How the coronavirus may accelerate talent needs amidst supply chain digitalization

Posted on March 28 , 2020. 
By Ben McDonald

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With the coronavirus dramatically straining global supply chains, companies worldwide are taking a financial hit. Even industry titans are feeling the pinch: Tesla has suspended its business in China, and Apple is falling short of market demand for iPhones and other products.

While the course of the pandemic remains to be seen, many companies are already re-thinking their reliance on traditional supply chains, which are too easily disrupted by health crises, natural disasters, and political upheavals.

Establishing a true digital supply chain could provide some much-needed stability – and the coronavirus has led many companies to accelerate its adoption. Future supply chains will be digitally enabled, self-driving, and most importantly, steady in times of crisis. Artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning, and other technologies will limit shortages, delays, and cost overruns during disruptive events.

Recruiting for the digital supply chain

To properly establish and take full advantage of the digital supply chain, companies need the right people in the right roles, at all levels of the organization. A forward-looking recruitment strategy for manufacturers can ensure a proper balance of traditional engineers and data scientists. Once hired, employees must also be given professional development opportunities so they can continue meeting the needs of the ever-evolving digital supply chain. As the saying goes, “Hire for today, upskill for tomorrow.”

Many businesses are trying new ways to attract and retain digital talent. Henkel – a leading German chemical and consumer goods producer with offices all over the Asia Pacific region – offers an 18-month training program that immediately immerses recruits in one of the company’s digitalization projects. This type of fast-track program allows companies to obtain the right talents to assist with rapid technology adoption. If a digital talent gap persists, it can be much more difficult, if not impossible, to keep up the pace required by the digital age.

Digital talents needed in the C-suite

Numerous industry surveys suggest that the upper executives of many companies lack technical knowledge and skills.

For example, MIT Sloan Management Review made some troubling discoveries in a study that surveyed over 4,000 business leaders from around the globe. “Just 12% of respondents strongly agree that their leaders have the right mindsets to lead them forward,” the study found. It then added: “Only 40% agree that their companies are building robust leadership pipelines to tackle the demands of the digital economy.”

Of course, it is not necessary for every member of the C-suite to be a tech wizard. But, having some foundational technical knowledge among executives is essential. To close this gap, companies will have to look for digital leaders within their company or through recruitment.

Soft skills are still vital

While technical skills at all levels of the organization are indispensable in the digital age, emotional intelligence and communication skills remain in very high demand. The key is finding candidates with the right mix of tech know-how and classic soft skills. In fact, agility and adaptability may indeed be more important than programming or coding skills. Technical skills need constant updating, and hiring employees with a keen interest for learning is great way to ensure a competitive edge for years to come.

With the right tests, collaboration skills, critical thinking, and creativity can all be measured. These scores should be carefully considered before hiring even the most technically qualified candidates.

A potential catalyst for the digital supply chain

Although the long-term consequences of the coronavirus are as yet unknown, the pandemic has already had a dramatic effect on work worldwide. Disruptions to traditional supply chains have underscored the need for a more viable, digitally-enabled alternative. To meet the needs of the new digital supply chain, companies will need to re-think and re-tool their recruiting practices.

Of course, for companies without the in-house capability to recruit effectively for the digital age, the right strategic partner can help. At Connexus Global, we use sophisticated research methods to comb local job markets and find ideal candidates – from entry-level all the way to the C-suite.

Ben McDonald


Consumer & Industrial Markets


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