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Why are soft skills so important within supply chain management?

Written by: CIPS Procurement & Supply Jobs
Published on: 29 Oct 2019

Soft skills are important in any profession. However, it seems that soft skills are being taken more seriously within supply chain management as the role itself adapts to changing business trends.

Image of colleagues problem solving

We explore what soft skills are required to work in the supply chain profession and why they are so important.

What soft skills are required to work in a supply chain management role?

In a 2019 study by Dr Ozlem Bak, Christine Jordan and James Midgley, it was discovered that there are 15 soft skills that are in demand within the supply chain management profession. Those skills are problem solving, planning skills, flexibility, organisational skills, communication skills, time management, motivation and enthusiasm, stress management, initiative, people management, collaborative learning, teamwork, leadership skills, management of complexity and change and negotiation.

From the survey and expert insight, it was determined that behavioural skills such as communication, planning, initiative and negotiation were of utmost importance. This is not to say that hard skills were disregarded, but that these particular soft skills are held in high esteem in the profession.

Flexibility and creativity have also been identified as important soft skills for supply chain management professionals to possess enabling them to think in a more innovative, imaginative way and manoeuvre around problems to find a solution. 

Lastly, collaboration and effective communication have been recognised as the top competencies required for successful procurement teams, highlighting how the role has developed into a much more people-focused job. 

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Why are these soft skills so important for the profession?

These soft skills do not outweigh the importance of formal and technical knowledge (hard skills) required by the profession, but should sit in balance in order for procurement teams to be successful in an ever changing world.

Globalisation of the supply chain has prompted a shift towards the need for soft skills as being able to communicate and negotiate effectively is paramount to transcend cultural differences and language barriers, wherever they may occur. Furthermore, it has been reported that many supply chain professionals now spend the majority of their time interacting with other people, hence why good communication and collaboration skills are required.

Advancements in technology has allowed for some procurement processes to be automated whilst also offering additional tools to professionals, such as analytics. Therefore, individuals have had to take on a more analytical, problem-solving role to give greater insight to the business. Hence another reason why the role has become more people-focused. 

And it’s not just about the technology that currently exists. With disruptive technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and blockchain likely to alter supply chains in the coming years, having the soft skills to manage such change will be an important asset for procurement professionals.

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How can you improve your soft skills?

Unlike hard skills, it isn’t always as easy to learn soft skills. But thankfully there are a lot of things that you can do to work on them and develop over time. Just a simple search online brings up a multitude of courses aimed at improving soft skills across all disciplines. 

But for more supply chain management related soft skills training, head to the CIPS website where you can find information on qualifications, e-learning and short courses that can help you develop your soft skills. Plus, the Knowledge area has lots of useful content that can help direct you in your learning.

If you’re considering a new job in the profession, take a look at the current vacancies available on CIPS Procurement & Supply Jobs.