Supply Chain Skills
16 Jul

11 Must Have Supply Chain Skills to Become Top Talents

Acquiring and continually developing fundamental skills is essential to becoming a top talent in Supply Chain. And they are both technical and soft skills.

I’ve compiled 11 crucial skills to excel, making you a sought-after talent for both employers and headhunters.[highlight]I am sure when you read these, you will say these are NOT Supply Chain skills, they are general management skills, and you are right![/highlight]But I intentionally choose to call them Supply Chain Skills which is now must have to become Top Talent in Supply Chain.

If you are looking to understand what I mean by supply chain technical competencies, you can refer to this blog “8 Must Have Supply Chain Competencies to Triumph in Your Career”

Choose your role, then systematically build expertise by understanding its specifics, relevant experience, and fundamental skill requirements.

How do you do this?

Continue to read my 11 must-have Supply Chain Skills to start your journey to being a top talent.

1) Practice Constant Learning & Sound Understanding


For me this the number 1 skill which will form your foundation to the other 10 skills. Having a ‘working knowledge’ just won’t do – a sound, highly proficient understanding of the basics and actively building a solid foundation of your chosen domain is essential.

An ideal scenario to build this, is exposure to different areas of supply chain by doing projects in Supply Chain Management, Procurement, Logistics, Software Deployment, Lean Six Sigma or Continuous Improvement.

Dabbling in diverse roles for 2-4 years provides broad, international exposure without committing to specific career paths. This allows for broad professional development without mandating a long-term commitment to any particular functional domain. It will provide the necessary experience to nurture and actively build your sound understanding yet provide the unique in-depth knowledge not available in books which is sought after in the eyes of a headhunter looking for their next top talent.

From the beginning at SCMDOJO I am focusing on creating practical content like these practical Supply Chain Guides and Supply Chain Courses, which encourage continuous learning and enable supply chain professionals to solve their own problems.

2) Soft Skills – Communication Skills


Who can’t talk / communicate? That’s easy, the skill is whether you can communicate with your audience effectively. In my many years within the Supply Chain field, communication skills in particular is actually very lacking within Supply Chain.


Well, we pretty much see ourselves as ‘doers’- lots of facts, and data analysis – rather than the ones who give the ‘pretty’ presentations with lots of fanfare. Well, it’s this ‘pretty’, simplified presentation and fanfare that is actually wanted by your audience and the sales and marketing personnel have perfected this to a T.

There is no disputing that we as supply chain professional do great with details & data in terms of delivery and on time performance, however, without effective and excellent communication skills, a supply chain practitioner can often be overlooked for promotion in favour of marketing and sales personnel for General Management as the companies require someone who can also be their ‘face’ or representative.

In reality, presentation can outweigh delivery; hence, impeccable communication and presentation skills are vital for top talent recognition. Get practicing communication as one of the key supply chain skills and start getting the credit and recognition you truly deserve.

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How to Run S&OP Process

3) Radical Simplicity


I have just 3 words to introduce this supply chain skill, [highlight]Keep It Simple!![/highlight]– makes thing so simple top down so that everyone gets it.

It really is as simple as that! Can you explain to your business what you are doing and present it within 5 minutes in simplistic terms that absolutely anyone can understand? I do think we as supply chain professionals have tendency to make things complicated.

This trait may seem reserved for sales, but in reality, details, numbers, and facts validate the worthiness of your work.

Well, you will be surprised to learn that most C.E.O.’s are not interested in specific details in a meeting – they really want to know how much money they can save and how quickly you can achieve it without negatively impacting the clients or stakeholders.

Quick, concise responses make the CEO happier, positioning you as their go-to person and business representative.

[highlight]Must Read[/highlight] Radical Simplicity: How Simplicity Transformed a Loss-making Mega Brand into a World-class Performer
Radical Simplicity: How Simplicity Transformed a Loss-making Mega Brand into a World-class Performer Hardcover – May 1, 2020

To understand this concept better you should watch is magnificent episode of The Supply Chain show!


