There is no disputing that talent is a top challenge for companies worldwide. In PwC's 2014 CEO Survey, 93% of participants said they recognize the need to change their strategies for talent, but 61% acknowledged that they haven't yet taken the first step. The challenge is especially acute in supply chain operations, which is facing a talent shortage—despite an increasing number of undergraduate majors, MBA concentrations and entire programs in supply chain management.

The talent wars are not likely to end anytime soon. Various trends—including the widespread adoption of digital technologies, the increasing need to tailor operations for different customer segments, and a heightened focus on supply chain risk—will continue to raise the bar for supply chains and, by extension, the skills required to manage them.

For many organizations, the talent problem is exacerbated by the desire to keep headcount costs down. Indeed, supply chain headcount costs can be considerable, easily reaching 10% of revenue, according to PwC’s Performance Measurement Group benchmark research. Yet focusing exclusively on the cost component of the talent equation can ultimately prove detrimental, given that some of the positions needed to manage today’s supply chains demand higher salaries than they did even a few years ago.

Industry leaders regard talent to be as critical to superior supply chain performance as organizational structures, processes, tools and systems—if not more so. While these companies don’t neglect cost management, they make strategic talent investments to help establish the supply chain that supports their business objectives.