Digital Supply Chain Talent and Organizational Strategies

Transforming into and running a Digital Supply Chain (DSC) requires firms to organize and behave in ways significantly different from the past. New business models, new data sources, new technologies, enhanced processes, and increased risks all contribute to an operational landscape that requires new ways of working and new skills to match; finding and recruiting new talent may not be enough. Bughun et al. (2019) argue that preparing people to manage across internal boundaries as the single most important aspect of digital transformation. Where can traditional firms uncover and attract digital talent? Are your recruiting strategies updated to account for your more digital competitors? Firms also face the reality that introducing bright new digital skills into traditional processes may not necessarily result in improvements in supply chain performance and meet resistance instead.

This chapter is about uncovering winning strategies for addressing the talent needs of firms undergoing digital transformation. In our conversations with supply chain leaders, we found that the digital “skills gap” was top of mind for all, yet few firms had begun to execute talent plans to address the challenge (Digital Supply Chain Institute [DSCI], 2020). This chapter will help you develop action plans to address the talent gap and accelerate your firm’s transition into a DSC.

Given the recent major disruptions related to COVID-19, firms must ask themselves how these changes respond to talent and skills gap issues. In speaking to supply chain leaders, many indicated an immediate shift to online learning as a means of continuous learning and development during times of social distancing (DSCI, 2020). High-quality platforms are now available to enable effective social collaborative learning that is delivered virtually. Those interviewed also reaffirmed the increased importance of more integrated supply chain behaviors (DSCI, 2020). Development efforts must deliver action learning programs to support this shift in mindset including the inevitable shift of employment to more online fulfillment operations as a means of coping with the changes in customer behavior, as well as the displacement of supply chain associates.

Attacking the Problem - A DSC Talent Model

To address these issues, we developed a three-part talent model designed to guide research and provide a robust action-planning framework.

The three components of the model are as follows:

  • 1. Talent attraction and acquisition
  • 2. Talent development and skill-building
  • 3. Talent integration and performance improvement
  • 1. Attract and Acquire: Finding and Winning the Right Talent

This component looks at the way digitally savvy firms position themselves to attract new digital talent. The best performing companies revealed that specific actions were taken to signal to potential recruits that they were at the “right place” - the right company. Winning firms communicate that they value digital skills and offer more than a traditional transactional job. The roles these firms are seeking to fill focus on creative business problem-solving rather than simple technical skills. The best firms project an “Employment Brand” that is data- driven, community-oriented, and non-traditional, in ways that resonate with desirable, digital skill-rich candidates.

2. Build and Develop: Developing Digital Talent and Skills

Once a firm has successfully attracted and recruited digital talent, plans must be put in place to develop their talent further. The firm must build upon the key skills talent will need for the specific business environment they will perform in, while developing employees as inter-company network performers. Such performance behaviors are not usually developed naturally; they require explicit capability building actions from firms. Building a culture and community of data-driven employees requires setting leadership examples and rewarding digital skill-building behaviors.

3. Integrate and Perform: Driving Cross-Functional Integration and High Employee Performance

Developing a community of data-driven individual task performers is another key aspect of inciting a DSC transformation as new and innovative digital business models and segments, information and processes become highly integrated. In best-case examples, an “end-to-end” supply chain boasts seamless planning, sourcing, manufacture, and delivery to customers with business performance measured on high levels of customer satisfaction at managed costs. A well-crafted DSC talent plan necessitates organizational, not just individual, attributes. Integration involves organizational designs, employee mindset, and cross-functional behaviors. Supply chain transformation is about creating the conditions for higher levels of organizational performance and commitment.

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Digital Supply Chain Talent Model

Figure 5.1 Digital Supply Chain Talent Model.

Figure 5.1 shows the three main categories of the DSC Talent Model for action planning. The following are key insights for each of the model elements.

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