Supply Chain Manager to Leader: Upskilling, Re-skilling and Retention

In today’s fast-paced and ever-changing market, upskilling, re-skilling, and retention have become critical factors in workforce development and talent management. As we see constant technological advancements and automation redefine industries and job roles, the need for organizations and employees to adapt and flourish has become more important than ever. Collectively, upskilling, re-skilling, and retention efforts are crucial for identifying skill gaps, promoting career growth, and fostering a sustainable organization in the evolving work landscape.

Our Supply Chain Peer Group meeting on April 18th discussed this topic in-depth, where participants heard field experts share their thoughts on priorities and approaches to this upcoming necessity. Participants learned that retaining existing talent is more important than ever, including upskilling employees as jobs evolve and re-skilling them into new, exciting roles.

The meeting was led by UWEBC’s Supply Chain Practice Director Jenny Patzlaff, with a featured member presentation by Lands’ End’s Jennifer Palzkill, Senior Director of Inventory Management, and Angie Adler, Senior Director of Human Resources. They discussed how to use upskilling to deliver a strategic growth plan through three key ideas: people, technology growth, and process (how to enable growth). Angie noted that since the pandemic, she has found that bench strength has not recovered, meaning that we are all “fishing from the same pool” of talent and that this talent pool is very small.

One thing Angie and Lands’ End has found beneficial when doing talent reviews is the Nine-Box model. This simple matrix model can enable companies to measure employee performance while identifying who has potential (ability, engagement and aspiration) across various levels. She encourages people to pay attention and remember the top left corner of the model, where an employee may have high potential but may have yet to be a high-performance employee. Angie discussed that that individual may have had a bad year for some reason or noted that they might not even be in the right job within the company. Jennifer discussed how technology growth also plays a vital role in employee retention. She emphasized that it is important to identify core teams, key cross-functional partners, and reliance on business transformation teams to enable expansion as they are a voice between business and technical solutions. Doing this allows the core teams to focus on their strengths. Another model their company uses is the 70-20-10 model for learning and development. This means that individuals generally get 70% of their knowledge from job-related experiences, 20% from mentoring and coaching experiences, and 10% from outside occasions such as educational events.

We then heard from member company GE HealthCare’s Craig Schaefer, Global Logistics Operations Executive; Melissa Bloch-Meier, Global Planning Learning Manager; and Peter Baranowski, Global Leadership Development. They discussed how GE HealthCare created a career path and competency-building process. This process includes identifying a career progression path and determining what competencies are important. It also includes creating a three-level model: essential, expert, and master. After deciding on this model, they described which behaviors are required at each level while developing a self- and leader-assessment tool. This model is not just for one company group but is helpful across all Supply Chain groups. They noted that they continually evolve their journey toward people leader effectiveness at GE HealthCare. Some key takeaways are that for people leader development to occur, there needs to be a balance of breadth of management and leadership themes. The company also needs to include practice where leaders can learn from their peers while also including experience from which professionals can learn and change their behaviors.

Following GE HealthCare’s presentation, participants heard an expert presentation from Marisa Brown, Senior Principal Research Lead at the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC). APQC is a member-based nonprofit in Houston, Texas, focusing on information and data insights to help organizations make smarter and faster decisions with greater confidence. Marisa talked about why valued employees leave. Companies often think it’s due to compensation issues, but it’s not. After surveying APQC members, Marisa found that the top two reasons employees leave are: better career development opportunities and more non-monetary recognition. She gave tips on retaining employees and discussed that supporting career development and public recognition of employee accomplishments is imperative. Marisa noted that it is sometimes challenging for managers to say that an employee did well. This is important because we are all people, and we need recognition. She also discussed the adoption of Artificial Intelligence in the Supply Chain, a growing concern among companies as many organizations think AI will reduce full-time employees. However, after conducting several surveys, she mentioned that for many companies, AI is still in the early stages of adoption but predicts that within the upcoming years, it will rapidly change. Marisa says, “If you act like a robot, you can be replaced by a robot.” To combat this, she shared with participants 10 critical skills that employees need to develop and enhance as a result of AI.

Finally, meeting participants split into small groups to discuss ideas they had just heard about and incorporate them into their organizations. Some topics from the breakout sessions included: how to develop a culture remotely, the importance of creating a personal leadership philosophy and sharing it with your team, and why mentoring each other is the key to success. This discussion opened up a conversation about why it is important to retain the talent companies already have, ways to upskill employees as the market evolves, and re-skilling employees into new and exciting roles. It is crucial to discuss this priority in every organization and develop successful approaches due to the market’s current agile environment.

Published May 3, 2023
Dylan Kopf and Jenny Zhang, Marketing Student Assistants