Procurement and supply chain

Attraction challenges in sales and operations planning recruitment


The rise in prominence of supply chain as a core business function also sees a higher demand for professionals to manage more commercial objectives and deliverables.

In recent years, supply chain has increasingly been recognised as an essential element in the creation of successful organisational processes and customer delivery, rather than an analytical and operational support function.
Sophisticated supply chains now include a focus on sales and operations planning (S&OP), whereby the overall level of manufacturing is set to meet sales forecasts while also meeting general organisational objectives of productivity and profitability. This is achieved by ensuring full stakeholder involvement across all areas of the business including sales, finance, marketing, production etc.

The rise of S&OP

Sales and operations planning has only been a common recruitment requirement in the last 5-7 years.  As supply chain has increased in organisational importance, there’s been a shift in the skill set required to achieve the strategic objectives required.
Organisations, particularly in the FMCG and retail sectors, now look for more than the analytical skills of demand planners to ensure optimum supply chain functionality. When hiring, most aim to recruit all-round professionals who encompass demand planning within their skill set, but also have a proven commercial track record and can interact with internal stakeholders and external customers.

S&OP skills in demand

There’s a gap in the number of professionals who have this dual skill set. Most have the analytical demand planning experience, but there is also more of a drive for candidates to have the commercial facet to their capabilities. Think of people’s natural behaviours, it’s unusual to be proficient at both At a macroeconomic level, the shortage of qualified and skilled candidates in the S&OP space can also be attributed back to a lack of awareness at a tertiary education level. We see more candidates that originally chose finance or marketing as a career choice, but the percentage actively choosing to study and enter the supply chain function is far fewer. Many people fall into this field rather than actively training for it.
Consequently organisations can struggle to make the right hires, and salaries are pushed up as the roles demand a track record that many candidates don’t possess. 

Addressing the S&OP skills gap

As the demand for candidates with sales and operations planning far outstrips the supply, there are two key areas to examine to ensure that organisations are appealing to, and retaining the best talent.
  • Attraction – Examine the widest possible segment of the market for potential candidates. Ensure a multifaceted approach is adopted by utilising all advertising channels, networking and active approaches to passive candidates.
  • Assessment – Hiring managers should take the time to fully examine a candidate’s whole skill set. The lack of developed S&OP skills in the market necessitates developing demand planners into the role, but it’s key to evaluate their potential before proceeding to hire. Stakeholder engagement ability and a commercial awareness are essential for success in the role, so test and evaluate these criteria at interview and in assessment centres.
Talent in the sales and operations planning space is tight, so it is advisable that clients are open to looking at different sectors or even industries in order to secure candidates that can implement an S&OP process in their business.

Looking forward

In the medium to long-term, the skills gap could be addressed at an educational level. A career within the supply chain function of an organisation should be actively promoted at undergraduate, postgraduate and training level and more exposure should be given to supply chain professionals with on-the-job training.
 In the short-term, engage with a specialist recruitment partner to ensure access to the best S&OP jobs or talent in the market.
To find out how Michael Page Procurement & Supply Chain can make a difference to your career or hiring process, please get in touch with your local team.
Graham Lucas
T:  +44 161 829 0385