The Most Important Skills for Supply Chain Young Professionals

What skills and attributes will be the most important for supply chain young professionals to succeed moving forward?

We asked members of our Indago research community that question back in April. Our community was relatively small at the time (18 supply chain and logistics executives), but they are all high-level leaders (more than a third are Director-level and above) from a diverse set of companies and industries (67% from $1B+ companies in Food & Beverage, Retail, Consumer Goods, Automotive, etc.)

Here are the results from the survey:

Source: Indago, April 2019 survey (n = 18)

Analytical skills was the clear winner, selected by 94% of the respondents. People skills (61%) and Communication skills (50%) rounded out the top three.

Here are a few comments submitted by the respondents:

“Supply chain requires a high level of analytical skills coupled with an ability to build effective working relationships. Logistics and supply chain are a service business. Familiarity with supply chain software is very important for young professionals [who will be] the heavy users of the systems.”

“At the end of the day, developing great communication and people skills are key. In my role (VP level) I must communicate from the plant floor to the C- Suite. If the message is not communicated effectively and clearly, then we might miss our goals or targets. People skills are also key. Developing relationships with vendors, customers, partners, will never be supplemented by technology.”

“What I do most is analyze data and present that information to others so that the company can improve the business. Having the ability to dig deep into the data and building relationships with other stakeholders is extremely important. When suggesting changes to the company having a deep knowledge of what changes affect which part of the company’s financial statements is equally important for buy in.”

The results reaffirm previous research I have done on this topic. In a Talking Logistics episode from March 2013, for example, I shared eight important skills tomorrow’s supply chain leaders must have and first on the list was analytical skills. Based on the survey results above, it is clear that having analytical skills has become even more important over the past six years.

I also wrote a post in April 2013 titled “The Most Important Attribute Of A Supply Chain Leader” based on a workshop I had led with a group of supply chain executives. The group discussed many leadership attributes, but the one that was viewed as the most important was the ability to develop, manage, and grow positive and productive relationships with peers, customers, suppliers, and partners. Again, the results above reaffirm the importance of people and communication skills.

What surprised me the most about the survey results? How low having a degree in supply chain management ranked (only 11% of the respondents selected it as an important attribute). It appears that the ideal degree, based on the feedback received, is a Data Scientist major with a minor in communications and relationship management (if such a degree exists).

Do you agree with the survey results? What skills and attributes do you believe will be the most important for supply chain young professionals to succeed moving forward? Post a comment and share your perspective!

Note: If you are a supply chain and logistics practitioner from a manufacturing, retail, or distribution company, I invite you to learn more about Indago and join our research community. There is no cost to join and the time commitment is minimal — plus your participation will help support charitable causes like JDRF, American Logistics Aid Network, American Cancer Society, Feeding America, and Make-A-Wish.