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Narrowing the talent generation gap in us distribution.

In past issues of the DTJ, this column has discussed the talent shortage in logistics, and offered reasons for the shortage along with solutions through professional development. This topic continues to attract the attention of the corporate suite as noted by and Aberdeen Group in October 2012:

* In an interview with Tim Hotze, VP, Supply Chain Management, Panalpina USA, conducted by, stated that the talent generation gap is one of the most critical issues for his company.

* A research study, based on. client surveys by the Aberdeen Group, stated that "Best in Class" performance by supply chain organizations required the ability to align learning objectives and performance goals to business objectives in a culture of learning and performance management supported by appropriate technology.

"What we see specifically in my field of expertise," said Hotze, " is that a lot of young, talented engineers, industrial engineers, are coming into the marketplace, but it's tough to attract them into traditional distribution operations. They are looking more at consulting or what are probably higher-paying jobs as their entry-level job. Many of them really like project work, and not so much something that's distribution-related." (1)

Clearly compensation levels in distribution are not sufficient to attract this expertise. Consulting offers greater reward than it appears to those companies that slug it out day after day moving goods and information for their customers. Perhaps our industry can raise its prices to shippers so that we can attract more talent? Sure! If you buy that, than as the proverbial saying goes, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Hotze suggests there are steps that can and must be taken by our industry, such as greater utilization of social media within the business and offering opportunities to innovate by the workforce. We can also note government efforts directed to its workforce, including incorporating a BYOD (Bring Your Device) policy that allows more telework options. He further suggests that the industry should consider more organized use of mentors who can help in recruiting and keeping talent in your organization. The defense industry should take particular note of the visibility (or lack thereof) of logistics careers in defense.

One symptom of such lack of visibility might be the challenges faced by local NDTA chapters to find supply chain students to compete for our scholarships. Surely, students can use our money. Why is it difficult to find enough of them? Are students uncertain about competing for funds from a defense association? As a member of the NDTA DC Chapter Scholarship Committee, as well as the National Defense Industrial Association's Logistics Committee that offers complimentary registration for students to attend its annual conference, I see students' amazement at the world of opportunity in defense contracting. The DC Chapter offers a mentor program which always fills its available mentee slots.

The Aberdeen study noted, "Learning and development is no longer a 'nice to have' for most organizations. Companies can no longer afford for learning or training to be a siloed function ... workers move from organization to organization ... learning can be the critical conduit for information transfer, aligning and information for the organization ensuring that companies build an internal talent pipeline that will enable them to succeed into the future." (2)

The survey respondents indicated which learning methods were used the most and which were deemed to be the most effective. Six methods were used by 60% or more of respondents (see chart below). (3)

Aberdeen was concise and to the point on actions required to be undertaken by organizations to close the talent gap:

1. Validate learning impact with measurable data. Tools include training hours in the Balanced Scorecard approach that can correlate such hours with results. This may include productivity enhancements as well. Certification programs from organizations such as APICS, the Association for Operations Management, or the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals can be utilized as a metric as well.

2. Define organizational core competencies and align learning goals with them.

3. Let consumerization of technology inform solution decisions, which will lead to increased support of social and mobile learning,

4. Involve the organizational "ecosystem," where learning is not restricted to the nucleus firm, but is extended to customers and channel partners.

The latter is likely a statement agreeable with Mr. Hotze of Panalpina. Learning at Panalpina would involve its external stakeholders including customers, not just its internal organizations. If we have moved from adversarial to collaborative relationships in transacting business, should we not consider doing the same with workforce learning?

It's important to consider ways all of us can help to narrow the talent gap. Perhaps NDTA chapters can consider this topic for a lunch or dinner meeting that includes young employees, students that are potential employees, and senior cor-porate/organizational leaders to interact with the attendees. Good luck. DTJ
Learning method Number of Respondents
 respondents effectiveness
 rating of using method
 the method (with 1 being
 least effective
 and 5 being
 most effective)

Instructor-led, 91% 4.06
classroom based

Informal 87% 3.97

On demand online 77% 3.62
content in
process (not in
real time)

Formal on-the-job 73% 4.11

Blended learning 63% 4.15
combining instructor
led classroom and

Formal mentoring 61% 4.07

(1.) Interview, Supply Chain Brain, Oct 8, 2012

(2.) Aberdeen Group, "Learning and Performance, Developing for Business Results," Mollie Lombardi, October 2012

(3.) Aberdeen Group, "Learning and Performance, Developing for Business Results," Mollie Lombardi, October 2012

Irvin Varkonyi, President, Supply Chain Operations Preparedness Education (SCOPE)
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Author:Varkonyi, Irvin
Publication:Defense Transportation Journal
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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