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Where is the best supply chain talent hiding?

How to get the best people for your supply chain teams...and keep them!

About this article

The world in which our supply chains are operating is changing at a rate never seen before. The use and availability of data is rising exponentially each year and, coupled with the increasingly interconnected environment around us, automation is fast starting to replace the roles of humans across the globe.

Both retailers and manufacturers are, however, struggling to recruit for supply chain employees with the skills to operate in this new environment.

36% of respondents from a recent IGD survey say recruiting for senior level roles in particular is very difficult, and a recent study by DHL and the University of Maryland in the US estimated that for every six supply chain roles available, only one suitable individual for that role exists.

Finding the talent

Our recent research has uncovered five ways companies can address skills shortages and gaps.

1. The Expansive route

This focuses on looking for individuals with analytical and change management abilities, potentially from outside of the traditional talent pool, and has the benefit of bringing in a fresh wave of innovation for manufacturers and retailers alike.

Some 15% of recent graduates interviews in an IGD study said that their current supply chain role was merely a ‘stepping stone’ to another department.


  • Increasing competition with financial institutions and consultancies for the same individuals
  • The ongoing perception problem of food and grocery supply chain

2. The Outsourced route

The Outsourced route identifies options for companies to simply outsource various tasks where skills gaps currently exist.

In an increasingly interconnected world, with the exponential increase in the use of cloud-based systems, outsourcing data analytics tasks is now a real option for forward-thinking organisations.

3. The Skilled route

Likely the default selection for most major companies across all markets, this route benchmarks current capability levels within an operation and allows training needs to be identified.

With this approach, companies must consider that the rate of change within the industry is increasingly rapid, and we may not know what skills will be needed in the future.

Equipping team members with agile skillsets will set a business apart from competitors.

4. The ‘Engaged’ route

The ‘Engaged’ route makes the most of collaboration in attracting new entrants to the supply chain, and requires a joined-up approach involving governmental, educational and industry input.

It builds upon current industry schemes that bring companies together to raise awareness of the industry as an employer (such as Feeding Britain’s Future), and is critical when trying to secure a healthy pipeline of individuals, particularly across younger generations.

5. The ‘Innovative’ route

In 2014, LinkedIn completed the acquisition of start-up company which offers a smarter alternative to merely matching keywords between CVs and job adverts. By going one step further and introducing a matching algorithm, it enables businesses to look beyond their traditional target market to secure the right people, allowing breakthrough developments in sourcing of individuals for many major FMCG manufacturers. 

Companies are increasingly looking at new, modern ways of finding talent outside of the traditional pool by using things like social media, and the ‘Innovative route’ identifies these breakthrough approaches to securing and retaining supply chain employees.


Change isn’t new, but the rate of that change is fast becoming exponential, presenting enormous challenges, but also great opportunities for forward-looking operations.

It may not be possible to predict what the environment will look like and what skills will be needed within it, but we can equip our supply chains with the agile and proactive skillsets they need to flourish in the future. 

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