The Future of the Supply Chain Workforce with Professor Marianne Wanamaker
Join us as Kevin O’Marah, Co-Founder of Zero100, dives into labour economics with Professor Marianne Wanamaker, Executive Director of the Howard Baker Centre for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee and Colin Gilbert, Head of Research Science at Zero100, to explore how next-generation supply chains will transform ways of working and workforce requirements, creating the need for new skills, roles and responsibilities.
Kevin O’Marah: For today’s episode, we’re going down to Knoxville, Tennessee. I serve on the Global Supply Chain Institute Advisory Board at the University of Tennessee, and it is a thrill for me to kick off this episode by introducing Professor Marianne Wanamaker, the Executive Director of the Howard Baker Centre for Public Policy and Associate Professor of Economics.
We’re diving into labor economics and how people working in our supply chains are navigating economic constraints and increasing automation and AI. Marianne and I are going to zoom in on labor in the American market, and then, later, I’ll bring on Zero100 Head of Research Science, Colin Gilbert, to zoom out and speak to key takeaways for supply chain leaders around the globe.
Welcome, Marianne. It’s great to have you here. Let me just go ahead and ask you a little bit about yourself.
Marianne Wanamaker: So I am an economist by training, and I, in some ways, think I was born to be an economist. I knew growing up that I loved math, didn’t know what I would do with that. I got to college and told everybody I was going to major in math. I found my way into the economics profession, a profession that I love with all of my heart, almost as much as I love my own kids. I’ve been at UT my entire career. I came here in 2009 and have been connected with the supply chain folks at UT that entire time. And then, in 2017, I left UT for a year, went to work in the White House as the Chief Labor Economist, and realized that public policy matters a lot for business success, for the ways that supply chains are operating, and whether they are successful depends on government policy. I believe the role of government is to make individuals and companies successful, that’s their job. I think it’s important to ground students who are interested in public service in the realities of business, what it is that business cares about, and how it is that government can help them be more successful.
Kevin O’Marah: That’s great, and it’s going to be something I want to circle back to, that policy component, but let me pull back to the simplest overall questions. What are the major forces impacting the labor market today as you think about folks who are worried about hiring about their manufacturing footprints?
Marianne Wanamaker: The biggest challenge in the labor market right now, as it has been for the last several years, is labor supply. Not enough workers to meet the demand that employers need for their goods and services.
There are two components to that crisis. One is labor force participation, and we’ve had a labor force participation problem since the participation rate started to decline, which was in the late 90s. The other piece, the more recent piece, and the part that I think still hasn’t been fully recognized, although I’m starting to see better signs about it, is population growth.
So you get a workforce because the population grows and because a certain share of the population is working. So it’s population plus labor force participation rate that gives you the workforce in front of you. The population growth rate is also now a bit of a crisis. We went from, on average, one or so percent growth in population in this country every single year to numbers that now round zero, so something like 0.3-0.4%. It’s just really hard to meet the needs of America’s businesses, where the economy is growing at 2-3% with a labor force that has an underlying population growth of less than 0.5%. Those things don’t add up, and that’s resulting in the labor supply crisis that you’re experiencing.
Kevin O’Marah: How do I think about designing my work in an environment where I may not have much replacement growth in terms of birth rates for domestic workers, but I may have an immigration opportunity? How do I think about that as an employer?
Marianne Wanamaker: I think some of the more interesting conversations I’ve had in the last few years have been with entrepreneurs who have figured out how to use the immigration system to their advantage, to staff their businesses. Now, that is easier in some industries than it is in others. Trucking, famously, is not one of them. Warehousing is not one of them. Agriculture, farming, and hospitality, they all have their own lane in the immigration system. Employers in those industries are far more likely to benefit from those programs and figure out a way to help to staff their organizations. So some of these immigration categories are going to be tied to employers.
Kevin O’Marah: What are the other approaches to tackling labor shortages? I’m curious, how you think about automation as a labor economist?
