While businesses across sectors continue to wrestle with the challenges of these tightened supply chains, maintaining and strengthening operations — particularly retaining talented and knowledgeable employees — has emerged as a key focus. But it’s not just a question of having the right talent and capabilities. Leading companies are also evaluating whether they have the right technology to back that up.
In our PwC Digital Trends in Supply Chain Survey 2022, we polled 244 global operations and information technology leaders, including supply chain professionals, CHROs and other C-suite executives, to gauge the current state of supply chain infrastructure and workforce, as well as their strategic challenges, opportunities and plans for the future. Businesses surveyed covered both publicly traded and private companies in sectors such as aerospace, automotive, chemicals and other manufacturing and industrial products; consumer markets and retail; energy, utilities and mining; pharmaceuticals and life sciences; and technology, media and telecommunications.
Across industries, most companies reported being satisfied with the talent in their supply chain operations and their investments in digital skills. However, similar to other parts of the workforce, supply chains have still seen increased employee turnover. That aligns with the results of our recent PwC Pulse Survey, in which 44% of chief operating officers and other operations leaders told us worker shortages and employee turnover would be one of their biggest operations challenges in 2022. To capitalize on talent investments, businesses must prioritize retaining and expanding a digitally capable workforce.
Fewer than two-thirds of respondents told us their supply chain teams currently have the necessary digital skills to meet future goals. Just 23% completely agreed that they did.
While that represents a healthy majority of business leaders feeling comfortable with their supply chain talent, the overall trend continues to be one of deeper investments in digital skills. As the workforce changes due to the digitization of the supply chain, more than a third (34%) of those surveyed anticipate the need for minor to moderate employee training and upskilling. Moreover, fully half anticipate a need for “significant” digital upskilling in the near future.
Amid rising costs and heightened turnover, only one in five leaders list digital upskilling of their employees as a top-three priority in the coming year. This may prove short sighted. One in four of those same leaders say their employees currently lack adequate digital training. 30% are concerned with the difficulty of getting existing employees and teams to work together differently in an all-digital space. And another 23% expressed great concern over attracting, training and retaining the “digital native” talent they view as essential to future supply chain transformation.
More than half of these business leaders say they're seeing higher than normal supply chain employee turnover, while less than a fifth are experiencing lower than average rates. As a result, a full 41% of respondents anticipate needing to add more employees than they have now.
68% of COOs say hiring and retaining talent will be very important for their company’s growth in 2022.
Business leaders are upskilling and upgrading not just their workforce to meet immediate demands but their infrastructure as well. While large-scale transformative initiatives have been more likely to distinguish a company from its competition, 80% of respondents say they have not yet fully realized their technology investments.
Many existing legacy systems are simply not capable of providing the visibility and agility companies require to deal with the new realities of supply chain operations. More than two-thirds (67%) of companies across supply chain functions plan to review, upgrade or replace existing technological infrastructure within the next 12 months and less than a third don’t plan to do any of the above. Anticipating changes or upgrades to existing systems varied between three and four times more popular than full-scale replacements.
Knowing that existing systems may soon go unsupported or be otherwise unable to deal with increasingly complex issues — like those already being handled by AI-driven platforms and cloud solutions — 21% to 23% of industry leaders across all sectors already plan to review current infrastructure and evaluate their options. A successful digital transformation (both ROI and acceptance) is not an easy transition and requires planning and the right partner.
Successful companies foster a culture of change and collaboration, switching focus from function-centric activities to tech-enabled, agile, outcome-focused planning. Here are a few tips that can help you more comfortably grow both workforce and infrastructure simultaneously.
Think ahead. Map existing roles against future states. You may also want to orient all open positions to require some level of digital experience.
Deeply engage senior managers to get them comfortable with digital language and tools like the use of visualization-based performance metrics.
Try hosting listening sessions with staff to uncover specific pain points that can be resolved through better data presentation or analytic insights.
Consider employing outside low-code experts or “digital ambassadors” to kickstart change.
Make it a group effort. Think about implementing all-staff internal marketing campaigns, kickoff celebrations and deployment milestones for new digital tools.
As external and internal influences continue to reshape how we build and maintain our supply chains, it’s clear that over-reliance on old ways of doing business must give way to more innovative, collaborative efforts. Click here to learn more about how PwC is driving business transformation.
The PwC Digital Trends in Supply Chain Survey 2022, fielded November 2021 to January 2022, surveyed 244 operations and information technology leaders, C-suite executives and other supply chain officers from companies in select supply chain-intensive sectors to assess how they are addressing supply chain management operating models, including the use of enterprise and emerging technologies. Sectors surveyed include aerospace, automotive, chemicals, and other manufacturing and industrial products; consumer markets and retail; energy, utilities and mining; pharmaceuticals and life sciences; and technology, media and telecommunications.
Sourcing & Procurement Leader, PwC US
Brian Matthew Houck
Connected Supply Chain Leader, PwC US
Principal, Pharma Life Sciences Supply Chain, PwC US