Reskilling Employees for Supply Chain Jobs

In today’s Wall Street Journal, in an article titled Retailers Try to Solve Labor Imbalances by Retraining Staff, Suzanne Kapner highlights how Levi Strauss & Co. is “confronting a problem faced by companies in a range of industries from finance to retail to technology. Many of their workers lack the necessary skills to address modern business challenges. For retailing, artificial intelligence and machine learning are playing an outsize role as more shopping shifts online.”

In Levi’s case, the company launched “a new program designed to teach coding and statistical analysis to people who don’t have a statistics or coding background…One class tackles how to better match supply with demand. Another teaches how to personalize marketing campaigns, and a third looks at using artificial intelligence to determine which locations are best suited for new bricks-and-mortar stores.”

It sounds like Levi’s is reskilling its store employees to become supply chain planners and network designers.

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

We asked our Indago supply chain research community that question back in April 2019 (see The Most Important Skills For Supply Chain Young Professionals). Analytical skills was the clear winner, selected by 94% of the respondents. People skills (61%) and Communication skills (50%) rounded out the top three.

Only 11% of the respondents, however, selected having a degree in supply chain management as an important attribute. As I wrote at the time, “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).”

For many people, the path to that ideal degree — or to developing the necessary skills to succeed moving forward — does not involve attending a traditional college or university. As the WSJ article illustrates, employers are taking the lead in reskilling their people. In another example from the article, Choice Market, a Denver-based convenience store chain, trained one of its cashiers to become “an e-commerce analyst in charge of data entry for the 2,500 products Choice Market sells.” Here’s more from the article:

Instead of staffing a cash register, she uses a computer to create detailed drawings of the store layout so the system knows where products sit on shelves and monitors what is selling. She also runs the platform that integrates Choice’s third-party delivery systems with Uber Eats and GrubHub Inc. She learned her new skills from the company’s e-commerce manager.

Here’s the bottom line for me: We talk a lot about the “digital transformation” of supply chain processes, but there are other related transformations that are happening (or need to happen) as a result — that is, the transformation of Human Resources, Employee Training, and Education. We can’t approach these things in 2021 the way we did in 1999. Companies and educators (not just at name-brand colleges and universities, but also at community colleges, vocational schools, and high schools) need to collaborate and align their efforts more effectively. They also need to develop and implement new models of teaching and training that (to borrow some supply chain buzzwords) are more agile, dynamic, and flexible than yesterday’s approaches.

What do you think? Post a comment and let me know.