Flow of talent in supply chain must improve

flow of talent

The flow of talent in the supply chain deserves more attention. That was the conclusion during a workshop on talent management held by the SCM Directors Club. At Rituals’ headquarters in Amsterdam, HR professionals admitted that too much attention is paid to recruiting new talents. Workshop leader Wouter Bak: “No two talents are the same. Talk to them and listen.”

By Marcel te Lindert

During the workshop, Wouter Bak argued for more focus on talent flow. He showed how career paths in supply chain can look, but also how the flow along those paths is often blocked. For example, by an executive who wants to get his bonus and therefore prefers to choose an experienced outsider for the vacant management position in his team. This means that talent from within the organization does not get a chance and leaves the company.

Another example is that of the high-performing supply chain manager who has made no attempt to vacate his position for years, leaving the talents under him to look elsewhere for promotion opportunities. Many companies also engage an expensive headhunter when the supply chain director leaves the company. “For the same money, you can also move someone from your own organization into the director position and hire two or three young talents,” Bak argued.

Facilitating internal mobility

During the workshop, participants at the various tables discussed talent management. Both the table of HR professionals and the two tables of supply chain directors concluded that talent flow needs to improve. “Facilitating internal mobility is the most important task of a supply chain director. Internal mobility is necessary to retain talent for the organization,” said the spokesperson for the first table.

The other table also called for more mobility, both within and outside of the organization. “Put talent first and encourage talent exchanges, for example between multiple small companies in the area. Even if that involves risks. After all, it may be better for the talent to leave the company at some point,” stated the spokesperson for the second table.

Different roles at different times

flow of talentFor the past few years, supply chain directors have repeatedly been told to give talents room to manoeuvre. At the same time, the talents themselves indicate that they are looking for a manager who acts as a role model, gives direction and sets boundaries. “That brings us to another important characteristic of managers: listening,” Bak claimed. “After all, no two talents are the same. Talk to them and listen. Some need more guidance, while others need more freedom.”

Bak introduced Lyssa Adkins’ framework for agile coaching. The starting point is that a manager fulfils different roles at different times. Listening is one of those roles. “The next role is that of facilitator. Should you give people more knowledge, to help them do their job better? Or should you instead act as a coach, for example for someone who isn’t performing so well in the team?”

The manager as a gardener

At the end of the workshop, Bak introduced the analogy of the manager as a gardener. The main task is to help all the young plants grow by providing an environment in which they thrive. “The question is, what do talents need to grow? And ask them whether they feel they are making the best use of their talent. Often, this is only the case for about 60%. That means 40% of talents are not being used optimally.”