Requisites of Human Resource in Supply Chain Sector

There are strong interdependencies between supply chain management and HR management and thus it is difficult to identify precise boundaries. Furthermore, these boundaries are continuously moving to accommodate an integration of supply chain and HR activities. Nevertheless, it is suggested that logistics is a sub-function of the supply chain. While logistics may be involved to some extent in an increasing number of supply chain activities, it will never include the complete supply chain spectrum. For example, functions such as sourcing, manufacturing, customer service and retailing involve logistics in their planning and scheduling in order to optimize the end-to-end supply chain, but their core operation is depend upon the functioning of HR. Some of the requisites of the Human resource in Supply Chain are –

o Technology

While process and production technology change has been profound, information management systems and related technology have evolved at a more rapid pace and have had a more profound impact on job design and skill requirements. As such, the technology portion of this study focuses on information technology and systems. Technology is most commonly employed for inventory and warehousing management. Looking forward, employers are considering employing technology for transportation, and customer and supplier relationship management. Not surprisingly, larger organizations have implemented more supply chain-related information systems than smaller ones. Interestingly, despite the number of organizations that indicate that technology is applied in their organization, few indicate they currently have the requisite skills to fully employ technology. Organizations are continually updating their technology to improve efficiency and indicate that their ability to keep pace with technological change is a challenge.
The introduction of technology is changing the nature of work for all occupational categories (i.e. managerial, operational and tactical), in terms of:

– Increased pace of work with less lead time
– More real-time information and an increased requirement to manage this influx of information.
– As a result of technological change, software application and analytical and decision-making skills are rapidly replacing traditional manual processes and abilities. It appears that many employees have been able to adapt to this evolution.
– There is a necessity for employees to possess technically adaptable skill

o Skills and Education

Skill requirements do not vary significantly by company size or region, which suggests that supply-chain employees can move between regions with some degree of ease. Employers indicate that communications and analytical skills are a requirement for all occupation categories across all sub-functions. Other common skill requirements include technology, interpersonal and customer service skills. These skills and knowledge include:

– Financial planning
– Forecasting
– Cost analysis
– Knowledge of international business practices
– Knowledge of laws and regulations
– Knowledge of logistics functions and the supply chain
– Mechanical skills
– Optimization of workflow
– Knowledge of transportation
– General management and business
– Languages Tactical Operational
– Contract administration and management
– Regulatory knowledge and Negotiation skills
– Vendor relations/ management
– Performance measurement and quality management
– Knowledge of currency markets and business implications, especially for procurement managers
– Emerging emphasis on process and change management skills
– Ability to work globally (e.g., working with other cultures)
– Analytical capability and process improvement (e.g., pending shortage of business analysts)
– Employee Engagement

o Demand of a Supply Chain Talent

Demand for specific supply chain positions is predominantly expected to remain constant, with some growth predicted for positions in logistics information systems tactical and operational, warehousing operational, customer service tactical and transportation operational. There was an overall increased reliance on knowledge-based positions (e.g., technical logistics knowledge, information technology knowledge, supply chain specialists) and customer service positions (sales, customer service, client management). Manager-level positions were commonly cited as difficult roles to fill (e.g., functional managers, general managers, project managers, etc.), with supervisor and analyst roles also identified as a challenge. Examples of specific jobs identified as difficult to fill include:

– Inventory (e.g., inventory analysts, planners, managers);
– Purchasing (e.g., purchasers, contractors, buyers);
– Logistics and supply chain specialists (e.g., supply chain and logistics analysts, planners and engineers); and
– Warehousing and operations (warehouse supervisors, managers, general warehousing and operational personnel).

Positions are typically filled from within the current sector-wide pool of supply chain employees, either through internal development and promotion or through the acquisition of supply chain employees from other organizations. Employees leaving the workforce due to retirement do not appear to be an eminent challenge, as other is easily available.

o Training & Development

Employers indicate that technical development courses are essential for supply chain personnel to stay current. The most common means of employee development are on-the-job training and external courses. For the most part, employees indicate that they are satisfied with the training they have received and that it has met their needs. Generally, effective training investments, greater than the Canadian average, are made across the sector; however, investment in smaller organizations is less than optimal. The most common forms of support provided to employees are tuition reimbursement, time off for external courses and the provision of in-house training.
Work/study programs for supply chain employees are not widely used; however, all types are employed to some degree. Internal training tends to be focused on technical supply chain and logistics development, interpersonal and people management skills (e.g., supervisory skills, team building, negotiations, leadership and coaching) and health and safety.

Colleges were more likely to offer dedicated logistics or supply chain management programs than the universities, and universities were more likely to offer a logistics or SCM specialization within another program. Industry alliances are a common mechanism to develop curriculum or work programs, and are less common for research activities.

Lack of a career path and succession planning are the most commonly cited human resources challenges, and there is an increasing need for succession and career planning. In terms of career progression, employers typically develop from within or hire experienced employees from other organizations. Most college graduates start employment at the tactical level, and university graduates at the supervisory/managerial level.