Marianne Wanamaker: So first, I think we’ve really turned a corner in terms of our public narrative about automation in the last three years.
As late as 2019, people were still reading books like Rise of the Robots, which was all about how robots were going to take their jobs. And it was this fear-based narrative around automation that I really think we are over. We have ChatGPT as this superhuman thing, but more importantly, we need automation to help us resolve our population challenge.
Think about economic growth, the rate of growth of the output of this country. I think we all acknowledge a good GDP growth number is between 2% and 3%. Let’s call it 2.5%. If you want your economy to grow by 2.5% and you don’t have a workforce that is growing by 2.5%, then your workforce has got to get more productive by the tune of whatever the difference is between the growth in the workforce and 2.5%. So, if your population is growing by 0.5%, and that’s how fast your workforce is growing, then you need a 2% productivity increase every single year. Every worker needs to be 2% more productive than they were the year before to reach your GDP growth target. You’re not going to get there by changing things within the workforce or within the workplaces other than automating. Adding robots. That is how a worker gets more productive and gets us to this GDP target. It’s going to save us from what would otherwise be abysmal economic growth numbers.
The other thing that I think the pandemic did is make it really clear to employers who were contemplating automation investments that those investments are more likely to pay off than they thought they were in 2019.
Kevin O’Marah: I can see how that not only changes the equation freestanding, it also changes the equation, potentially, on the rate of improvement in any one of these automation technologies because the more money coming in, the more certainty of the market that’s buying your technology. Do unions have a rational case for resisting automation, or do unions just not get it?
Marianne Wanamaker: Well, I think to the extent that organized labor contracts over the adoption of technology, that tells you that at least in those particular contract situations, they view automation as a substitute, not a compliment. There’s a lot of evidence that the most likely skillset to be replaced by automation is a blue-collar skillset, so to speak. So lower levels of formal education, a more mechanical skillset, right? So more about using your hands. That’s the sort of thing that automation has been better at replacing. Now, I do think that our current ChatGPT moment is making all of us reevaluate that assumption because ChatGPT is really good at, not moving cargo, but writing things that I, in particular, get paid to write. We may be shifting our perspective on this a little bit, but I think, by and large, we still appreciate automation is largely addressing a labor supply problem, in particular, in blue-collar work. Now, I’ll also say, though, that that is where our greatest labor supply challenges are. Are we getting the skilled trades? Can we get people in places to do jobs that are earning minimum wage, $15-20 an hour? That’s in the retail fast food world where we’ve replaced a lot of those individuals and those jobs — is that taking somebody’s job? Sort of. But in some ways, that’s taking a vacant job, right? Because those are jobs that are really hard to fill. So, I think it’s pretty complicated.
Kevin O’Marah: What are the actions you can take as an employer to equip your people at any level, entry-level, blue-collar, mid-career, you name it, to be better at dealing with this tech?
Marianne Wanamaker: I think it’s like anything else. If you haven’t built a culture where people understand that learning something new is good for you and good for them, and then you say, all of a sudden, I know I haven’t asked you to learn a new skill in twenty years, but here’s a tech thing I need you to learn. That is not going to work. The companies and the organizations that are going to do this best are ones where people have already bought into this mindset of, I’m asking you to make an investment that’s painful (because learning new things is painful for a lot of folks), but I’m asking you to make an investment that is going to make you better at your job for me, and I have some way of compensating you for that. And so, we’re both better off.
Kevin O’Marah: I had such a great chat with Marianne that we ran out of time on our first recording session. She and I were eager to have a longer conversation, so we brought her back for a second time. In our last conversation, we talked a bit about education and shaping the future of the workforce. What role do you see for higher education and, in particular, for those who have more vocational routes to a long-term career, what things can we do to facilitate people learning the skills that they’re going to need going forward?
Marianne Wanamaker: So if you think about a traditional four-year degree, we typically think about that degree as providing you with a set of generalized skills that allow you to pursue multiple job paths. So we’re not training you necessarily for a specific occupation, although there are examples of that, and you’re set up for whatever shifts may happen in the labor market over time. That model, it’s under pressure for a number of reasons.
