Why supply chain professionals still need 'soft skills' in the technology era

"Soft skills" such as communication and teamwork are crucial proficiencies for a supply chain leader to hold. However, these skills are often overlooked amid today's technology-driven industry, according to Yossi Sheffi, PhD, Elisha Gray II professor of engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics.

Advancements in predictive analytics, the "internet of things" and blockchain drive a greater need for supply chain professionals to have strong technical skills. "In the rush to keep up with these technological demands, we may be leaving behind attention to the 'soft' skills such as communications, leadership and teamwork that are critical to managing organizations and turning corporate strategies into reality," Dr. Sheffi wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal.

Before implementing a new corporate strategy, supply chain leaders must have the soft skills to communicate these changes to the entire organization. "They must be able to help workers across different regions and in various positions understand how new strategies will be implemented and how those employees will fill unfamiliar roles," Dr. Sheffi said.

He believes most supply chain programs today do not offer an adequate amount of education in nontechnical skills to prepare students for the real world. Institutions may need to reorganize their programs to ensure students learn both technical and soft skills.

"Innovative technology is reshaping many industries, and the changes technology brings to supply-chain management will be felt across the business world," Dr. Sheffi said. "The companies that succeed will be those that best put that innovation to work, and they'll need both technical prowess and deep understanding of human factors to do that."

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