Talent Pipeline Management in a Neutral Market

By Published On: December 7, 2023

Talent pipeline management continues to be a crucial element of success or failure in today’s world of supply chain. This is another in our series analyzing the intersection of supply chain and talent. We will continue reporting on this in real time so that employers and employees in this dynamic field can hopefully gain some insights on useful tactics and not be blindsided by ebbs and flows of how the market impacts supply chain talent strategies.


2023 was certain to bring about a recession. It never happened but companies prepared as if it was imminent and worked to reduce overhead and trim their sails in any way possible while still serving demand. Consumer demand went up for many, however, which changed those plans. So what does this mean for 2024? Economists and business leaders, especially in supply chain, are predicting a slow growth year between 1% -2% which is less than recent years but is in fact growth. The question then becomes what do supply chain employers and employees do in an essentially neutral market year? The market isn’t likely to be markedly up or down so how do we handle growth for business and careers? There are strategies and tactics that can be deployed in a neutral or uncertain market that can create business runways as well as career growth paths.

What does a Neutral Market Mean for Employers?

We’ve written a good bit about the pendulum swinging between an employee or an employer -driven talent space. We’re swinging back in favor of employers. Neutral growth implies that organizational strategies and decisions are at least maintaining the status quo. Consumer demand can be relatively flat or met with current staffing practices. C-suite officials will be more cost conscious and less inclined to retain specialized supply chain recruiters to find leaders when the need arises.

We’re hearing a lot of anecdotes from supply chain’s front lines that employers are insisting on hiring from within. Pooling internal talent helps to fill most of the gaps. However, there’s typically an opening or two after all the internal hires have taken place. Only then are employers looking outward and posting publicly for the position. And once they do, they’re getting flooded with up to 500 applications to sort through. 

Quit rates are going down. Hires are more affordable now for employers. A supply chain analyst with a Master’s Degree was getting multiple offers in 2022 and early 2023. That same person is now waiting up to six months to get an offer for a lot less.

Upskill. Now may be the time to take a hard look at folks who helped you when times were tight and be sure they are the people to help you grow in the future. This is a strategic choice that requires a disciplined process and calls for tough minded people leadership.

Is Scalability an Issue?

Yes and no. We’re not in a boom and we’re not in a bust. So how does an organization grow, you ask? What are the best talent pipeline management strategies for growth? Labor costs tend to make up a large proportion of operational expenses, especially in high-demand fields like supply chain. Knowledge is so specialized that working pros can leverage their subject matter expertise quite readily regardless of an up, down, or booming market. However, as we’ve mentioned above, that’s not necessarily the case right now. 

Talent pipeline management requires careful scaling in a neutral market. Organizations are running lean and tightening their belts until expansion is absolutely necessary. As we’ve also mentioned, they’re hiring from within before looking on the open market. These retention policies have helped a lot of organizations maintain growth and scale at a more modest rate. Hiring practices focus on aptitude and growth potential as much as experience. Remember, experience only pays off in the first couple of months after  a hire. Your mid-management will be required to mentor and develop more talent in these times in order to properly scale, so it’s important to also identify and develop your leaders as early as possible. 

Ability to scale is determined by your team. Organizations that weather change the best don’t expand or contract too quickly. They staff in ways that handle disruptions with talented managers unafraid to report the problems up the chain of command.Teams are scaled by ensuring that aptitude and integrity are identified along with capability.

Understanding your team’s capability gaps is also crucial to scaling. There are people on your team with untapped potential. Find them. Develop them. Retain them. The opposite is also true. There are people with tons of potential who don’t work to close the gap between potential and delivery. Your job as a leader to identify both and develop your whole team accordingly. 

Finally, it’s absolutely essential that employers are thorough in setting their leaders up for success. You can’t just hire someone and throw them straight in the fire and expect metrics to be through the roof. Give them a runway, a network, and a balanced runway to learn the process, the people, and the business. This is not the time to demand sink or swim from your management hires.

Growing Demand for Fractional and Interim Talent

Fractional and interim talent solutions offer working pros the benefits of marriage without having to put a ring on it, if you will.

Employers can scale in a neutral market by using on-demand talent solutions. One demographic in particular that can be leveraged for on demand talent are the boomers. They’re retiring at a rapid rate. A lot of folks in this cohort still want to work but don’t want commitment. They possess the required knowledge and skills to bridge talent gaps and help with expansions without disrupting current operations. They can also onboard new leaders to replace them and have proven to be cost effective options for quickly and easily handling supply chain issues.

A lot of mid career supply chain professionals are also expressing more interest in fractional and contract staffing options. Specialized talent pros can help you locate these individuals because they likely used to work with them or in similar fields. Logistics or procurement experts are a fairly niche bunch. It’s important to network in those circles in order to find the right people.


It’s not certain that the market will contract. What is certain is the supply chain leaders and hiring managers are preparing as if it already has. Hiring has slowed. Offers aren’t going out at the rate they were earlier in the year and pay scales are coming back to earth. But the news isn’t all bad, especially in supply chain. Employers still have niche talent needs that they’re willing to pay for. Talent pipeline management is going to be more important in 2024 than in past years. Employers have to be willing to get creative with sourcing leaders. Current employees need to upskill and be ready for an internal promotion sooner than later. A lot of these tactics are evergreen strategies for strong growth and a healthy organization, regardless of economic pressures.