One is that the pace of change in the labor market is quick. The skills that you learn when you’re 22 aren’t necessarily going to be relevant when you’re 52, and so you’re going to need some skill updating along the way. But another reason it’s under pressure is that we have really leaned into this narrative that college is expensive. It’s too expensive, it doesn’t pay off for you to go get a four-year degree. You’re going to have $200,000 worth of debt, and you’re going to earn $30,000 a year. And that is just simply not the case in the State of Tennessee. For example, your first two years of college are free if you choose to take advantage of that program, and at least at the University of Tennessee, half of the students graduate with no debt at all. So, there are ways that you can build up $200,000 in undergraduate fees and tuition, but it’s not at a public institution in places like Tennessee. So, we’ve really lost the truth about higher ed and the return that it gives. And because we’ve seen such high returns in the labor market in the last few years, we’ve also seen kids who come out of high school get tempted by the $15, $18, $20 an hour job and choose that over an immediate enrolment in higher ed, either two years or four years. You’ve also asked a question about the non-four-year path. So, what does it look like to do a two-year degree or to go to trade school? People, by the way, are not really clear about what trade school is. It takes a lot of different forms, but I think about trade school as, okay, I didn’t get an associate degree necessarily, but I do have some post-high school training that allows me to enter a trade. And in Tennessee, you do that through a particular set of higher ed institutions. Those institutions, although we talk a lot about sending kids to trade school, are not seeing a surge in enrolment that would correspond to the decline in enrolment in four-year institutions.
So we’ve built this narrative that four-year schools are too expensive, that it doesn’t pay off, and everybody should go to trade school. And now we’re getting the worst of both worlds, which is people aren’t going to four-year institutions, but they’re also not going to trade school. They’re going to work, they’re going to get a job right out of school. And it’s tempting, and there are those higher labor market returns, but in the long run, we know that those short-term gains don’t lead to careers that can sustain families. So yes, you’re going to earn $18 or $20 coming right out of high school, but you’re earning the same $18 or $20 ten years from now. Education is the tool that allows you to earn more as you age.
Kevin O’Marah: Do you see much of an opportunity or a trend at all for those who come out of high school and start working, earning $18 or $20 an hour, and then think, I want to go back either for an associate or for some partial or for some certification type training, of which there are many different flavors? Does that happen, and is that one of the ways out of this conundrum?
Marianne Wanamaker: It could be. The problem is that people tend not to do that. So, what happens is that if you don’t enroll in college, I’m including trade school when I say college, right after you leave high school, the probability that you will do so declines precipitously after that. There’s a momentum effect here that we’re not currently taking advantage of, and the fear among education economists is that we’re losing a generation of students to really high Covid era, right out of high school wages, and they’re never going back to higher ed.
Kevin O’Marah: Before even my day, there weren’t that many choices. You worked here or here if you lived in this particular place, and you could either go to college or go straight to work. It feels like things have shifted so much and that there are so many different choices. Are people feeling differently about their choices versus the choices themselves really being different in the labor market?
Marianne Wanamaker: You were far more likely to move for a job 30 or 40 years ago than you are now. In some ways, our choices are narrower than they were before. Really for the last 40 years, we’ve seen a pretty steady decline in people’s willingness to pick up and move to another city in pursuit of job opportunities.
Kevin O’Marah: It does say something about the way we’ve evolved, the United States at least, as a society.
Marianne Wanamaker: There were days in April, March, and April 2020 when we were pulling information that we had from Tennessee State data and sending it to the White House. They could turn around and tell the President, this is what we really think is happening, and we’re informing this with data on the ground from unemployment insurance in Tennessee.
Kevin O’Marah: What data do we wish we had at the federal level, and how valuable is it to have continuous data sets, even if we know they’re not fantastic?
