Starting in 2020, the supply chain world was disrupted in ways previously unheard of. A pandemic shut down everything. Work stoppages, shipping gaps, transportation difficulties, and a subsequent labor shortage brought everything to a screeching halt. Then, in order to get things up and running again, governments around the world fueled economies with cash injections. But, because no one was able to go spend their new cash anywhere outside the home (nothing was open), ecommerce activity spiked. This massive increase in buyer activity and demand created more hardship for an already stressed supply chain and production market.
Pandemic and Inflation Contributing to Candidate Driven Job Market
While many other businesses lagged, supply chain entities seemed to be some of the first to begin to recover, most especially in the world of supply chain talent. The urgent and immediate need to fill roles with experienced operators and administrators that were more strategic than tactical became a paramount priority for businesses, especially in America. Because so much of America’s supply chain relies on Asian manufacturing, the disruption meant that a higher number of problem solvers and experienced supply chain experts were needed. This growth in demand for these individuals created even more of a candidate-driven job market than previously imagined. An already shallow talent pool was worsened by these market disruptions
Supply chain talent was already forecast to be an issue long before pandemic and inflation issues took hold. However, these disruptions just increased the urgency of the need and the shortage. Businesses continued to digitize and automate processes to create more efficiencies. A 2021 MHI Report with Deloitte showed 49% of supply chain leaders increasing digitization in response to the pandemic. This spike creates an added need for personnel to be able to handle the tech. A study by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows the demand for software developers and engineers will spike by 22% between now and 2030.
High Pay and Flexible Work Places
Soon, candidates who had no desire to job hop, had begun entertaining exorbitant offers from recruiters. Businesses were literally trying to outbid one another for qualified talent. The mantra being told to recruiters was “I’m not actively looking but I am actively listening.” As was the case with much of the job market, these offers became about more than just monetary compensation. Remote and flexible workplaces were in high demand. According to a poll conducted in January 2022, 63% of employees want some form of hybrid work place environment so they can split time between onsite and remote work and choose which days to come into the office. This is arguable a lowball figure, with some other studies showing upwards of 90% of employees choosing this model. An employer’s refusal to provide remote employment as an option severely limited the talent pools where recruiters could source potential candidates. Candidates also were more discerning about a company’s values and culture as things like Environmental Social Governance, workplace diversity, and social equity began to define a lot of what the workforce was seeking in a new employer.
This frenetic scramble lasted from about mid 2020 well into 2022. Many business leaders cited supply chain talent shortages as some of the biggest obstacles to growth and stability. However, there are signs that the worm could be turning and the pendulum may just be swinging back to favor employers once again.
The Pendulum Swings Back?
A June 29 Wall Street Journal article cited some food and beverage industry giants as saying that hiring woes are easing. In the article, Whole Foods’ COO Jason Beuchel called staffing one of its biggest challenges in the past 12 months, with a limited pool of potential employees. Now, employees are referring friends and family, and “we’re in a much more positive space currently.”
An Axios piece from June 23 demonstrated a more general swing citing Indeed job postings declining. However, they said it could be due to recession fears which have slowed hiring and given workers pause about threatening their own job security.
A more anecdotal survey done in the last week by the polled recruiting and supply chain professionals in a LinkedIn poll that asked if the market was swinging back in favor of employers. 47% of those polled said yes, while 30% said no and 23% couldn’t pick a side.
There is not necessarily conclusive evidence to say that the market is returning to favor employers. Supply chain talent most especially will always be in high demand because it’s such a specialized skill set which is rapidly evolving. Supply chain talent relies on tactical problem solvers with highly specialized skills and experience. However, there has been a noticeable shift towards the strategic and away from the tactical in this realm. It’s likely that the supply chain talent pool will remain a volatile area for employers until they are able to functionally upskill enough of the workforce to replace the retiring brain drain. While more universities are offering supply chain studies and courses, it will likely be a few years before a substantial student/graduate pipeline is in place to stabilize the supply chain labor shortage.
About the author:
Joshua Stack is the Strategic Content and Marketing Manager for SCM Talent Group. Based in Asheville, North Carolina, SCM Talent Group works with some of supply chain’s biggest brands and is a leading supply chain talent firm. Stack joined SCM Talent Group in 2021 with a strong background in communications and marketing as well as freelance journalism.