Lean Jobs – The War for Talent is Back

            If you’re looking for a job that requires lean skills, you’re in a good position right now – if you can document what you’ve accomplished.

            I say that after speaking with Adam Zak. Adam is a headhunter; specifically, he is managing director of Adams and Associates International, an executive search firm that specializes in filling lean positions.

            He says that for his firm, finding good people is a bit more difficult than it used to be, particularly in the middle to upper-middle levels of management.

            “The companies that are being successful, they are hanging on to those folks with every possible market-driven incentive that they can,” he told me. “They do not want to lose those people. This year we’ve seen more counteroffers than we’ve seen in the last five years.”

            He also commented, “This is the age of the empowered individual. Not a lot of companies are spending as much as they should, I think, on the training and development side. The people that are doing it on their own (obtaining training) have a lot to offer, and they are asking for a lot more than they did two years ago.

            “The war for talent is back, and I believe that it’s really being fought in the area of lean, operational excellence, continuous improvement.”

            Adam states that demand for people with supply chain expertise is particularly strong, but “not so much working with vendors. Customer demand has become a very large area, trying to understand, what are the customers doing, and what can we be doing to actually get closer to those customers. I am the supplier; what does my customer want? Am I doing the right kinds of lean things internally?”

            He adds, “I’d almost call it more of a marketing-driven lean. Companies are trying to draw a clearer and direct line to the customer organization. We’ve been talking a lot about product development for two to three years. This past year, we’ve really seen people come to us and say, ‘can you find people who know how to drive product development?’”

            There is also strong emphasis on distribution and warehousing. As an example, he notes, “we’re doing a search for a chief operating officer for a catalog outfit. They want to drive lean through this process, whereby you and I order golf shirts, and we want to have them personalized, and we want 10 for all the members of our golf team, each with a logo and a name. That’s a very complex distribution and production process. People are looking at that.”

            And “lean accounting is finally coming into its own,” Adam adds, noting that his company is involved in searches for CFOs and heads of accounting.

            Lean is also not just for manufacturing anymore. Demand for lean people in financial services is strong, Adam says, and “healthcare is coming into its own.”

            One challenge he faces is that “there are a lot of people who have only basic knowledge. They’ve gone to a seminar or conference or two, and read some books, and they’re marketing themselves as lean experts when they are not. It’s taking a little more time for us to figure out who’s really got the performance-based background.”

            If you are hiring, Adam advises you to look for people with a solid track record, who can demonstrate what they have actually done in implementing lean and who can, in some way, show what they can do for you.

            And if you’re job-hunting, he urges you to keep a weekly diary or log of your lean accomplishments.

            “I know that may be heresy, because we’re talking about team environments,” he says. “But you really have to be able to track the kinds of things you’ve tackled, what’s worked, what hasn’t. Track the metrics. Those will be team metrics, but they’ll show individual accomplishments as well. That’s what people are looking to see.”


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