Marianne Wanamaker: There is this tension between: do I change this data series into the thing I want or do I recognize that we’ve been running this data series for fifty years as it is, and if I change it, I lose the benefit of comparison (because then I don’t know whether the change is because I changed the calculation or if it’s a real change).So what you tend to see is parallel data sets. This is not the right way to calculate CPI anymore, but we don’t want to throw away the old series, so we’re just going to have two series. What I wish we had that we don’t have is related to workforce. No surprise there. There are actually two pieces.
One is that we don’t understand how people are getting educated on the job. No data. We don’t measure training, in-house certifications, badges, or whatever it is that your company is doing to get you up to speed and ready to take on the next role. We just don’t have any idea if it’s happening.
The other piece I wish we had is that we don’t understand anything about people who are out of the labor force. What skills they have, where they have worked in the past, and what it would take to get them back in the labor force. We can’t target any kind of program to those who aren’t working because we don’t understand their characteristics, and we’re not asking. There’s actually a lot of data that we already have about people that we’re not using effectively because we’ve restricted the ways that we allow the federal government to use data that it collects and the state as well.
Kevin O’Marah: What do you think is going on with the tech layoffs? Do you have a sense of whether it’s a good thing, a bounce-back opportunity, or a bad thing? A lost momentum opportunity?
Marianne Wanamaker: Let’s suppose that the people who are getting laid off in tech are all software engineers. Am I worried about that? Not at all. Software engineers are not going to end up on the sidelines. There are just too many opportunities. Their skills are so transferrable and so in demand. If, on the other hand, the headcount that they’re laying off is janitorial staff or something like that, now I’m concerned. Because now I’m less certain that the economy will absorb those who lost their jobs. If you go back and think about what happened in the dotcom bubble, which seems like eons ago, in the dotcom bubble burst, that wasn’t a big deal in a labor force sense because most of the folks who lost their jobs had higher skill levels and advanced degrees. So you lose your job in tech in 2001, you’re going to find a job by 2002. The tech job losses I expect look more like 2001 than they do 2008 or 2009.
Kevin O’Marah: You certainly learned how to be a great storyteller. Really appreciate you taking the time to come back and chat with us for a few more minutes. Marianne, so great to see you again.
Marianne Wanamaker: Anytime, Kevin. Thank you.
Kevin O’Marah: Marianne’s insights were exactly what I wanted to hear to better understand the economic forces at play as we look at the supply chain workforce. For our last segment, I’m bringing in Colin Gilbert, Zero100’s Head of Research Science, to help me synthesize my conversation with Marianne into takeaways that supply chain leaders can apply today.
Colin Gilbert, who heads our research science group here at Zero100. Colin, welcome to the show. Looking forward to having your perspective on some of these questions.
Colin Gilbert: Hey, Kevin, how you doing? Back on the pod. Radical reinvention. Good to be here.
Kevin O’Marah: It’s always a pleasure, Colin. Always a pleasure.
Colin Gilbert: Well, we see each other every day, so I’m not sure how much of a pleasure it is, but it’s at least becoming a habit at this point. I was listening this week, though, to your conversation with Marianne, and it was a really interesting dialogue around a lot of what you’ve been writing about regarding skills 2030, digital talent, and the future of work. I was curious as I was listening to it, what were the top three themes in your mind that we can discuss today?
Kevin O’Marah: There are a lot of things that Marianne covered and impact supply chain leaders, business leaders, economists. The three in order, let’s say, of the degree to which you have lease control, which you have the most control for our audience of supply chain folks, our number one is labor supply. She talked a lot about where it is, how it’s changing, what the fundamental drivers are. It’s worth understanding, certainly from a policy standpoint, and I’m sure you have some perspectives on that, but it’s hard to control. The second is automation. There is some control there. Here at Zero100, our members are doing quite a bit of innovation in that domain. But then last is reskilling. How do you take what you have and equip yourself to make that team a team of tomorrow, not just a team of today? So those three really stand out, and I think the talent lever is the one where, from a transformation standpoint, we see our members putting in quite a bit of energy.
