In modern economies, we have developed sophisticated and expertly managed supply chains to minimise risk and ensure a ready supply of commodities. The same cannot be said for planning and securing skilled labour or talent, which most companies will agree is one, if not the most important inputs in a business. Why is it that when it comes to managing talent, many companies ignore the principles learned in securing commodities? After all, the sourcing of talent is really just another supply chain.
In supply chain management, you get what you plan for. Take for example the supply of grain in the milling industry. Forward planning begins prior to grain harvest and covers a 12 months period, taking into account the seasonal nature of supply, current and projected market conditions, storage capabilities, and then aligning supply with projected customer demand. Requirements are forecast for the entire year, quality standards are set and a procurement program will include grain acquisition, logistics and storage arrangements. It is unthinkable that a flour or feed miller would contact suppliers at the beginning of the month to source product at spot market prices for the next week or the next month. Anybody with only a rudimentary understanding of business will recognise that such a strategy is absurd. To do so would leave one at the mercy of the market and in all likelihood result in product shortfalls, stockouts, inconsistent quality and excessive prices.
It is well understood and accepted that forward planning and risk management are essential for goods that you consume and produce. But when it comes to the supply of people, most companies, for decades have adopted a short-term, ad hoc approach to talent management. Today’s job market (particularly in the agricultural sector), is plagued with skills shortages resulting in employers struggling, with increasing exasperation, to find the appropriate talent that they need. In the last fifty years, we have witnessed a slide to increasingly transactional employment relationships. The expectation has been that companies can hire and fire at will. In addition, constant pressure on cost reduction has led to a diminished training programs, leading to increased reliance on the spot market for skills rather than building them from within. It is not uncommon these days for positions to be vacant for many months due to unavailability of suitably qualified candidates, almost certainly resulting in a hidden cost of lost productivity.
In the agrifood industry, the shortage of appropriately qualified and skilled talent is judged to remain a long-term problem. To regain a healthy balance of jobs and people, we need to move beyond an ad hoc hiring strategy that many companies have been employing to source their talent. Managing the flow of skilled workers into the market is a multi-step process that requires careful orchestration. Instead of waiting for a vacancy to occur and relying on the spot talent market to find a replacement, companies need instead to develop a talent acquisition plan commencing with an audit of existing talent and projecting future skills requirements, taking into account projected staff turnover, expected growth and the impact of emerging technologies. The process is not complete without an assessment of the availability of each category of talent in the market. If required skills are judged as unlikely to be unavailable for hire, then strategies need to be developed to supply them, such as graduate programs or training programs.
In today’s employment market, those companies who take a supply chain view of talent management with an associated emphasis on forward planning and risk management, are expected to have a competitive advantage over companies who continue to have an hoc approach, wrongly believing that they can source required talent at will in a spot market.