Key Human Resources Challenges in Supply Chain Sector

The following key human resources challenges can be highlighted for strategic consideration:

o Fragmented Sector/Sector and Related Human Resources Implications
Despite the fact that supply chain functionality is rapidly becoming of strategic importance to most organizations across all industry sectors, research findings and validation with sectoral leadership clearly indicates that the supply chain/logistics sector is fragmented and lacking an integrated and visionary positioning.

o Lack of Awareness and Understanding of the Sector
There is a general lack of sector awareness amongst future workforce participants (students), guidance counsellors and new entrants. Minimal awareness campaigns and activities have been undertaken. Those that exist are generally geographically localized.

o Attracting, Developing and Retaining Supply Chain Specialists an Emerging Priority
Technological and regulatory change is influencing supply chain/logistics business models and human resources needs (e.g., regulatory and trade knowledge in short supply for growth-oriented companies).

o Emerging Occupations/Specialist Skill Sets
The nature of the occupation within the sector is changing with the emergence of new jobs related to supply chain specialists, as well as diminishing jobs that specialized in one specific supply chain area. In addition, there has been an emergence of supply chain sector-specific corporate services/support expertise and competence. The challenge will be that human resources strategies will need to be adaptable to suit a variety of types of jobs ranging from semi-skilled (operational) to professional (tactical) to executive level (managerial).

Strength/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats of Supply Chain Sector

The following SWOT analysis provides examples of strengths that the sector has to draw upon, the Weakness it must work to overcome, some opportunities to pursue and threats to ward off. This analysis is based on a synthesis of the findings of this study and is intended to establish the context within which recommendations can be developed to address current and future challenges facing the sector.

o Strengths
– A well educated workforce, seeking opportunities for growth and development.
– Organizations are willing to invest in learning technology, health and safety and quality.
– The sector is self-sufficient with a wide array of training available through educational institutions, associations and in-house programs.

o Weaknesses
– Fragmented and Lack Strategic Focus
– Inappropriateness of existing training and education
– General Lack of Understanding and Awareness of Logistics
– Inability to Apply or Keep Pace with Technology

o Opportunities
– Emerging Best Practices in the sector and International talent sourcing
– Growing Profile of Logistics
– Supply chain and supply chain-related programs are growing in Colleges and Universities
– Continued Development of Partnerships and Sharing of Ideas/Best Practices
– Effective Training Investments are Made Across the Supply Chain Sector
– Untapped Labour Source

o Threats
– The sector is a collection of occupations, ranging from non-skilled to professional, and covers virtually all industries.
– Slow adoption of Technology/Ability to Compete
– Competing with Each Other for Scarce Resources
– Lack of Talent Management Strategies


Recommendations for consideration are structured according to the following four categories:
o Sector Governance

The supply chain sector is rapidly becoming strategically important to most organizations across all industry sectors, and that it is a highly fragmented and disparate sector, it is recommended that a nationally focused integrating mechanism or sectoral forum be created. This integrating mechanism could take the form of a human resources sector council. The council must be unbiased and provide for full stakeholder access, and Governance composition would ideally include representatives from all key stakeholders and provide for regional participation.

There is also a need for ongoing collection and monitoring of labour market information for the supply chain sector in order to identify and understand changes, impacts and sector trends. This information may be employed to establish priorities and to promote career opportunities and attract similar talent and skill sets that are of interest to the supply chain sector.

o Training and Development/Education

It is recommended that this council initiate an effort to clarify and communicate educational and certification options within the sector. To facilitate this, it is recommended that a national integrating entity, possibly the sector council, create an informational repository of post-secondary academic programs and industry association certifications, and implement an enabling marketing strategy to provide web-based access and promotion to all of interest.

It is also recommended that the institutions (in collaboration with industry) that envision themselves as emerging centres of expertise/excellence in local, regional or national marketplaces appoint functional or departmental heads and expand their proactive liaison with industry.

o Marketing the Sector and the “Profession”

In order to address current attraction challenges and the low awareness levels of the supply chain sector and its career opportunities, there is a need to better educate and promote the sector in target marketplace segments, with particular emphasis on those making career and education decisions (e.g., students and those interested in changing careers).

o Human Resources Processes and Practices

Given that sector organizations are at different stages of human resources strategy sophistication as a result of their maturity, business strategy and model, their ability to execute human resources solutions varies, despite the fact that the human resources challenges they encounter may be similar. To facilitate the development of better human resources practices across the sector, it is recommended that “best-practice information sharing” mechanisms be created.

In response to interest expressed by operational employees and given the increased emphasis on quality and customer satisfaction, organizations should consider developing education or information sessions for operational employees that will augment their understanding of the economics of the business and their role in this context. This would enhance employee engagement and, ultimately, performance by providing them with a line-of-sight and understanding of the broader supply chain.

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