So, let’s talk from a data standpoint, which is where I always end up showing up at your doorstep and looking for some facts. I’m curious about the labor force participation thing. Can you give me some data about where we are historically, what seemed to be the recoveries, let’s say after Covid, and where that leaves people trying to plan around the existing labor force?
Colin Gilbert: Just to be very precise, the labor force participation right now in the United States is 62.6%, but that number really doesn’t mean anything without context. You have to remember that that number is just reporting the eligible population looking for work and not people who have voluntarily exited the labor force. And so, the number has a lot of movement over time. Looking at the latest release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of March, we’ve actually recovered four and five workers shed during Covid if you use that indicator.
Kevin O’Marah: Still, though, it’s below peak, is my understanding, and I think labor force participation was peaking perhaps in the 90s.
Colin Gilbert: The peak was circa 2000, and it was up 5% or close to 67-68% at its peak, but in the wider historical record, and the BLS stats go back decades, we’re talking about a range of less than ten percentile points rising from around 58-59% in the post-war period up to that peak of 68%, and then it has been on this slow, steady decline.
Marianne talked about the bonus labor pool and how it’s already an indicator of how things were, and things were flattening out after the great recession and even during parts of Covid because people delayed retirement for any number of reasons. Conversely, the Fed is publishing more and more on the fact that the prime age working population is becoming increasingly volatile. It’s not mysterious when people face a sudden scarcity of workers year in and year out because those two competing trend lines are where the bonus pool is sitting. That’s where the pool is sitting with regard to their future expectation for retirement, and it’s also where the prime age population is with regard to their outside work commitments.
Kevin O’Marah: So these shifts, the bonus pool is a great concept, and I think some of this volatility in work supply is a bit of a Covid silver lining. In some respects, it changed the way we think about work. I’m interested in what we see organizations doing to take advantage of some of that.
Colin Gilbert: Two things jump to mind off the top of my head. One is the organizations that are really proactive about defining what is usually referred to as business resource groups or BRGs. They look at different segments of their employee base. If you use those proactively to get ahead of trends, to get ahead of the writing on the wall, you can really establish a first-mover advantage to navigate some of these changing trends.
Our friends over at Grainger recognized that, during Covid, there was a gender bias in terms of who was staying or exiting the workforce and worked to get ahead when it came to getting women back in the workforce or providing them with more flexible accommodations. This included a partnership with an innovative project called Mom’s Project, a digital recruitment platform catering specifically to this niche group which is incredibly important if you want to return stability and gender balance to your workplace. Grainger has been on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list for the last two years, specifically recognized as one of the best places for women to work and the only representative on a list of hundred companies that hails from the industrial services sector.
The second one that is just top of mind, because we’ve been doing a lot of benchmarking on career portals and looking at how people are catering to the retention and attraction of scarce talent right now, is about how the majority of firms handle remote work. Everybody that we’ve looked at in a sample of a hundred B2C brands is still hiring for remote or work-from-home positions right now to varying degrees. But it’s interesting that we found that less than 10% of those hundred brands allow you to filter for jobs that have a remote work qualification in the job spec on the company’s career portal of those companies. Unilever is in the strict minority, and they’ve actually made it one of the five filtering criteria.
So if you are one of these groups in the bonus pool or the prime age working group that’s looking to extend your participation in the workforce or get back into the workforce with more flexibility, Unilever is actively catering to that demo much better and much more effectively than the vast majority of supply chain organizations.
Kevin O’Marah: I’m intrigued about how automation fits into large-scale thinking about work. What are your thoughts about labor supply and whether automation is going to put you out of a job or actually make your job better?
