It’s important for companies to proactively continue education efforts to retain top talent. Some companies subsidize employees through degree programs, but flexible certifications can be tailored to the specific needs of a particular organization. —Dr. Haitao Li, Professor and Chair of the Supply Chain & Analytics Department, College of Business Administration, University of Missouri-St. Louis “ ”
in getting plugged in with the right industry groups. Not all companies can hire a slew of supply chain majors and graduates right out of the gate. Some might have employees from diverse backgrounds, and a company might want to offer a half-day Supply Chain 101 course so everyone has the same foundational understanding. There doesn’t have to be a grand plan to support education—companies can take small steps in that direction. Dr. Li: It has been a tough year for many industries and companies, but my advice for company leadership is to realize that this is the time to make better, even more prudent, business decisions for supply chain operations. I’ve seen a pharmaceutical company, for example, that has been proactive during the past year in coping with potential generic drug shortages and able to avoid disruption. It’s worth thinking about the long term as well as the short term. The pandemic and its associated challenges will not exist forever, and any small investment in the education of employees will have significant value in the long run. Sutherland: The companies recruiting from our university find there is an increased value in supply chain talent. They are applying more resources because they feel this pool of talent can solve their ongoing problems. IL: What role does supply chain management education today play in future supply chain innovation and enterprise transformation?
meaningful change in the attributes companies are looking for. Soft skills remain consistent, but where there has been a continual technological revolution, we work with our industry partners to understand the changing needs and skill gaps and adjust the curriculum accordingly. Grawe: First, a commitment to education allows companies to have influence on the curriculum, as most universities are open to hearing what skills are needed. Second, companies can continue to offer their employees education opportunities. When they make such a commitment, employees recognize that the company has a desire to continue expanding their knowledge and expertise, and that will help retain talent. Dr. Li: I want to emphasize the importance of the career path from the company perspective. It’s crucial for companies to proactively continue education efforts to retain their top talent. Some companies subsidize their employees through degree programs, but equally there are flexible certifications that can be tailored to the specific needs of a particular organization or industry. IL: What encouragement would you offer companies considering renewing their commitment to education? Grawe: Start small. Listen to your employees, figure out the ways in which they want to develop, and make sure you’re supporting them
Sutherland: Supply chain innovation is different from product innovation in that it’s about processes. It’s almost always incremental, with small steps resulting in big changes over time. Two key areas are important to an organization’s supply chain innovation goals. First, the talent must understand what an end-to-end supply chain is, from procurement to operations to logistics. They must recognize that the actions they take in procurement, for example, have downstream effects in other areas. Second, they want the talent to know how a company makes a profit. Logistics has always been about reducing costs, but now it’s also about creating customer value that will generate more revenue, while at the same time reducing or maintaining cost structures so that margins are increased. Dr. Li: Our profession has a bright future thanks to the fast and continuing growth of technology. Many companies nowadays are talking about digital transformation, and a lot of this has to do with the fact that we have so much data available, perhaps too much. How can we use it? How can we transform it to provide insightful and effective decision support? Gartner Research coined the term “citizen data scientist” to describe the type of graduate who has training in both supply chain and analytics, which can bridge the gap between a pure data scientist and a supply chain professional. Grawe: Supply chain majors are trained to think about other stakeholders, which provides the opportunity to come up
62 Inbound Logistics • June 2021
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