4)  Be Insanely Customer Focused


How customer focused are you?

One of the most important Supply Chain Management skill is being [highlight]“highly customer focused”[/highlight].  Estimate your current honest valuation and multiply it by 100 and then some! Yes, this is how insanely customer focused you need to be. And I really mean it.

Be creative, take out the details and find the simple objective / message you want them to remember and take away with them. Create slogans using tunes or rhythm, everyone understands music and rhymes – make it memorable for the product and for you.

This is radical simplicity drives engagement – when people understand the impact of their job or the function into the end result within the organization, they feel more engaged and committed to results and this in turn will make your role as s supply chain leader becomes easier.

This leads neatly onto Presentation.

5) Be Better in Presentation


If you call yourself a leader, you cannot walk alone (Liverpool FC fans should be singing this by now!!). You need to have your team / organization with you on your journey – how you talk and present to the team as well as emotionally connect to them will directly show with how they get together and work as a team. This will also help hone your skills when you are presenting to a variety of audiences. This is a leadership skill which, with the correct emotional intelligence will be the recipe of a successful leader. (Read 9 C’s of Supply Chain Leadership That You Should Master)

Can you, as a leader, capture your audience within a 5-minute window?

What exactly do you need to capture in 5 minutes? Well, know your audience – if they are not overly familiar with Supply Chain, make sure simplify appropriately yet remains succinct and the language / terminology used is adjusted for the target audience.

This ability will serve you well as this is a leadership quality that of often sought-after but not many can deliver.  Simply put, if you cannot present or talk in a manner that gains everyone’s attention, you cannot be an effective or good leader.

Recommended Reading Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond

Simply Said


6) Emotional Intelligence


Although I have already touched on this, a deeper exploration into emotional intelligence is especially relevant now in these unprecedented times of crisis, wars, natural disasters and now a global pandemic and ever-changing personal circumstances.

As a leader, you need to have the ability to be a change catalyst – to be sensitive and responsive to people’s emotions and personal preference of their willingness to progress. To gel the team as one, keep things simple by having an understanding of their circumstances and how their environment affects them emotionally – ensure any less-willing colleagues also feel worthy that they have a valued placed within the team too.

You may have a colleague seemingly ideal for progression for leader on paper but you notice they are uncomfortable presenting in team meetings. Don’t ignore this, instead, listen as well as understand their strengths, weaknesses, what they enjoy and who shows the drive to progress.

Giving the right opportunities to the right people to develop and upskill is a great way for companies to develop the talent pool as well as create positivity.

Emotional Intelligence also strongly promotes open communication within the workplace – this will help with the diffusing of challenging scenarios as well as help develop better conflict resolution.

I don’t believe leaders are born – By doing some of the above, you can gain recognition as someone who is an inspirational leader and sets the example.

Emotional Intelligence, 10th Edition


7) Focus on Change Management


Almost all top businesses have a global reach all over the world, covering every continent. Change management and crisis management is the new norm – you may be based in the UK but if your supplier is based in a country that is prone to natural disasters, you need to have crisis management in place to deal with these volatile regions.

Lead from the front, be active in preparing and continually keeping abreast of change. You can do this for yourself as well as team members by attending leadership courses.

Top companies consistently upskill employees at all levels, adapting to the dynamic global economy to stay competitive.

[highlight]Recommended Reading[/highlight]The Science of Organizational Change: How Leaders Set Strategy, Change Behavior, and Create an Agile Culture (Leading Change in the Digital Age)

The Science of Organizational Change: How Leaders Set Strategy, Change Behavior, and Create an Agile Culture

8) Problem Solving


By developing and encouraging the spirit of mentorship, coaching and development such as allocating mentors to help you understand your work’s worth as well as show you that you really matter in the organization will keep new recruits motivated to stay on with the potential to progress.

