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In today’s world of high expectations on supply chains, organisations are moving from traditional ways of working to focusing on operational excellence

Encouraging signs in the supply chain recruitment market, despite uncertainty
– By Wayne Fry

We are now into the final quarter of a year that can be described as one of uncertainty and disruption. But despite the ups and downs, there are encouraging signs about what is to come in the search for and recruitment of supply chain, operations and procurement professionals.

There are less roles on offer right now, but supply chain is an industry that is continuing to evolve – and the future for professionals looks bright, with a recruitment market that continues to grow. 

The current market

We have enjoyed 10 years of a busy market, as companies and the New Zealand economy have grown. This period has also coincided with an increased focus on improving, and investment in, supply chains by organisations as they seek to streamline their operations.

This year got off to another strong start recruitment-wise, but things changed markedly with the March lockdown. At this time, approximately 60% of the roles we were recruiting for were put on hold or withdrawn.

Since the end of the first lockdown, we have seen a slow but steady increase in the number of roles coming to market. The second lockdown, which started in August, did not have the same impact on recruitment. In fact, it was the opposite and we had a spike of new roles to recruit.

There are a few factors that made the second lockdown different. For a start, businesses in the Auckland region were able to operate more fully during the Level 3 lockdown than when we were at Level 4 earlier in the year. Companies and people knew what to expect and were better prepared to respond – businesses had good systems in place to enable a smooth transition to remote working.

What we also experienced was increased confidence among employers to recruit and onboard new team members virtually.

The volume of contracting roles on offer is also on the up. Hiring interim employees is a good option for employers in uncertain times, or where there may be a freeze on permanent recruitment. Having temporary staff allows organisations to access specialist expertise at short notice to cover any gaps, or to hold the fort until decisions are made around permanent recruitment.

The number one priority

While there are less roles available right now than at pre-Covid levels, employment security is the number one priority, so those gainfully employed are less likely to be job hunting. 

In some ways this can make recruitment more challenging. Due to market conditions, more people are likely to apply for an advertised vacancy. However, the best candidates still need to be identified and engaged when an opportunity arises. They will move for a great role; they just may not be actively looking.

It therefore remains a challenge to find good talent. Employers recognise this and the importance of retaining employees. The time and cost of getting a new staff member up to speed is high, and time and cost are at a premium right now for many businesses.

We expect to see the recruitment market for supply chain continue to improve as stability and confidence return. Traditionally, recruitment begins to wind down from October with the buildup to Christmas and the holidays. This year as well there is the general election, which also tends to result in a slightly less active market. Activity generally then begins to pick up again in the first quarter of the new year.

Supply chain skills in demand

In today’s world of high competition and high expectations on supply chains, organisations are moving from traditional ways of working to focusing on operational excellence. Businesses are looking for great people with that commitment to excellence. The core skills that are most in demand include the following.

Business/commercial skills

Leadership, setting vision and direction, demonstrating a customer-oriented approach and project management experience are central to most position descriptions, particularly at more senior levels.

Industry awareness

Employers are looking for people who understand different business operating models, including ecommerce, outsourcing and third-party contract manufacturing.
  

Technological understanding

The ability to examine data and insights to make better, faster, holistic decisions is critical. Having technological expertise and adeptness in areas such as analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, cloud computing and advanced supply chain management (SCM) systems is therefore valuable.

People skills
The trust factor is key in supply chain, so collaboration, networking and relationship management skills are as important as having an understanding of cross-cultural and global issues.

Qualifications

While not always essential, increasingly employers are looking for professionals with specific tertiary education in the supply chain area. Qualifications from organisations such as NZPICS are also in demand, alongside demonstrable capability in optimising performance.

Upskilling for future trends

The supply chain industry is rapidly transforming, and it is critical to the functioning of the world economy. Almost every company, directly or indirectly, is part of the supply chain. Businesses are more aware of how their supply chains are performing because it has a direct impact on their products and customers. 

The current disruption aside, this has led to strong and increasing demand for employees with SCM skills. Businesses looking to the future will want to have professionals in place to make sure they are ready to take full advantage of the economic recovery. The supply chain industry is a big field though, so to map out your path, you need to make the right choices. 

If you are a professional wanting to grow and upskill, there are many ways you can do this within your current role and organisation. You could start by taking on projects that will add value to your organisation. If there are opportunities to broaden your experience in the areas of optimisation or cost minimisation, these skills will stand you in good stead.

You could look to freshen up on your data management and analytical skills, or focus on developing the soft skills, such as relationship building. Communication with others is a good way of learning, so talk to people around you and in other teams. What do they do? What challenges are they facing? Are there any ways you could assist? 

Being able to demonstrate a commitment to learning and development is a great way to give you a competitive edge. This could be through formal qualifications – NZPICS offers a variety of programmes and courses – or by getting a mentor at work. A mentor can accelerate your personal development by providing you with personalised advice and strategies for dealing with challenges. You will grow and gain more confidence from hearing about the experience of others.

Finally, remember to capture your key achievements and responsibilities in a well-crafted CV. 

If you are actively looking for a new opportunity, make sure your LinkedIn profile and CV are up to date. Tailor your CV and cover letter for every role so you can clearly show how you meet the requirements of the position. Taking these steps will help your CV cut through the pile and secure you an interview.

On the whole, it remains a good time to be a supply chain professional in New Zealand. Being so fundamental to our economy, the industry continues to grow, and the expertise of talented supply chain professionals will continue to be very much in demand. 

We’re looking forward to seeing what 2021 will bring. 

Wayne Fry is a senior consultant at Hunter Campbell, specialising in recruitment for supply chain, operations and procurement www.huntercampbell.co.nz


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