There has been an increasing demand for exceptional supply chain executives in recent years. As the world becomes more interconnected, businesses are under pressure to optimize their resources to stay competitive. To meet this demand, there is a need for effective top talent who can help design, implement, and manage an efficient and effective supply chain. But what makes a top supply chain talent?
As a result of my ongoing search for end-to-end supply chain executives, I have outlined seven of the most notable traits I have encountered in searching for top talent in the industry. There are three hard skills, three soft skills, and one fundamental skill an executive supply chain candidate should possess to be successful in the industry.
3 Critical Hard Skills Needed for an Executive Supply Chain Talent
1. Data-related skills
For many businesses, data is the new oil. The most highly valued companies in the world tend to be driven by data. Elliptical skills help an organization understand and interpret data sets. It also enables them to see relationships between different data points. On the other hand, data skills involve knowing how to collect, store, and analyze data. Together, understanding data is essential for any executive who wants to be successful in the supply chain industry.
As data becomes increasingly important in our world, the demand for data scientists and analytics experts is also growing. A recent study by IBM found that the demand for these roles increases by 10 to 15% each year. While not everyone needs to be a data scientist or analytics expert, it is becoming increasingly important for everyone to have at least some data literacy. The skill will enable a supply chain executive to understand and make decisions based on data.
2. Digital Project Implementation Skills
Top talents in the supply chain industry have different areas of expertise, and each focuses on a specific process or set of activities within the supply chain. However, all executives need to understand and utilize digital tools and technologies to be effective in their roles. It requires an understanding of how digital technologies work to improve supply chain processes and the ability to identify and implement appropriate digital projects across different areas of the supply chain. As such, executives with strong digital implementation skills can drive transformative change within their organizations and create significant competitive advantages. However, an executive doesn’t need to be a data scientist, but a direct experience in digital project implementation will go a long way.
3.A – International exposure
International exposure is an important quality for any top talent in the supply chain field. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, supply chain professionals need to have experience working across different geographies and cultures. This international exposure gives them the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate the complexities of the global marketplace. Additionally, working on multiple continents provides a unique perspective that can be invaluable to the company.
3.B – End-to-end experience
It is essential to have exposure to the different functions of the supply chain to be considered at the executive level in the industry. This exposure allows for a greater understanding of how the various components of the supply chain work together. By having this end-to-end view of the supply chain, an experienced executive can make decisions based on experience that would benefit the entire organization.
3 Soft Skills an Effective Supply Chain Executive Must Possess
While hard skills are undoubtedly important for any position, soft skills set candidates apart. In a role such as that of a supply chain officer, where accuracy and attention to detail are crucial, soft skills will ultimately determine their success in the role.
1. Presentation and communication skills.
Presentation and communication skills are critical, especially for professionals and executives within the supply chain industry. The ability to catch an audience’s attention within 30 seconds is an excellent indication of good presentation and communication skills. Radical Simplicity is a great way to communicate ideas in a simple way. When sharing your ideas, it’s important to be clear and concise. Good communication skills are essential for transmitting a message across an organization and supply chains are large organizations. They also play an essential role, now that supply chain function has a seat at the business table, in all major organizations.
2. Influencing engagement skills
In the supply chain, influence and engagement abilities are becoming a requirement. A crystal-clear vision and the ability to communicate it to others increase the likelihood of gaining other people’s support and investment. It is necessary to demonstrate how a project will benefit the firm and other businesses as a whole. It is possible to accomplish this goal by providing evidence that demonstrates how the project will result in increased productivity, communication, and transparency throughout the supply chain.
3. Change management skills
The ability to manage change is an indispensable skill for any top supply chain professional, in an industry that has been constantly disrupted, in the past few years. Change implementation success is dependent on the capacity to successfully articulate the need for change, acquire buy-in from key stakeholders, and build and execute a strategy that fits the needs of the organization. Change management skills are required for people in charge of leading change projects as well as anyone who wishes to be an effective change advocate within their organization. Disruptions call for changes and with the right change management skills, top supply chain talent can drive significant improvements in organizational performance.
As a supply chain executive, having the mindset that learning never stops, and continuously making time for learning, is fundamental. In today’s rapidly changing business landscape, it is more important than ever to learn and relearn to stay ahead of the curve constantly. Additionally, learning opportunities might be even more accessible, as a mentee. Being surrounded by experienced and smart mentors helps to develop new skills and promote professional growth. By admitting that we will never know it all, we open ourselves up to limitless possibilities for growth and development.
As we innovate, I do believe that the technical skills may change here and there, but the soft skills and the fundamentals to “keep learning” will be here to stay for the next 20 to 25 years and onward.
So, what makes a top supply chain talent? The answer is not simple. It takes someone who can see the big picture, understand complex systems, and have the technical skills to make it all work seamlessly. But that’s just part of the equation – they also need to be able to lead and motivate teams, communicate effectively across functions, and be open to change.
The supply chain industry is a complex and ever-changing field. It takes a particular type of talent to be successful in this industry, someone with the skills to adapt and thrive in such a dynamic environment. If you want to possess the skills of a top supply chain talent, start by studying the principles I’ve outlined. Attend trade shows, read industry journals, and network with other professionals in the field. Most importantly, keep learning and stay ahead of the curve. Do you agree that these are essential qualities for success in this field?
RADU PALAMARIU is the Managing Director of Asia Pacific and Europe of Alcott Global and the Global Head of Supply Chain & Logistics Practice. He has been working on C-level and top management executive search assignments with Top Fortune 500 companies and local European and Asian conglomerates, particularly for manufacturing, logistics, transportation, supply chain management, and e-commerce. A frequent speaker at industry conferences across the region, he is a contributor to the latest technologies shaping supply chains, as well as human resources trends and developments.
He is the host of the Leaders in Supply Chain Podcast, which is consistently ranked among the Top 5 Global Industry Podcasts. Radu has been featured in World Economic Forum, Bloomberg, Logistics Insight as well as the MIT Supply Chain Talent Magazine. He has been named one of the Top 3 Global Supply Chain Influencers on LinkedIn and is co-author of the new book, From Source to Sold: Stories of Leadership in Supply Chain (October 4, 2022).