I have heard for a couple of years now about the 2020 Supply Chain Talent Drain and the challenges faced by many organizations looking to fill the gap because of retiring baby boomers. Today’s supply chain and logistics job seekers are always looking for their next opportunity since career exploration has become the norm. In fact, millennial candidates don’t like staying in one place too long. They not only change jobs, but often change industries as well. They believe there’s always something better out there.

So what I like to put forward for your consideration is a concept called RSNP to combat the Supply Chain Talent Drain.


A survey by Futurestep, a Korn Ferry company, asked how companies found candidates. The survey found that more than two­ thirds (68%) of respondents said their best candidates typically are active job seekers. About half (52%) use their own professional network first when sourcing candidates. Only 6% said they rely on internal referrals. I firmly believe that having a solid professional network is critical for sourcing the best candidates through your career contacts and logistics and supply chain professional organizations.

Ken Ackerman, editor and publisher of Warehousing Forum says “One of the peculiar advantages of a logistics career is the frequency of promotion from hourly work into supervision, middle management and occasionally even senior management.” Therefore, an internal mobility program to tap into the gold mine of talent that may already exist within your organization is another way to fill the pipeline. In addition, it not only helps bridge the gap but it serves as a retention program to preserve qualified candidates for future openings.

During recruiting, I recommend you look for three characteristics in candidates:

1. Aptitude which is an individual’s innate or acquired capacity for a particular knowledge or skill.

2. Skill Set which is a function of several factors, including ability, professional curiosity, experience, training, and work ethic.

3. Attitude which is defined by psychologists as a learned tendency to evaluate things (people, issues, objects, or events) in a certain way.

Thus, I would hire first for attitude. A person with a positive attitude and the aptitude to perform the work will quickly close any skill set gaps and, in the long run, be a more valuable employee than someone with an attitudinal problem.

At Southwest, for example, they talk about hiring not for skills but three attributes: a warrior spirit (that is, a desire to excel, act with courage, persevere and innovate); a servant’s heart (the ability to put others first, treat everyone with respect and proactively serve customers); and a fun-loving attitude (passion, joy and an aversion to taking oneself too seriously.)


When evaluating potential job candidates a recent survey found that one third of executives said a candidate’s motivations and drivers are the most important factor when sourcing for open positions. The reason that motivation is most important, as reported in a blog for the Society for Human Resource Management by Roy Maurer, is that it offers clues as to whether a candidate will be a good fit.

Yes, résumés and references are important. However, the most important selection criteria for hiring is the interview. During the selection process, remember that hiring motivated supply chain talent is vital for productivity and performance. So yes, when we prepare for an interview we do have an obligation to take the time to do research on the candidate and to prepare questions for them to see if they will be a good fit.

I’m looking for people who have conviction and a point of view, and so I’ll often ask questions to see if candidates will give me their perspective on a supply chain issue or a logistical situation.

We all have instincts when it comes to interviewing. We’ve developed our instincts over a lifetime of interacting with people and situations. Your instincts are generally a good guide for whether you should or should not hire someone. For me, I have a pretty good idea within the first 15 minutes of the interview process.

During interviews, candidates are evaluating you, your organization and whether they really want to work for you. They’re interviewing you as much as you’re interviewing them. This means that you must sell the job and the organization to the candidate as well as them selling you on their candidacy.


Supply chain executives must be a combination of talent scout and mentor, with a passion for seeking out raw talent and developing it into strong, qualified, well trained, functional personnel. Such development should cover core supply chain content knowledge and process skills as well as the interpersonal skills needed to operate in a cross-functional team environment.

When placing people within an organization, it’s extremely important to first define the critical success factors for each role. Everyone has value, but not everyone is a good fit for every logistics role. Individuals should be aligned with the defined roles, responsibilities, and processes for which they are best suited before their assignment.

Even though the millennial candidates typically have more current knowledge and education, their lack of experience leads others to question their technical expertise and professional skills. Because of their shorter career tenure, they also lack in-depth knowledge that others in your organization may possess.

So here’s a key question: What do your people really need in regard to training and development? To determine this, you first must assess the acute deficits in skills or knowledge of each individual. To do such, you have to get to know them and really understand what their strengths, skills and special attributes are. Then and only then can you provide them with the proper combination of training, coaching and mentoring to build on strengths and minimalize their weaknesses.

In an organization today, a leader must possess the quality that draws other people to them—and allows them to influence actions, opinions, and behaviors—in a nurturing way.


Provide structure: Retention enriches an organization’s culture and enhances its reputation. Intelligent hiring starts with keeping the smart, knowledgeable people you have now. I’ve found that a lot of people sometimes underestimate themselves, and if you can help them find their strengths and bring them out—they will deliver results. Invest in your people, let them know they’re appreciated, and help them keep their skills up-to-date.

People who feel valued are loyal to the organization; therefore, loyalty is a key retention tool. It’s not always about money! Demonstrate loyalty to your employees by promoting from within if you can.

Career investment is mutual. Remember, retention builds on itself. Because of that, you want them to stay. You need them to stay because proven, long-term employees tend to be excellent at satisfying logistical expectations and supply chain objectives.

Also don’t be afraid to let them leave. Sometimes they need to leave: for a better opportunity, a different venue, to enter a new field, or to start their own business. As we discussed previously, you can train and develop someone to replace them.

And don’t be afraid of losing your best people. Learn how to retain your best talent, but don’t be afraid to promote your top people out of your organization or help them achieve their career ambitions. They will be your greatest recruiters wherever they may go, and may eventually find their way back to you.


This prescriptive emphasis on the R—Recruit, S—Select, N—Nurture, and P—Preserve concept starts at the top and cascades down through the organization. Don’t focus on warm bodies or settle for what’s candidates are available to fill existing positions; work at attracting supply chain talent, recruit and select the best of the best, nurture them, and hopefully you will retain most of them.

Thomas L. Tanel, CTL, C.P.M., CCA, CISCM, is the President and CEO of CATTAN Services Group, Inc. specializing in Logistics and Supply Chain issues. He can be reached at tanel@cattan.com or (979) 212-8200.