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  • Talent Supply Chain
    Optimizing Talent Supply Chains: Stop the Leakage

    This post originally appeared on: Us Chamber of Commerce and re-posted on Forbes

    Increasingly human resource professionals are applying supply chain theory to the growing misalignment of talent available to meet 21st century workforce needs. There are a number of drivers at the root cause of this trend, one notable driver being the technological evolution that has dramatically changed the skillset required for workforce demand.

    To meet growing demand, organizations must take a strategic approach to increase both the quality and quantity of talent supply. The U.S. Chamber Foundation is providing employers and key stakeholders with the thought leadership, tools, and resources to improve the talent acquisition process—their Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative provides a strong foundation and step-by-step orientation for companies adopting this approach.


    What is leakage?

    As with any supply chain, partnership is crucial. One of the largest challenges in developing a successful supply chain is “leakage.” Leakage refers to any systemic event or activity that significantly reduces the final product available in a supply chain.

    Now, before we provide an analogy that compares a talent supply chain to a supply chain in the manufacturing industry, we have to acknowledge that a talent supply chain approach is a way of thinking so the comparison isn't quite literal. The Chamber Foundation says it well when they say that it "is an orientation toward education and workforce partnerships in which employers are much more than advisors or beneficiaries. Instead, they are end-customers of talent supply chains. This does not mean employers are the only customers that matter, nor does it mean schools are factories or learners are widgets. What TPM provides is a systematic framework for how employers can engage effectively in producing information, facilitating partnerships, managing performance, and improving outcomes in career pathways."

    So as we compare manufacturing firms leakage issues such as spoilage, theft, and poor quality—each of these concerns reducing throughput and increasing the overall cost to the organization—we want to be thoughtful when considering the analogous examples for talent supply chains. Where is talent falling out of the pipeline, increasing costs, and diminishing throughput? 

    Let’s explore the concept of leakage and the challenges it presents to employers in the context of cybersecurity opportunities in the D.C. Metropolitan area. 

    Globally, it is estimated that by the year 2021 there will be more than 3.5 million unfilled jobs with sizeable demand expected due to a growing focus on cybersecurity by the federal government and the private sector alike. To keep the analysis simple, let’s define a representative set of suppliers that includes the University of Maryland’s (UMD’s) computer science program and the local high schools in the surrounding area.  


    The employer’s goal is to increase the quality and quantity of talent produced by this simulated talent supply chain—to get more students through this network that have the skills required to fill available and forecasted cybersecurity positions. 

    To reach this goal, employers must ensure that UMD can meet forecasted demand and that the “raw material” provided to them by the K–12 partners meets quality expectations or stated differently, that the value created by the K–12 providers is sufficient for the entry criteria for UMD’s computer science program. 

    There should be clarity about the amount of output the K–12 system must produce to ensure adequate input into UMD’s computer science program. This target for the K–12 partner should be established based on empirical data on UMD’s ability to cultivate the talent though the computer science program.  

    How many students matriculate and complete the program? Let’s assume 65%. How many students transfer to other majors? Let’s assume 25%. By establishing thresholds based on these statistics you can now manage the suppliers to a baseline performance expectation incorporating expected leakage. 

    If we look at manufacturing supply chains, the level of integration and the sharing of data between partners is completely integrated from the very first step in the process to the very end. Each partner in the chain knows where the inventory is at each stage of development and can identify variances to expectations. Results are not happenstance but predictable with indicators that provide an ongoing mechanism to assess the overall performance of the system at any point in time. 

    This level of integration is the goal of talent supply chain initiatives like TPM. As we seek to optimize talent supply chains, it is critical to communicate the forecasted demand to all partners in the chain and gain their buy-in on their ability to deliver the requested results. When these expectations are not met you know you have leakage in the system and you must collaborate with your partners to identify how to plug the holes to maximize success for all involved.

  • Busing Programs
    Busing Programs...Are They Worth The Trip?

