The adoption of flexible working has increased over the last few years as technological advancements make it easier to work from anywhere at any time. This has left many companies facing the question of whether to embrace flexible working on a permanent basis. Can the future be flexible in the supply chain industry, and do companies need to offer it to attract and retain the best talent?
We spoke to some of the talent experts at DSJ Global to find out how industry leaders are balancing the growing need to remain competitive in the hiring landscape with their business requirements and objectives.
The supply chain industry has traditionally been reliant on on-site work, so flexible working in the supply chain industry presents its own unique set of challenges and opportunities. Matt Wood, Executive Director Europe at DSJ Global confirms:
“We have to remember that the nature of the roles we recruit in supply chain sometimes means that people must be in the office. You can’t run a production site from your home office; you need to be on-site. The same goes for roles working in quality control, manufacturing processes and health & safety.”
How many supply chain companies offer flexible working?
As part of DSJ Global’s report, ‘The Impact of Flexible Working’, we surveyed top business leaders in the supply chain industry to find out how their company has been impacted by the rise of flexible working. 63% of clients said they currently offer flexible working, 20% offer fully remote roles, and the remaining 17% do not offer any flexible working options.
We asked Emily Cook, Senior Vice President – Head of Procurement Search at DSJ Global, if the results were in line with her experiences finding top talent for leading supply chain firms:
“This isn’t surprising - more companies are decreasing fully remote positions, and we are also seeing more companies offering flexibility on a case-by-case situation. However, bear in mind that some candidates have declined offers based on flexibility not being offered formally in their contract, as they are worried the terms could change or be taken away at any minute.”
Matt provides insights from a client perspective:
“A key requirement when hiring for supply chain roles is the ability to build relationships and trust with your key stakeholders quickly. Most of our clients need candidates who can be in front of their stakeholders and accessible to them throughout these processes so even for positions that can be carried out fully remotely, such as procurement, I rarely see companies offering 100% remote positions.”
Flexible working – the positives
One of the biggest advantages of flexible working in the supply chain industry is increased productivity and loyalty. By allowing employees to work from home or alternative hours, companies can help their staff to achieve a better work-life balance and feel more in control of their lives, which in turn can lead to higher levels of motivation and engagement.
Flexible working can also help companies to attract and retain top talent in today’s competitive job market, with many professionals looking for companies that offer flexible working arrangements.
Out of the 17% of businesses DSJ Global surveyed that don’t offer any flexibility, 38% plan to introduce it for these reasons. Emily states: “Candidates are asking about flexibility as much as they ask about compensation; it is an increasing priority for them. Companies are losing out on new talent and their own existing talent due to not giving flexibility on working hours or working from home, so we are seeing more and more companies increase their flexibility offering.”
Flexible working – the challenges
One of the biggest challenges of flexible working in the supply chain industry is maintaining effective communication and collaboration between team members. When employees are working remotely or outside of traditional hours, it can be difficult to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. This can lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines, and other communication-related issues, all having an impact on company culture.
DSJ Global’s survey found an equal split with 37% each experiencing a positive or negative impact on company culture due to flexible working, with the remaining 26% unchanged. Emily advises:
“Having a team and company culture that is supportive, collaborative, and approachable is what people are often looking for when changing roles. Some managers believe this is better formed when the team is together on site, but companies need to adapt and learn new ways of maintaining a positive company culture while navigating flexibility for the team. This could come from structure or innovative methods of team collaboration.”
Can flexible working improve hiring and retention challenges?
The biggest hiring challenge according to DSJ Global’s clients is a shortage of qualified candidates (37%), followed by increasing competition for top talent (20%). 10% find it is a struggle to retain talent. Emily offers her experience with how businesses can improve their hiring and retention based on candidate attitudes towards flexible working:
“The current market is very candidate driven. During COVID, professionals were worried about changing roles while there was instability in the market, but in 2021-22 we saw an influx of candidates feeling more secure in taking the risk. In the last 6-12 months, with talks of the recession, the risk has gone back up for candidates and so they are less are likely to move.
“However, there is a shortage of qualified candidates on the market and a lot of the candidates we are supporting are also in two or three other processes, so companies must be competitive with speed of their interview process, salaries and additional benefits. We are also seeing more counteroffers to compete with retaining talent, including more flexible hours and increasing responsibility. It’s due to this competition that salaries are increasing, which is why more companies are struggling to retain talent.”
Final considerations for businesses considering flexible working
Remote and hybrid options play a central role in both hiring decisions and company culture. The number of days people are expected to be in the office affects the success of a company's hiring strategy and helps retain existing talent, as 67% of survey respondents agree. However, for 16% of supply chain leaders, it comes at the expense of productivity, and in 37% of cases it has a negative impact on office culture. We asked Emily for her key takeaways for clients asking whether to offer flexible working:
“I would advise that if supply chain businesses want to attract and retain the best talent, they need to offer some sort of flexibility and at-home working, but they need a clear structure to ensure it doesn’t affect the company culture.”
Matt offers another word of warning for European organisations offering remote working on a global scale:
“It’s clear that hybrid and flexible working is the norm now but at management and senior management level roles, often responsible for global teams and multiple sites, there has been a requirement to manage a complicated schedule around global colleagues and stakeholders for a long time. Don’t under-estimate the impact that “cross-border” remote working has on this dynamic – it isn’t as simple as being employed by a UK company in a 100% remote role and doing so from the beach in Spain – there are tax implications as well as eligibilities when working in other locations.”
The future of flexible working in the supply chain industry is explored further in DSJ Global’s report, ‘The Impact of Flexible Working’, where we surveyed business leaders to provide you with insights on how productivity and company culture has been impacted by the increasing prevalence of flexible working, the benefits and challenges it has brought to business leaders, and how companies plan to use flexible working to attract and retain top talent.
Click here to download ‘The Impact of Flexible Working’ report.
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