It made headlines with its woes, created headaches for consumers in the midst of a pandemic, and resulted in hundreds of cargo ships floating at sea unable to dock. But today, corporate supply chains are much more back to normal—but with a host of new challenges ahead.

According to a new Korn Ferry study examining the state of today’s supply chains, a series of disruptions in automation, supplier diversification and consumer demand has created a need for new talent—and skills. The study says nearly eight in ten supply chain executives are looking for people with an agile mindset, a non-traditional skill now required for this sector. Supply chains pros are also looking for more experts in communication (61%) and experience with building a team or with organizational design (57%). “The industry has shifted so much that there isn’t a lineage of people with the skill sets to fill new roles,” says Melissa Hadhazy, a senior client partner in the global industrial practice at Korn Ferry.

In its 64-page report, Korn Ferry combined interviews and surveys from hundreds of executives with proprietary research to see how supply chain talent is changing, where organizations are finding it, and what skills will be needed in the future. Participants spanned across industries—including logistics, manufacturing, retail and consumer products— and covered CEOs, Chief Supply Chain Officers, and Managing Directors. The study covers six critical areas: talent momentum; culture drivers; innovation, digitization and mobility; integration, visibility and relationships; ESG in supply chains, and consumerization.

The results underscore how supply chain leaders are struggling to find talent with the diverse skill sets needed in today’s environment. In fact, many of the roles and skills companies are having a hard time filling are among supply chain’s most critical. For instance, 57% of survey participants say they are experiencing challenges finding talent with end-to-end supply chain knowledge, a testament to the ongoing disruption within the sector.

Other areas where leaders are having difficulty include finding people with transformation experience (43%) and data analysis and reporting capabilities (41%). More than 40% of respondents also report digital engagement gaps among middle, senior and executive management.

But it isn’t just digital, operational and traditional hard skills that are needed, says Hadhazy. She says the move from siloed supply chain systems to more networked models, coupled with consumer demand for more insight into sustainability and social impact, requires soft skills that were not previously asked of supply chain leaders. Collaboration, communication, the ability to work through ambiguity, and other soft skills are critical for today’s supply chain leaders, says Hadhazy.

Companies say they can’t rely solely on internal training and development to meet their talent needs either. As a result, just under 60% of supply chain executives say they are looking outside of their industry for talent with relevant skill sets. At the same time, when looking internally for future supply chain leaders, 62% of those surveyed say they look outside of the function.

If there has been one benefit to the last two years of headlines about the supply chain, however, it is that it has raised awareness and increased the appeal of the function to young talent. And more of these younger professionals are pursuing supply chain careers due to its impact; looking to help with renewable energy options, more diversified suppliers and other ESG issues. “Young professionals are interested in the supply chain because it presents opportunities to make a difference,” says Hadhazy, adding that the attention around supply chains means that now is the time for firms to build a strong, secure talent pipeline for the future.

For more information, contact Korn Ferry’s Supply Chain practice or download the 2023 Supply Chain Talent Study.

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