Supply chain managers face the ‘Great Resignation’

Supply chain managers face the 'Great Resignation'

Should I stay or should I go? Supply chain managers face the ‘Great Resignation’

Supply chain managers are not immune to workplace trends. Quite the contrary: mass resignations are now both an internal and external risk for companies.

“Should I stay or should I go?”

I find myself humming the ’80s hit from The Clash when thinking about the rapid employee turnover in the workplace. Turnover is so commonplace, many have called the trend “The Great Resignation.”

While some of the factors affecting turnover are pandemic related, many are a buildup of long-term frustrations:

  • Under-staffing and 24/7 expectations
  • Lack of employer loyalty
  • Dead-end career pathways
  • Low pay and eroding benefits
  • Lack of work-life harmony

All of these factors have been exacerbated with COVID-19, sparking a growing pushback against arcane management philosophies and policies. And it has shifted the calculus for many supply chain professionals.

A transforming workplace

The pandemic was the catalyst that set the wheels in motion for a redefined workplace. Now, flexibility is key, career choices are in flux and organizational power seems to be quickly shifting to the employee.

Do we want to be home when our kids get off the school bus, or on airplanes chasing parts around the globe? In my neighborhood, moms and dads wave goodbye to their kids each school day. And based on my front porch conversations, that won’t end once the pandemic does.

Let’s acknowledge that not every employee has the luxury of working from home or making quick alternative career choices. There are many workplaces — factories, medical centers, hotels, restaurants and classrooms come to mind — that require employees to be on site and filling traditional roles.

And there are many supply chain professionals who have returned to their pre-pandemic desks and attempted to return to business as usual. But it’s not business as usual.

The Great Resignation is creating risk

Mass resignations, labor gaps and the brain drain will have a devastating impact on your own company and throughout your supply chain.

This ongoing workplace transformation should worry procurement and operations managers, and rise to the top of supply chain risk profiles. Just think what would happen if a key technician, engineer or sales manager at a critical path supplier was to pack up their desk and leave to start a coffee shop?

At the end of the day does our profession hold the same allure, advancement and professional challenge that it once did?

While that risk was always there, today it is a more regular occurrence.

The supply chain is tied up in knots. Demand is outstripping supply. The ports are in gridlock. The search is on for truckers. Inflation is on the rise and job openings continue to grow. Yet, the economy is strong.

While supply chain managers are quite adept at exercising workarounds to solve complex supply chain problems, these larger issues are really out of our immediate control and have us rethinking our own futures.

Is the allure of supply chain jobs shifting?

For some, “should I stay or should I go” is top of mind.

I recently overhead a conversation in the local grocery store where two people were chuckling over the changes they were going through. “I used to live to work … now I work to live,” said the woman in the produce aisle. “I’ve a much better relationship with my own family and not my work family.”

What is work? Where do we do it? And how does it fit into our lives? The devastating pandemic has impacted us all and forced us to come to terms with the ever-present issue of work-life balance. And it seems that life has won. The climb up the corporate ladder has ended for many — often at their own choice.

Sure, it may be a bit tougher to track down the engineer down the hall while working remotely. But I don’t hear too many complaints about missing perfunctory visits from suppliers. Simple video conferencing has even strengthened supplier relationships through face-to-screen communication and live video plant tours. Beats the middle seat on a crowded 737.

At the end of the day, does our profession hold the same allure, advancement and professional challenge that it once did? It’s a question millions are asking themselves, as they consider whether to stay or go.

Source:, Column by Rich Weissman, 15/12/2021