Salesforce: Robert Heys talks talent in procurement & supply

Procurement Magazine speaks with Robert Heys, Customer Transformation Director, Salesforce to discuss the talent shortages in procurement and supply chain

Please could you start by introducing yourself and your role? How did you find yourself to be in the supply chain industry?

My current role is as a Customer Transformation Director at Salesforce, specialising in the industrial sector. As part of my role, I provide organisations with strategic counsel on accelerating and unlocking the value of digital transformation. 

With coming up to 30 years of multi-faceted experience in the manufacturing sector, my experience originated in the aerospace and defence sector where I worked on large defence programmes, I then continued my journey working with software and consultancy organisations advising on new product development and introduction. 

Following on from this, I diverted towards the overall value chain and supply chain, overseeing the product life cycle from the ideation, manufacturing through the life and retirement stage.

What is the current landscape in the supply chain when it comes to talent? What is causing the all-time high supply chain shortage for talent?

Companies were forced to accelerate digital transformation initiatives overnight when the pandemic started nearly two years ago, and it acted as a catalyst for many organisations to increase their use of technology to deliver value and continue operations. There is now an urgent need to maintain that momentum and commitment. 

The pandemic and Britain’s departure from the EU also presented new challenges for UK manufacturers using global supply chains, many businesses realised they need greater visibility and agility across their supply chain, both internal and external. 

Rapid and widespread digitisation has changed the nature of work - our transition to an all-digital world makes having digital skills essential for today’s jobs, but while the demand for these skills is high, the supply of people with them is lagging behind. Businesses need more workers with digital skills - this is their biggest ever challenge to succeed.

Globally, we’re faced with a widening digital skills gap. Rapid and widespread digitisation has changed the nature of work - our transition to an all-digital world makes having digital skills essential for today’s jobs, the Supply Chain Sector is no different. Over three quarters (77%) of global supply chain & logistics workers do not feel equipped with the skills required to operate in a digital-first world and over a third (35%) of supply chain & logistics workers feel ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘fearful’ by the rate of technological change in the workplace. 

What do you expect to see as 2022 continues? 

The disruption caused by the pandemic on the industry highlights a need to rethink business operations to be more adaptable to market dynamics but also presents an opportunity. 

A crucial aspect for the success of the supply chain is knowing your demand and, when it comes to deliverables and manufacturing, understanding this demand is becoming more and more complex. Whether it’s traditional CRM automation or the increasing number of channels organisations interact with, there is a clear shift away from the traditional understanding of B2B sales towards commerce and capturing digital intent. As we progress further into 2022, organisations must keep in mind that understanding the demand and how this feeds into the supply chain coupled with execution strategies of internal and external manufacturing processes, is the key to success.

Volume and price are no longer the only factors to leverage when thinking about procurement. By having closer and more symbiotic relationships with the extended supply chains, investing in technologies can become more efficient and allows for the successful navigation of the peaks and troughs in demand. This shift in the way organisations think about extended supply chains - and the relationships between the front and back end of the life cycle - is something we will continue seeing in 2022.

What will need to be done in order to combat the supply chain talent shortages? 

We are seeing a real change in the demand for skills across all roles as well as a shift in the type of roles emerging in the sector - for example, the role of Chief Data Officer, which now exists in many organisations and is largely due to the acceleration and the adoption of technologies.

Manufacturers felt the pandemic’s effect ripple across their lines of business, in Salesforce’s State of Manufacturing Report more than nine in 10 manufacturers reported impacts to their customer demand, production, capacity, distribution lines and more. But, the most long-lasting changes centred around customer-facing roles. As in-person meetings and factory visits were replaced by video calls and virtual inspections, customer-facing teams were forced to adapt overnight. While these new ways of conducting business were implemented quickly, they’re not going away any time soon. Over half of manufacturers consider the changes to customer service and sales capabilities to be permanent.

As the industry moves towards automation, the roles that come with this transition will evolve. Automation can help reduce the work that teams and individuals grapple with on a daily basis, removing mundane repetitive process tasks and freeing up time to focus on more strategic and challenging opportunities. Introducing automation tools can also enable consistency and engagement at scale.

It’s a common misconception that automation will take away jobs, but the reality is far from this. Automation can take away the task, but there is still a need to oversee the process. The result is an evolution of the role, and a shift in focus towards adding value - it can also make the role more attractive when thinking about talent acquisition.

At Salesforce, we believe that business has a responsibility to upskill the current and future workforce to make sure that people don't get left behind. People are looking to companies to play a leading role in preparing the workforce for the future. Everyone needs to be given the opportunity to participate in the new digital economy. Addressing the skills gap isn’t simply about job numbers, it’s about understanding the missing skills needed for the future of work and addressing the training and re-skilling imperative.

What are the best strategies for acquiring talent? 

To attract the best talent, industry and businesses must interact with talent earlier. Whether that’s through academic streamlines at schools and universities or offering alternative routes such as apprenticeships that offer directly transferable skills - the key is to ensure visibility in those demographics early. 

It’s not just about acquiring talent, either - once recruited, organisations must ensure they are equipping staff with the relevant skills and upskilling where necessary in order to retain the talent and add value to the business. 

Having a fluid approach to the employee journey is crucial when thinking about talent - for example, many organisations tend to view employees moving on as negative. However, it’s in fact equally as valuable having people that have cross-sector expertise and being able to then bring that talent back as that allows for a more diverse cognitive ability within the workforce. 

What advice would you give others interested in becoming a part of the supply chain industry? 

For anyone looking to work in the supply chain industry, the key thing to bear in mind is that there is no right or wrong route and, in fact, where you land might not always be where you end up. 

There are many technologies and creative based roles in industries and functions that people might not think about when it comes to the supply chain. My advice would be to broaden your horizons and consider roles that rely on transferable skills, rather than just what it says on the job description. 

According to IDC, one in six people have low or no digital skills and by 2030, nine out of 10 will need to learn new skills to do their jobs, at a cost of £1.3 billion a year. The accelerated need for digital is having a major impact on the jobs we do now and the skills we need for the future of work, so for people already in the supply chain industry, consider the pathways available to you for lifelong learning. 

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