    In 1979, I was chosen to participate in Project Concern, one of many desegregation social experiments implemented during the sweeping idealism of the 1960s. Based in Connecticut, Project Concern was a program that bused minority students living in impoverished inner cities to wealthy communities in the suburbs. From the third to the 12th grade of my education, I was bused nearly 25 miles from the city of Bridgeport, CT to what seemed like a completely different world–the affluent town of Westport, CT. Even today, the disparity between Bridgeport and Westport remains the same; by 1991 Bridgeport was listed as 5th in the nation for cities with the highest homicide rate per capita while Westport remains one of the wealthiest communities in the United States. It was my experience in Project Concern that taught me the true meaning of "the other side of the tracks".

    Today, researchers and scholars’ evaluations of Project Concern suggest a number of positive outcomes. Program participants pursue higher education at higher rates, perceive less discrimination, and feel more comfortable in predominately white environments. (Check out the following links for more expected outcomes: “ Finding Niches: Desegregated Students Sixteen Years Later" and "School Desegregation and Black Occupational Attainments: Results from a Long-Term Experiment")

    In many ways, I am a living testament of these positive outcomes. Nearly 20 years after I was bused daily from Bridgeport to Westport, I am an entrepreneur, motivational speaker and graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. I certainly recognize the significant contributions Project Concern played in my ability to achieve key milestones in my life.

    With all the positive outcomes of Project Concern, you would think that I would be a fervent endorser of the program. Ironically, this is not the case. When asked whether programs like Project Concern should be replicated in urban cities across the country, my answer is always a hesitant "I’m not so sure?" Why? Simply put, with the benefits come the tradeoffs…and the unresolved question in my mind is always, "was it worth the trip?"

    In the example of Project Concern, the city of Bridgeport funded the buses to transport inner-city children to schools in Westport but did not monetarily contribute to the Westport school system. Despite the busing program, Westport schools remained financed solely by the taxpayers of Westport. Needless to say, Westport parents expressed a little more than frustration over having to spend their tax dollars to have their children socialize with inner-city kids. Let’s just say that they had strong views on the subject.

    Besides backlash from the "receiving" communities of busing programs, programs such as Project Concern have other problems as well:

    • Logistics: Imagine yourself as an 8 year old Project Concern kid catching the bus to go to school in Westport, CT. You arrive at the bus stop a little after 6 a.m. to catch the 6:15 school bus. Once on board, your bus then takes approximately 60 minutes to pick up the other Project Concern kids. At 7:15 a.m. you begin the 25-mile journey to Westport, which takes approximately 40 to 45 minutes in rush hour traffic. At 3:00 p.m., the process is reversed and you arrive back at the original bus stop around 4:30 p.m. (traffic’s a little bit better in the afternoon). Oh, and don’t ask what happens if you miss the bus because you arrived at the bus stop at 6:20 a.m.
    • Participation in extracurricular activities: Since there was no funding for a "late" bus to provide transportation back to Bridgeport, participating in extracurricular activities was nearly impossible for Project Concern kids. Limited extracurricular opportunities and lack of time to socialize with fellow classmates amplified the differences between Project Concern kids and the kids resident to Westport.
    • Lack of strong advisors: The presence of mentors or counselors to help Project Concern kids and Westport resident students deal with cultural differences was nearly nonexistent. While coordinators were available periodically, I personally do not recall a strong support structure to deal with adjustment issues. Survival skills were acquired over time, and the experience was more difficult for some than others.
    • Alienation from home community: Arriving home at 4:30 pm (best case scenario) didn’t facilitate the bond between the Project Concern kids and the Bridgeport community. There was always a sense of being between two communities but belonging to neither.
    • Being a desegregation pioneer: Very difficult stuff. Given.

    Regardless of these tradeoffs, my experience with Project Concern has shaped who I am. "Crossing the tracks" on a daily basis for 10 years provided me with a broad comfort zone socially, lead to excellent educational opportunities, and allowed me to navigate within different racial and socioeconomic worlds with ease—an invaluable skill that I am glad to possess.

    So the question I pose to this community is what’s your opinion of busing programs? Do the long-term outcomes of busing and similar social experiments outweigh the short-term sacrifices? Are busing programs really worth the trip? 

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