The current landscape in the supply chain industry when it comes to talent & what to expect in 2022


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

As UST’s Practice Leader for Supply Chain and Product Platform, I lead the development and delivery of UST’s global supply chain products and services. Within my role, my first priority is creating an environment where UST’s Supply Chain Practice can thrive. To this end, I need to build trust within the organization by bringing value to our customers, outside of the organization. The individuals in the Supply Chain Practice must bring outstanding problem solving, a collaborative demeanour and a margin of knowledge beyond that which is available. Second, I want to identify specific ways that I can contribute to UST’s continued development as a global leader in enterprise technology.

I have had the opportunity to work in the supply chain domain for over 20 years. My first job after business school was with Accenture in its Supply Chain Strategy Practice. Accenture had a profound impact on my development. We grew a small team of smart problem solvers into a world-class supply chain consulting firm. I continued my consulting career at McKinsey & Co. where I worked with outstanding people solving complex supply chain problems. In addition to management consulting, I have worked in the software business, most recently serving as Chief Marketing Officer at Manhattan Associates, the market leader in supply chain applications technology.

2. What is the current landscape in supply chain when it comes to talent? Is it more prevalent in certain countries? What is causing the all-time high supply chain shortage for talent?

The market for talent is extremely tight. There are several factors driving the increased demand:

a. Skill sets have changed – today’s supply chain professional must be digitally native. Technology plays such an important role in managing efficient supply chains that every professional must meet a minimal level of technical competence.

 b. The Amazon effect – omnichannel commerce has transformed the world’s expectations from commerce and fulfilment. Every business, not just retailers, is reconsidering how it structures and operates it supply chain – this is putting greater stress on the talent pool.

c. Career advancement – historically, corporate leaders have been groomed through Finance and Sales, not Operations. Today, Operations managers are experiencing great career options and a fast track to leadership roles.


3. What do you expect to see as 2022 continues?

Unfortunately, it will only get worse. The talent pipeline is not keeping up with demand.


4. Do you think that this shortage will come to an end anytime soon?

No, I think that it will transform. I believe we will see a spike in demand for skilled operations professionals with deep enterprise technology skills over the next five years.


5. What will need to be done to combat the supply chain talent shortages?

Universities and large businesses have a crucial role to play in combatting the shortage. For example, great schools, such as Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, IIT Michigan and INSEAD, have developed world-class academic programs and are incubating outstanding professionals. Leading enterprises, such as The Home Depot, Google, and Amazon are also taking on the responsibility for supply chain talent development.


6. Are organisations turning to automation and robotics to bridge the gap in the meantime?

Automation has never been more important than it is today. In the warehouse, for example, robots are the future of moving goods, from the point of receipt to put away, pick, pack, and ship. In transportation, we are seeing an increase in the number of autonomous delivery methods, including last mile delivery and ocean carriers.


7. Whose responsibility is it to further the talent drive? Is this a top-down approach?

I believe that this is driven by market dynamics. The shortage is driving higher salaries, and improved career advancement – employees see this and are drawn to the opportunity.


8. What are the best strategies for acquiring talent?

Find new talent in non-traditional places – such as IT and Finance. Women are increasingly entering the supply chain management workforce; it is up to senior executives to create an environment that welcomes women to a part of the organization that has been heavily populated with men.


9. When it comes to climbing the ladder in the supply chain industry, what kind of challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?

My greatest challenge has always been keeping up with modern technologies. The advancements are coming so fast, it is difficult to stay current.


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

Go beyond traditional supply chain skills – get good with accounting, finance, and IT. These skills are essential for a well-rounded supply chain manager.


11. What challenges do you see younger generations, what do you see them needing to do to be successful in the supply chain industry?

Structured problem solving remains the greatest need for the next generation. It is not enough to know the latest technologies. New managers must be able to structure complex problems, evaluate the root causes and develop novel approaches to solve them. Success depends on an individual’s level of intellectual curiosity and passion for solving problems.


Jonathan Colehower Bio: 

Practice Leader – Supply Chain

 Product Platform – UST Omni

 Skilled software executive with deep strategy formulation and execution experience, leading large and early-stage companies to deliver business growth and increase shareholder value. Leadership experience in management consulting at McKinsey & Co. and Accenture. Enterprise technology marketing and sales leadership at Oracle Corporation and Manhattan Associates. Full P&L responsibility and extensive international management experience. MBA in marketing and operations from Vanderbilt University.

Previous Experience at

  • CargoChain Inc.
  • Quality Holdings, Inc.
  • Manhattan Associates
  • McKinsey & Co.
  • Optiant, Inc.
  • Oracle Corporation
  • Accenture