitment arena – and what supply chain companies and recruiters can expect in 2022. 

As a leading recruiter in the space of supply chain and logistics, Tony Richter, Partner at Bastian Consulting, says that he will have his eye out for two particular sets of skills as we move into 2022.

“One is certainly an understanding of the e-commerce world and omnichannel fulfilment,” he says. “The rise in e-commerce during the past 18 months or so is a trend too obvious to need pointing out anymore, but it does make a significant difference in terms of recruitment. Supply chain professionals wedded to the old ‘bricks and mortar’ model – and lacking the ability to adapt to digital supply chain – are going to find it harder and harder to keep up in 2022.”

Tony says that more and more supply chain roles are coming to function as the conduit between traditional supply chain operations and technology. 

With increasing integration between operations and tech, he says that supply chain professionals are the “buffer” between the two, or the “control tower” that must coordinate and align different personnel skills and different segments of an organisation. 

The second major skill he thinks recruiters will be looking for is an ability to interpret data. “It’s not about finding the data anymore,” he says. “Machines collect and analyse a large chunk of data these days – a trend which won’t slow down, let alone cease – so the data-skill that will be highly prized moving forward is the ability to interpret data: ‘What does this data actually mean in this context? Is this data relevant to us? If so, what actionable insights necessarily follow?’” 

LABOUR SUPPLY AND DEMAND AT THE EXTREMES

Tony says that globally, but especially within Australia and APAC, current investment in supply chain is unprecedented. As a result, supply chain consultants and software providers are under the pump keeping up with customer demand for supply chain transformation.

“If you look at the market – it’s not everyone doing it at once – it’s staggered with companies starting different projects at different times,” he says. “It’s not a matter of flicking a switch and then everyone having to get up to the same level all at once. But at the same time, COVID has left everyone exposed and in need of some level of optimisation if they are to retain market share.” 

With everyone needing at least some level of upgrade, Tony says that there simply is not enough talent to go around. “There’s just not enough of these people who have large scale digital or tech or sophisticated supply chain transformation experience, and consultancies are struggling to keep up because they don’t have enough people to meet the unprecedented demand volume.” 

He adds that it’s even at the point where recruiters are having to look outside to other industries to bring in people with translatable skills. Quick studies who are adaptable, in other words. 

“But it’s an incredible place to be right now if you’re a high value, high calibre supply chain professional – junior or senior,” he says. “You’re essentially in a position to be writing your own price tag. The only countervailing force to that is employers still don’t seem to see it that way. They’re really trying to stick to salary bandings, salary levels, and remuneration packages that were appropriate 18 months ago, but just are not fitted to matching the talent shortage challenges they’re facing. So, I think there’ll need to be a re-think on the part of some employers in adjusting their expectations of what they’ll have to pay to secure the talent they need.”

WILL TALENT RETURN TO AUSTRALIA?

Which regions and cities attract and retain supply chain talent is dependent on a very complex web of factors, Tony says, so there are no easy predictions to make regarding Australia attracting, retaining, and ‘onshoring’ more of its supply chain personnel. 

That said, particularly for middle to senior level supply chain professionals, Australia offers an obvious drawcard: lifestyle. 

“I had a call recently with a high-level executive in one of the major Australian mining companies,” he says. “He’s worked for a number of mining and energy companies in Australia, but also in South America and elsewhere. He’s originally from Canada and is living in Toronto at the moment. He got in touch with me via a referral and said, ‘Look, we just want to come back to Australia from a lifestyle perspective. We’ve got two twin boys – and the Australian lifestyle is just the best thing for us and our family.’”

The industry rhetoric around work-life balance and remote-work – spurred by pandemic settings – has changed, Tony says.

“At least for the time being I think you will see Australians looking to either stay home and take a smaller role or try to stay home and take on regional roles that can be performed remotely – because we’ve adjusted to dealing with time-zone differences.”

Whether or not such ideas are contingent upon COVID’s unique impact, or will have more lasting significance, is hard to say. If things return to something akin to pre-COVID conditions, then regional pull factors at play for businesses in APAC will re-assert themselves. 

“Once things return to normal, a big factor for Australians will be Singapore and Singapore’s openness to foreigners and its allocation of visas,” Tony says. “Singapore has been tightening visas for a number of years around employment passes and how many they give out to foreigners. If there’s a change in that balance and they open up more again, then more talent will likely go to Singapore.

“Singapore is the hub for supply chain in the APAC region. The supply chain starts and finishes in Singapore right now, because of its tax structure and other advantages it offers to businesses location-wise. So, what happens in Singapore will have trickle down consequences for Australia in terms of attracting and locating talent.”

THE LESSON OF 2021 – MANAGE EXPECTATIONS

Traditionally, Tony says, Bastian has been approached mostly for its skills in recruiting at the senior level, or when a company’s internal HR or recruitment team haven’t had any luck finding the right person.

But because of the influx of demand, Tony says Bastian is being asked to recruit for – and consult on – a broader range of roles; not simply the elite positions.

Accompanying this additional demand is the added task of managing client expectations. 

“Our ability to manage expectations – and I think this is probably the biggest lesson we have taken from this year – around timelines and deliverables has been imperative,” he says. “A client might approach us, and they’re six weeks behind on a project, and they tell us they need a position filled immediately. Our job is to tell them, ‘We can certainly help you, but this problem can’t be solved in a day, and especially not in this competitive market.’

“We are really taking the lead in educating our clients’ expectations on things like market conditions in terms of salary and how effective their current recruitment strategies are. We have probably never spent as much time as we are now on expectations-management and education. It used to be the case that we might be asked by clients to justify our methods, whereas now we are pre-empting their questions and giving them the advice they need to hear. 

“Because at the end of the day, we’d rather be upfront with clients that it might take longer finding the right candidate for them than they expected. But by spending the extra time getting it right, it also massively improves the chances that the candidate will be a long-term solution for them – not a shot-term fix – and they won’t be turning around tomorrow trying to fill the same position again that they filled only three months prior.”

For more information on Bastian Consulting, click here.

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