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Supply Chain Managers To Become The New Superstars, Says Egon Zehnder’s Flückiger

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of supply chain managers’ work. Now is their chance to shine.

In normal times, supply chain managers seldom steal the spotlight, are poorly paid and have what’s widely considered to be a boring job. Then again, these aren’t normal times. COVID-19 has turned them into unassuming stars, who keep both internal and external logistics running smoothly to ensure continued global availability of goods, says Peter Flückiger, partner at Egon Zehnder, in an interview with Swiss weekly newspaper, Handelszeitung.

The corona pandemic has underlined the importance of the supply chain manager role as they improvise daily to overcome challenges such as new border regulations. “I’m sure that the importance of the supply chain is set to increase enormously in strategic decision-making,” Flückiger tells the newspaper.

Nevertheless, no other profession is currently as poorly paid at senior level. And companies have showed little interest in developing talent in this area to date. “Unlike in the world of sales, marketing and finance, strategic talent management is largely unheard of in the supply chain sector,” says Flückiger. “The aim must be to recruit people who can grasp the bigger picture while at the same time bringing diversified expertise to the role. Moving on from supply chain to a commercial role must become a normal progression, so that supply chain becomes established as a career booster.”

Those in the job are well aware of the problems. According to a survey conducted by Egon Zehnder among 234 chief supply chain officers, three quarters of respondents viewed the skill levels of their people as cause for concern, while 79% were sceptical about finding leaders able to deal with the challenges brought by COVID-19. Moreover, 62% didn’t see supply chains as having adequate resources to address future difficulties. As regards external problems, 21% viewed rising cost pressures as the greatest challenge, while 17% named global economic uncertainty, and a further 17% referred to rising demand variability. In terms of internal problems, almost half saw the complexity of the supply chain itself as the biggest difficulty, followed by a shortage of talent, and then by team culture.

There is hope ahead, asserts Flückiger. “Even before the crisis struck, people were starting to focus more on the resilience of the supply chain, rather than on its efficiency alone. Resilience also leads to greater regionalization of the production chains. The crisis has accelerated this development – and this development will only succeed if supply chain managers look even further beyond their field and tailor their strategic accordingly.”

So, potentials should afford supply chain management another look. Not only may companies soon be rolling out the red carpet, leadership skills could be acquired earlier than elsewhere, and salaries could be on the rise as the strategic importance of the role is recognized at last.

„Die neuen Superstars“, von Stefan Mair in der Schweizer Handelszeitung vom 30.04.2020, Seite 21.

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