Recruiting and retaining qualified supply chain managers is the number one challenge facing third-party logistics (3PL) companies around the world. For the last two decades, Bob Lieb, professor of supply chain management at Northeastern University D’Amore-McKim School of Business has been conducting surveys of CEOs of the largest 3PL companies in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, which consistently rank “finding and keeping talented managers” among their top three problems.
Part of the retention issue stems from the fact that there is simply not enough talent within the existing marketplace capable of handling the ever-changing landscape of global logistics. This poses a unique opportunity for 3PL companies and executive education programs, such as those designed for companies by Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, to combine forces and cultivate logistics expertise to bolster and expand the diminishing talent pool.
Managers are tasked with evolving with the times; however, investments in professional development for supply chain managers have been lagging for many years. In an effort to build up the internal expertise of a team, Professor Lieb says custom corporate programs designed to align to strategic imperatives have become a growing trend in the 3PL industry over the last few years.
“There’s a shortfall of talent each year to the tune of 10,000 people. The industry continues to grow, and is incapable of sustaining itself alone,” said Lieb in a recent conversation with D’Amore-McKim’s #LeadersatWork. “3PL companies are now starting to recognize this as a major issue, focusing their attention not only on recruiting new employees, but also providing continuing education for existing employees to foster their career development.”
Lieb explained that custom executive education brings real world issues faced by the company into a closed learning environment during which participants can apply the skills they need to address the issues effectively today, rather than be forced to rely on tired and outdated lessons from the past.
To address this issue, 3PL companies must make a commitment to their employees beyond initial training when they enter the workforce or join the company.
“Companies have to look beyond the immediate future and invest in broadening the skillsets of their employees,” said Lieb. “The people who are already prepared for this job will always find employment, but there must be a commitment made towards expanding the talent pool.”
3PL companies do not exist in a “plug and play” environment. Instead, each company based in various corners of the world is met with unique challenges that are different from one day to the next. Logistics management is a field that requires a great deal of training, as well as a serious commitment on the part of the professionals who take on the extensive workload and harried schedule of the role. Once companies can become smarter about their talent management, and the development of their employees, they will be able to more efficiently fill these high-profile positions with prepared and qualified employees.