Looking to 2030, “the major disrupter in the supply chain workforce is the workforce itself,” says Steve Hopper, Founder and Principal at Inviscid Consulting and author of Roadmap 2.0’s workforce section.
“By that I mean historically workforce meant matching the right people to the right jobs. But today in supply chain, the workforce isn’t just made up of people—not with all the advances in robotics and automation. Non-human workers are rapidly taking over, especially when it comes to repetitive, menial jobs,” he explains.
Further, as discussed in the original Roadmap, there’s a skills shortage. “Because of what’s been going on in education—that is an emphasis on college-level academics rather than trade- and skills-based education—we have a lot of workers currently unable to find work because they’re not skilled for available jobs,” continues Hopper.
After considering input from Roadmap 2.0’s 200-plus roundtable contributors, and researching historic and current employment trends, Hopper sees three key challenges businesses must focus on over the next 10 to 15 years to ensure an adequate workforce.
1. Finding people. Businesses need to take time to understand the labor market. “As the Baby Boomers continue to retire, Millennials are now the largest component of the U.S. workforce, and they bring their own strengths—and weaknesses—to the job market,” Hopper says. “Like every generation before them, they operate a little differently, seeking a flexible workplace that allows them to pursue their personal passions when they’re off the clock.”
Beyond the generational changes, he continues, overall workforce demographics are shifting, with more women in the workforce as well as older workers, including Baby Boomers, postponing retirement. “While the skills of an aging workforce may be diminishing in terms of speed and dexterity, their skills in terms of precision and accuracy can improve with age,” notes Hopper.
“Further, it’s a much more multicultural world than ever before,” he continues. “I’m aware of one facility that has more than 1,000 workers, yet only 15% speak English as their first language. Workers are available, but finding ways to accommodate their languages and cultures can be a challenge.”
Hopper says businesses need to align the work with the skillsets of the available workforce. “The days of posting a job description and finding someone who fits it are quickly coming to a close,” he says. “It’s becoming more about understanding each worker’s strengths, weaknesses and skills, and then determining how to fit jobs to workers, rather than workers to jobs.”
The industry also needs to improve its public image, adds Hopper. “There’s a perception that working in supply chain means having a dirty job. Nothing could be further from the truth and the industry needs to emphasize that.”
2. Improving workers’ skills. Particularly in consideration of the generational and demographic shifts mentioned earlier, effective education and training are critical, says Hopper. “There is a growing skills mismatch in the supply chain industry. Businesses must accept that they’ll be hiring people with raw, functional skills who must be trained up to the specific supply chain skills needed. And workers will have to be willing to learn new skills that are in demand.”
Hopper also believes businesses need to actively develop stronger relationships with academia at all levels, including career and technical educators at the community college and high school levels (or earlier) and at universities. “Academia must start seeing businesses as their customers and train workers to keep them happy.”
3. Managing and retaining workers. Simply hiring and training workers won’t be enough, as competition for skilled workers will continue to be fierce.
“Businesses must ensure that their cultures allow employees to thrive through continual coaching and improvement programs, for example,” he concludes. “Likewise, they’re going to have to evaluate performance much more effectively and give people opportunities for growth and advancement.”
What other workforce developments can you expect between now and 2030? The workforce section of Roadmap 2.0 starts on page 42. Download the free report here.