A mentor can help guide on how you can do things better, teach you problem-solving techniques and cover the FAQs you are likely to come across thus enrich and increase the process of learning. This builds relationships between people and speeds up the learning process.

I believe a structured problem solving mindset is a must have skill for supply chain professionals.

[highlight]Recommended Reading[/highlight]Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything
Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything


9) Try to get International Exposure


An international mindset is what will set you apart and make you a top talent– you’ll enrich your understanding by working in various countries which obviously introduces you to different cultures and environments – what companies appreciate particularly well is you having the capability to work cross-geographically.

The Asian continent is a must as it’s the growth engine of the world not only at this present moment but is projected to continue to be for the next 20 years. Having additional experience in Europe or America is a bonus.

Once again, this can be effectively achieved through consultancy as the very natural calls for cross-regional exposure.

10) Networking


Without the capability to building great relationships, networks and connections with clientele, colleagues and stakeholders both internally and externally to your organization, you cannot progress in your career.

With everyone vying to be the best, if are personable and engaging, seeing from the perspective of the rest the every-man, you will give yourself the advantage of being the go-to person. Simply put, it does matter whether or not you are liked – yes, it is subjective and a much as we don’t like it, not everything is objective – the world is not robotic just yet!

Networking and relationship-building skills are crucial, impacting both personal and business realms alike.

One of the easiest way to build network is to join Supply Chain conferences.

11) Learn about Digital Supply Chain


Nowadays we are rapidly heading towards digital transformation. Absolutely everything is, or has the capability of becoming digital. But it is not easy.

What does this mean for Supply Chain?

It means that the current practice of supply chain management incorporates these 8 C’s to Make Your Supply Chain Digital. Leveraging digital tools like predictive analytics optimizes inventory and forecasts demand, while robotics accelerates assembly or picking processes.

All companies sooner or later will be incorporating this. Currently, some are doing so more than others. The trend however, is only going up and soon the continuing trend will only grow in dependency for it.

Digital marketing and branding, corporate presentation are predominantly all taken up by marketing departments which is ironic and overcredited to them as without the supply chain working, you cannot delivery any brand or even the product let alone the marketing department have the content they present – this must change. Credit where credit is due, let’s start taking it!

So there you have it, my top 11 must-have skills to become a top talent within Supply Chain.

Top Skills for Supply Chain Success

So, In a nutshell:

  1. Internal or external Consultancy helps with solving problems in different scenarios
  2. Networking, particularly International exposure – supply chain is all about long lead time and suppliers in South East Asia.
  3. Sound Soft Skills – Communication, Presentation, Radical Simplicity – need to improve, remember, keep it simple and short.
  4. Management Skills – Constant Learning & Sound Understanding, Emotional Intelligence, Change Management and Problem Solving – a key to developing yourself as well as your team.
  5. Digital – build a supply chain that is cognitive, collaborative and has to be connected. At the moment there is a huge gap to have and apply this knowledge- IOT and big data currently are only buzz words within the supply chain community without the understanding of digital data – fill this gap and get ahead of the game.

Supply Chain take technical skills for granted, i.e. have sound knowledge of materials, planning housing functions, S&OP etc. – that’s essential and all supply chain professionals know this which is great. But without soft skills and networking you will often find, the people who make the final decision will often overlook you and choose the person / team that can be the ‘face’ of the organisation.

I hope this blog has given you the structure to get you on the road to becoming a Top Talent If you have any more further comments, please leave below.

About the Author- Dr Muddassir Ahmed

Dr MuddassirAhmed is the Founder & CEO of SCMDOJO. He is a global speakervlogger and supply chain industry expert with 17 years of experience in the Manufacturing Industry in the UK, Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia in various Supply Chain leadership roles.  Dr. Muddassir has received a PhD in Management Science from Lancaster University Management School. Muddassir is a Six Sigma black belt and founded the leading supply chain platform SCMDOJO to enable supply chain professionals and teams to thrive by providing best-in-class knowledge content, tools and access to experts.

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