In the last week, we’ve had the opportunity to hear the leading experts in manufacturing, distribution and logistics.  There were a few common threads among EVERY expert yet one stood out from the rest – the skills gap remains alive and well.

For example, the Southern California Logistics & Supply Chain Summit keynote speaker was an Amazon executive.  When asked what he wanted to talk about at the symposium, he chose “People, Careers and the Supply Chain: the Innovative Practices”.

Whether $8 million, $50 million or a facility / division of a multi-billion dollar company, every one of my manufacturing and distribution clients state manufacturing and supply chain talent as a top concern.  I facilitate a Harvey Mudd executive roundtable with the head of the manufacturing program at Harvey Mudd.  At every roundtable meeting in the last few years, this topic arises.

What can we do to alleviate this skills gap?

  • Retain top talent –  Let’s start with what is often overlooked.  Look carefully – you probably have underutilized and emerging talent.  According to Gallup surveys, only 30% of the workforce is engaged.  That is horrific!  Imagine the fact that the majority of your people are not engaged; worse yet, there is a good percentage actively disengaged.  Thus, there is VAST opportunity to engage and retain talent.
  • Mentor program – With baby boomers retiring, it is wise to consider putting a win-win mentor program in place.  We guarantee your long-term employees have more knowledge in their head than you realize – until you try to replace it.  And, often, if set up with win-win objectives, the younger workers can be inspired by retiring workers – and vice versa.
  • Training & development – Often-times, offering training and development programs (such as those offered by my APICS chapter on the fundamentals of manufacturing, distribution and supply chain) can be quite valuable in providing a common language, bringing ideas and inspiration to the forefront AND, most importantly, in giving employees the knowledge that leaders are interested in investing in them.
  • Performance management – Who has time?  Well, we need to make the time to talk to our people.  If we can find time to interview replacements, we can find time to talk with our employees about objectives and performance.  Spend a few minutes to help employees think through a career plan.  Address non-performers.  You’ll be amazed at the results.
  • Don’t hire fast talkers:  It is extremely challenging to be a great interviewer.  Be careful not to be enamored with fast talkers.  Fast talkers do not equate to results.  Ask your network for feedback!

Since those who have the best people thrive, it is in all of our best interest to figure out how to retain, develop and find the best people.  In our experience, this is the #1 indicator to long-term, sustainable success.  It is worth investing the time in your #1 asset.  If you want to talk about ideas to make this happen, contact us.