The skills shortage and dearth of professional and management graduates is still a huge problem in South Africa. The Supply Chain management arena is one of the industries feeling the pinch with SCM MBA’s and graduates in big demand.
Despite being able to lure back a sizeable group of professionals over the last seven years, there is still a large talent group with half a million management and professional vacancies still to be filled (Adcorp Report, 2014).
“Proper training and skills development are critical, but it cannot simply be an arbitrary mandate,” says Dr. Brian Gibson, Wilson Family Professor of Supply Chain Management at Auburn University in the US.
“It has to be specific,” he explains. “It has to be tailored to the individual, and it has to nurture them, help them grow into their current role or ready them for future roles.” This is the link between Supply Chain SCM talent development and succession planning, outlined by Dr. Gibson in his address at the 37th annual SAPICS conference for SCM professionals.
In his almost three decades’ retail work and SCM teaching, Dr. Gibson has observed how talent development programmes that take care only of a small portion of employees are doomed to fail. The most successful programmes, he believes, take care of all employees right from onboarding after recruitment, through succession planning.
Start early, sustain the process
The talent development process begins during the first three months where the ‘talent’ is gradually acclimatised to their new environment, making them feel comfortable and confident enough to reveal their true potential and capabilities. The goals and objectives of individuals are determined; establishing what they want to do and where they want to go in the company.
“Organisations invest a lot of money recruiting the ideal candidates. Very few however invest time in the onboarding process as the person is employed,” notes Dr Gibson. “A successful talent development programme is about far more than sending someone to a training course, it’s about giving people a graduated increasing level of responsibility, without a great amount of risk.”
The fear factor
While most businesses understand the potential of succession planning and talent development, some don’t implement it for fear of investing and having those trained people leave or succeed the training management. “Lack of financial resources is of course the biggest cause of insufficient talent programmes,” concedes Dr Gibson. “But, if people don’t feel that they have strong prospects and aren’t being developed, they’ll look elsewhere for career growth.”
High Potential (HiPo) employees, those with a unique combination of capability, engagement, and desire, might also be missed because they aren’t provided growth opportunities. Identifying HiPo requires frequent checking in with everyone to gauge their current situation in relation to organisational needs.
Dr Gibson makes clear that a certain level of personal time and financial investment by employees is necessary and natural if they truly want to advance. “Investment however needn’t be into formal or costly academic training, but can be in reading industry journals or joining and being involved in industry associations. Joining an association – like SAPICS – is neither difficult nor very expensive, but you can learn a lot.
“A company will simply not perform at its best if its people continue to do things the same way,” he cautions.