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The Missing Link in your Supply Chain - People

by Christina Langley - founder of Langley Search & Interim

If you have skills in the Supply Chain field, you are in short supply! So read on………..

A recent study by Law Firm Weightmans found that 25% of managers who work in the Supply Chain list people shortages as the key issue (The Times, Dec 19)

As a leading recruiter in this area, empirical experience tells us this is true - we know that when we support clients looking to fill supply chain roles, good people are difficult to find and often have multiple offers at hand for any job move.

So why does this matter? - Supply Chains are critical for many reasons. Many industries are facing or will face disruption due to Brexit/trading changes and much of this will fall on the shoulders of their Supply Chain teams – procurement, planning, forecasting, warehousing, logistics etc. In terms of managing risk therefore, lack of qualified, available staff is a major risk factor for businesses both now and into the future.

Reputationally companies are more aware of the impact of Supply Chains and impact on their brand – ethical sourcing of materials & finished goods and their impact on global warming. This branding also has an impact on organisations ability to attract candidates to fill critical positions.

Why do we have a shortage? - Education has not caught up with the changes in the importance of Supply Chains to organisations and industry. Supply Chain features only briefly in the curriculum in schools and there are few specialist courses in colleges. Again at college & university, supply chain as a career is undersold in terms of interest, ability to work internationally, impact on organisations and earning power.

There are relatively few apprenticeships and graduate training programmes in this field. Analyse those who work in the Supply Chain and it’s quite an ageing workforce and is not perceived to be a ‘young person’s career choice’. A recent survey by REC (Recruitment Employment Confederation – June 19 ) found that 45% of people working in the Supply Chain are over 45 years old.

Additionally the career path in the Supply Chain is not always entirely clear, unlike in many professions where there are clearer signposts & stages in gaining qualifications. Visible role models in the press and in organisations are often few and far between and a lack of Supply Chain people on Boards/Management Boards make the function less visible when people are making a career choice.

In order to successfully fill Supply Chain roles, addressing issues around diversity might be a focus for organisations recruiting. Some parts of the supply chain are still perceived by candidates to be dominated by a ‘male culture’– go into any major distribution hub and you will see this is self evident e.g in logistics roles.

In terms of attracting more minorities & women into the supply chain - women are still underpaid relative to men. A recent study by CIPS & Hays on procurement (2019) found that the biggest pay gap is seen in the Private Sector at senior levels ‘where men earned 46% more than women, a 3% increase from 2018’. In the Public Sector, the biggest pay gap was also at senior levels ‘with men earning 21% more than women in a dramatic increase of 17% since 2018’. So - we still have a long way to go to provide an environment in the Supply Chain that attracts minorities & women into the profession.

What can we do about it? - Educate, promulgate & tell stories about the role models, lobby for senior representation on Management Boards. Target diverse groups and ensure remuneration is equitable.

What does this mean for you the Supply Chain Professional? - For those whose career is in the Supply Chain, you will be critical for organisations and businesses going forward and therefore are potentially in a strong position to develop your careers faster than many in other functional areas – both in terms of packages commanded but also in terms of speed of progression and skillset development. So, onward and upward!

Christina Langley is the founder of Langley Search & Interim (, the leading ‘niche’ recruiter in the procurement & supply chain area. Langley manages permanent and interim positions at

Executive, Management and Junior Levels. Langley delivers recruitment solutions across a range of globally based clients from large international organisations through to start ups, all of whom are looking for an

effective, partnered recruitment solution. Contact:

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