Colin Gilbert: I agree with what Marianne said regarding the fear-based narrative. In other words, automation evokes the recurring specter of labor redundancy and job loss, but that’s a reflexive narrative based on past precedent. If you recall, Zero100 ran its own survey of a thousand-plus supply chain leaders, and I felt validated when we asked a specific question. That question was, when you think about scaling manufacturing automation across the business, how important are each of the following factors:
4. customer engagement,
5. data, and
What was interesting about the results was that 73% of respondents rated the first category (people) as either a four or a five, so critically important. That proportion significantly outpaced any and all of the competing options.
Kevin O’Marah: Yeah, I remember that survey, Colin. I was expecting people to come out high, but I think it came out even higher than I was counting on. Automation and the redesign of work, especially when you start including artificial intelligence as a capability that automates purely logical work in addition to the kind of automation we know from a mechanical standpoint, is going to absolutely change what is possible for the machine versus the human. But I wonder what it says about how we build exciting careers for people in that context.
Colin Gilbert: The one thing that we have to do first is separate out the conversation about physical automation, i.e., robots versus digital automation, so AI versus ML. From McKinsey and the World Economic Forum, a McKinsey study says that 25% of capital spending over the next twenty-five years is going to be going to robotics and automation. And leadership is likely to implement automation in eleven of fifteen categories of industrial use categories. So automation is coming for you, and it looks like an overwhelming tidal wave.
But if you switch to the World Economic Forum data, that shows people are really uncertain about where that is going to net out in terms of what machines do and what humans do. And it gets more nuanced when you divide physical and digital. But if you aggregate everything, people say that about 1/3 of all business-related tax tasks are automated as of today. And if you push it out five years, they’re confident that over 40% of activities are gonna be automated. It’s actually down from how optimistic they were about how quickly this transition was going to happen. What’s really happening is people are figuring out it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Kevin O’Marah: I remember this fantastic book called Men and Machines by Stuart Chase, published right before the stock market crashed in 1929. We were blown away by what industry could do, and automation was displacing workers, but it didn’t exactly destroy the economy. The economy went through its transition, painful at that particular time, but came out with far more new jobs and new requirements for human creativity. I feel like there is a need, industry by industry, to think about what this automation unlocks in terms of opportunity. How do we take what’s special about humans, creativity, intimacy, physicality, and what do we do differently? You mentioned how, industry by industry, it’s different. What do you think is going on in consumer goods?
Colin Gilbert: I think consumer goods is always a good test case because it’s one of the bigger segments in terms of competing industry. It employs a north of 170 million employees globally, and when you look at how World Economic Forum breaks it down, consumer goods are representative of overall trends. Those three factors are what percentage of your workers have skill stability, meaning that they don’t need immediate upskilling and retraining in the foreseeable future; they have a time horizon of the next five years. 60% of workers have skill stability in consumer goods. So the remainder need to be upskilled and reskilled, and that can vary from a month to 6 months to over a year, depending on which jobs they’re moving into. The best estimate is that the industry will still experience about 20% churn over the next five years, which is not necessarily people exiting the industry or the organization, but it means they’re moving between jobs. The number of people that do stay versus those who seek out other opportunities is hugely uncertain. It will have an accentuating effect on that labor supply problem because if 20% of the people say, this isn’t for me, which is our worst-case scenario, then the labor force per participation rate specific to your industry takes another really significant nosedive. And this creates a cycle of being more and more reliant on automation at a faster and faster rate.
Kevin O’Marah: So what this does is it ups the ante on reskilling from Marianne’s points. Reskilling is the one you can control, reskilling gives you a chance to play the variability in these numbers to your advantage. Can you talk about a few that strike you as leading reskilling initiatives?
Colin Gilbert: As you said, this is absolutely what people have the most control over, and as a result, I think our most popular trending inbound questions from customers in the community are some form of, give me examples of who’s figured this out. Some of those big tent initiatives that we’re looking at more holistically, the ones that come to mind are AT&T, who had this Future Ready program that recognized that their entire business was moving from copper to the cloud and from landlines to wireless 5G. Just one of the greatest pivots in tech and telecommunications at large. Similarly, Amazon had their Upskilling 2025 program, just being a vanguard of automating any number of logistics, warehousing, delivery, cloud-enabled functions. And then all the consultancies and auditing houses like PwC had their New world. New skills. program, where they were actually trying to pilot something internally to sell to others that were really in need, that was focusing more on digital tools and technology. But again, I think that we really have to get more specific about industry examples.
