Mind the gap—MAY 2012 PRINT EDITION

Short-term employment benefits new workers and veterans alike

June 12, 2012
by By Tim Moore

It’s clear a shortage of skilled professionals looms in procurement and supply chain as experienced staff retire and the demand to fill their roles increases. Companies will want to stop the loss of experienced employees, retain knowledge and skills and infuse new vitality with programs attracting younger candidates. Employers need targeted recruitment to find passive (employed and not looking) yet qualified workers with the skills and experience they so desperately need.

Experienced, knowledgeable workers have been decimated by downsizing, reorganizing, layoffs and early retirement packages. The need for experienced workers will create opportunities for retirees looking for short- or mid-term contract work. There will also be a strategic advantage for firms that aggressively create, develop, and offer semi-retirement options to experienced employees approaching full retirement. Similarly, the deployment and role of contractors—currently used to provide temporary or seasonal help will become a way to fill the skills void as experienced employees retire and the knowledge gap widens. Seasoned and skilled practitioners will return to fill that gap.

Unemployment rampant
The recession, downsizing and reorganization have meant terminating employees on a massive scale. For a period, unemployment was rampant, hiring freezes the norm and more short-term and contract work was available than permanent, full-time employment. Many contractors saw such work as an opportunity to kick employers’ tires and expand their knowledge by trying jobs in diverse industry sectors.

For the most part, this strategy worked. It also allowed procurement and supply practitioners to experience all levels of the job market. If a contractor liked what they saw and experienced, they would complete their contract and then apply for a full-time, permanent role. The employer was now a known commodity. If the contractor didn’t like what they saw or how they were treated, no harm done. They got paid and were off to their next assignment.

Not a bad strategy. But doing so made it more important for the contractor or “consultant” to identify their direction and purpose on their resume. Without it, a lot of short-term assignments and turnover of employers appears to be simply job-hopping. Rather, indicate why you left your last full-time, permanent role. Do this immediately after your title or beneath your “from” and “to” employment dates on your resume. It softens the changes and explains why you were or are unemployed. “Downsized”, “job transferred to the US”, “division re-organization” or “returned to university” are all legitimate reasons. It’s surprising how many people omit this, assuming employers will understand or ask about an employment gap.
When accepting and completing a contract, update your resume, stating “short-term contract role” or “three-month temporary assignment” after your job duties and term of employment. Mention in your resume or cover letter that you accept part-time, short-term work to expand your perspective and become more knowledgeable.

Retention will become an issue, and companies will let employees work in other supply chain departments or temporarily swap places with colleagues in other divisions or countries. Firms have long provided job rotation for higher-level executives to show them how different departments operate. But they’re discovering short- to medium-term moves for rank-and-file employees help sharpen skills, keep them motivated and identify new roles. This also helps address a challenge: how to foster collaboration across specialties and regions.

Promoting procurement
Innovative solutions to attract new students and practitioners are also needed, especially in purchasing. More promotion—starting at much earlier levels, like high school—is essential. Contract work, internships and short-term employment may become viable for students, younger workers and newcomers. Procurement and supply chain professionals will seek employers with programs to attract and complement the need for training, mentorship and definitive career paths. Their needs are different from senior practitioners or retirees.
Whether for a new worker or a seasoned veteran, contract work provides benefits. To a lesser degree, it may even answer the looming shortage of skilled procurement and supply chain professionals.

Tim Moore is president of Tim Moore Associates, a recruitment firm focusing on professionally trained supply chain professionals. Reach him at