How to attract the best Sales and Operations Planning (SOP) talent

Supply chain management is increasingly being recognised as an essential part of successful organisational processes and customer delivery, rather than just an analytical and operational support function.

Sophisticated supply chains now include a focus on sales and operations planning (SOP), where the objective is for manufacturing to meet sales forecasts, as well as general organisational objectives of productivity and profitability.

This can only be achieved when all areas of the business work together.

The rise of sales and operations planning recruitment

As recently as 5-7 years ago, SOP wasn’t a high demand sector in supply chain recruitment. Now, with optimisation of the supply chain becoming more important to business performance, and technology advancing rapidly, we are finding far more demand for specialist supply chain professionals with solid soft skills as well.

However, there is a well-reported supply chain talent gap, with a 2015 Deloitte report finding that only 38% of executives were extremely or confident or very confident that their organisation had the supply chain capabilities that it needed today – although 44% were confident that they would manage to attain that capability in the future.

Supply chain commentators have attributed the shortage of qualified and skilled candidates in the SOP market to, among other factors, the evolution of technology, the impending retirement of the baby boomer generation, and the increased demand for supply chain professionals. The industry has also recognised that the supply chain jobs of today may be different in several years’ time, meaning that there is greater demand for soft skills such as business partnering and analysis, and the ability to learn new technologies and to adapt to changing environments.

For instance, FMCG and retail sectors are specifically looking for talent who have the analytical skills of demand planners to ensure supply chain efficiency, a proven commercial track record in supply chain management, and the ability to interact with internal stakeholders and external customers – a difficult spread of skills to find in just one person.

The consequences? Organisations are struggling to make the right hires, and supply chain salaries are increasing as the roles demand a track record that many candidates simply don’t have. 

Addressing the sales and operations planning skills gap

As the demand for candidates with sales and operations planning far outstrips the supply, organisations can focus on two key areas to attract the best talent in SOP recruitment:

  • Attraction – Examine the widest possible segment of the market for potential candidates and design an employee value proposition that will attract the kinds of supply chain professionals you want – that is, people who have a facility with technology, and who are ready to adapt and thrive under changing circumstances.
  • Assessment – Hiring managers should take the time to fully examine a candidate’s whole skillset. Importantly, a candidate’s skills in stakeholder engagement and commercial awareness are paramount to the SOP industry.

With talent in the SOP space so sought after, SOP recruitment specialists suggest employers could open their minds to candidates from different sectors and industries, rather than relying on conventional candidates with industry experience who may command the highest pay rates.

Are you looking to hire supply chain specialist? Contact one of our specialist supply chain recruitment consultants today.


With organisations globally facing a lack of qualified supply chain talent, they’re looking for:

• Expertise in the fast-changing technology market

• Strong business partnering skills

• The ability to adapt and thrive in a changing market

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