Kevin O’Marah: One, for instance, it’s a matter of public record, is Volkswagen. In fact, all the auto guys really are adapting to a vocational model for the new EV platforms because that really requires reskilling both novice and experienced workers alike.
I think auto is chronically underestimated in the world supply chain for its maturity, its brilliance, it’s leading-edge thinking. Auto has got a huge and very experienced established workforce all around the world, and they’ve been through this adaptation process that goes all the way back to the early twentieth century when Henry Ford gave us the modern supply chain in some respects.
But what I think is exciting is they understand the value of vocational training, they engage with the technology, the equipment, the machinery, and the materials, and try to give people a chance to build a career that’s exciting and diverse and interesting I think Volkswagen is a great example of somebody who really understands that the future is about a completely new type of platform.
What we know from the history of scaling automotive is it’s going to have to be integrated in a way that virtually no other large-scale industrial supply chains are, and that requires people. So I love the way that some of the best in auto, and this applies to Tier 1 too, by the way, Lear, Johnson Controls, people like that, are incredibly advanced at thinking about how to put that vocational training into the relationship with their workforce as they redesign and redeploy automation and technology in the shifting shape of their industry. EV is the unbelievable overhaul of a lifetime.
Colin Gilbert: I think that’s really good insight, and this is part and parcel of our benchmarking work at Zero100; if you ask these really important questions about who is doing what to anticipate and counteract this shared problem, this shared dilemma, you can’t just look at your immediate peer set, you can’t look at your left and your right. If you benchmark off one another, you probably won’t move very far, very fast. And so, you have to take a cross-industry perspective and say, what are people doing? People who are at a fundamentally different stage of maturity that I can learn from and make a great leap forward based on what I’m doing and what my immediate peer set is doing right now. I just think that it is critical to address this fear, uncertainty, and doubt that really comes to the topics that we were talking about today.
Kevin O’Marah: Yep. It’s a great observation.
Colin Gilbert: So, Kevin, going back to where we started, you said that the outstanding questions were threefold. Labor supply, automation, and reskilling. What are the immediate answers to those open themes or questions that we can provide for Zero100 members and our listeners?
Kevin O’Marah: Colin, it’s a great question. You know, the big takeaways for our members, supply chain leaders, number one, things you can’t control like fundamental labor supply, demographics, population, just pay attention to see where some of these shifts are going to create opportunities and try to take advantage of those. This is about staying ahead of the labor supply question to look for openings. We know that there’s volatility, but that creates some silver linings to the clouds. The two levers you can pull are automation and, in particular, reskilling, and both of those fit together. The importance of people that you cited in our survey research suggests that your strategy for automation, your strategy for reskilling, can fit together in such a way that you future-proof your team at the same time that you reimagine the way your physical supply chain actually gets its work done. So the logical and the mechanical combined with the human get you out of a labor supply crunch before it actually bites.
This episode of Radical Reinvention was produced by Brian Egan, Victoria Marin, Mike Silverman, Catherine Parry, Ursulaan Khan, Colin Gilbert, Nick Heinimann, Duda Rodrigues, Anna Wooding, and me, Kevin O’Marah. Ko Takasugi-Czernowin composed our theme music. To find out more about Zero100 and check out our content library, go to Zero100.com. If you’re interested in joining our community of contributors, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this Episode
Professor of Economics and Executive Director, University of Tennessee
Kevin O'Marah (Host)
Head of Research Science, Zero100
About the Show
This podcast features conversations between Zero100 and a rotating cast of thought leaders and industry experts sharing their views on challenges related to current events in supply chain, and how solving these challenges brings the world closer to a zero percent carbon, 100% digital future.