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Josh Bersin Company Research Finds Consumer Products Companies Struggle with Skills Shortages, Holding Them Back from Delighting Their Consumers

The Direct-to-Consumer shift has exacerbated the gap in market understanding, increasing the pressure on CPG brands to more accurately forecast and respond to demand

A new pressure is to develop “Customer Delight Skills”

Industry “Pacesetters” are emphasizing R&D, marketing and data science skills to help them ensure they are manufacturing the right product, at the right time, distributed through the right channel, and communicated with the right messaging to match consumer preferences

The Josh Bersin Company, the world’s most trusted human capital advisory firm, is today releasing significant new research that identifies a significant skills gap in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) companies’ ability to design and deliver what consumers want.

CPG companies are increasingly trying to sell directly to consumers, forcing them to redesign their organizations and talent strategies, but the majority lack a combination of skills internally to identify what today’s customers really want. They are also struggling to deploy the capabilities to fulfill these evolving market demands, says the new Josh Bersin Company research.

What’s missing are “Consumer Delight Skills,” which encompass a combination of R&D, marketing and data analytics skills, which are critical to success in this industry.

The gap has emerged from an analysis of hiring trends in the sector which reveals that customer experience specialists, R&D scientists, innovation managers, and data science roles are in high demand, while the need for merchandisers, warehouse clerks, and storekeepers is declining.

Being more responsive to the market also demands that CPG companies of all product specialties develop new skills across areas including digital innovation in manufacturing. Technological changes such as smart shelves and robotic manufacturing promise to enhance “lean manufacturing” but require a fresh set of skills from CPG managers, engineers, maintenance staff, data scientists, and operators.

From data-driven decision-making and advanced analytics to predictive factory maintenance, today’s CPG companies need an increased and more diversified range of digital capabilities, say The Josh Bersin Company researchers—the latest insights from a major ongoing Global Workforce Intelligence (GWI) research project.

GWI is derived from deep analysis and synthesis of eightfold.ai’s extensive Talent Intelligence platform database and The Josh Bersin Company’s own global HR database. In this latest analysis, The Josh Bersin Company looked at the top 200 global CPG companies and identified the skills, capabilities, and operating models of the highest performers in the industry.

Key findings include:

  • CPG organization evolution centralizes on a new, modern circular and responsive system that places the consumer in the middle of the experience, which deviates from the traditional linear value chain
  • Only 7% of CPG companies have already adopted more advanced approaches to managing their supply chains in volatile conditions, such as autonomous end-to-end planning
  • Startups in this space dedicate 3x more talent on Research & Development when compared to traditional CPG organizations
  • Pacesetter CPG companies employ 31.1x more on Research roles than their lower-performing counterparts, and 7.9x more people in Production Roles.

Quantitative analysis was supplemented by case studies with the largest and most-successful CPG companies to identify the most innovative solutions being implemented by “Pacesetter” organizations to address skills gaps and adapt efficiently to the evolving demands of consumers.

Josh Bersin Company analysts defined Pacesetters as organizations demonstrating leadership best practice and maturity levels other companies need to learn from. Pacesetter CPG companies consistently show significantly more people in technology and transformation roles, with an emphasis on R&D, the research found.

Successful talent strategies employed by other Consumer Packaged Goods industry Pacesetters go beyond looking to recruit and retain more of the right people. Other Pacesetter systemic solutions include conscious redesigning of job roles and reskilling of key people to meet the challenge of data analytics gaps.

Stella Ioannidou, The Josh Bersin Company Research Director, said:

“Our analysis shows that Pacesetter CPG companies are leading the way in technology, e-commerce, and critical manufacturing roles and what sets them apart is their focus on innovation. Pacesetters also have a significantly higher prevalence of advanced skills in technology, transformation, and consumer delight for managing the end-to-end consumer delight lifecycle, ensuring that companies are streamlining operations to satisfy demand, and always being in the know for the next best product.”

Janet Mertens, The Josh Bersin Company Senior Vice President of Research, said:

“Digital innovation, the pandemic, and a growing focus on sustainability and health have had a massive impact on this market in recent years, and digitalization has put customers in the driver’s seat and enables endless comparison and scrutinizing of products on the spot.

“As a result, CPG companies need to adjust their marketing strategies and brand messaging to maintain customer loyalty in this competitive market. This is something the majority are struggling to do.”

Josh Bersin, global HR research analyst and CEO of The Josh Bersin Company, said:

“Offering superior products is essential for CPG companies, which means leaders need to make the bold move of shifting the business model from manufacturing excellence to consumer delight. In turn, this means that CPG companies need to prioritize hiring specialists in data science, product marketing, and software engineering.

“In particular, to build new muscles around monitoring, understanding, and predicting consumer behavior, the CPG workforce must be consumer-oriented, tech-enabled, and data-driven.

“To be prepared for the future, these companies need a deep understanding of what consumers want at any given moment, and even the ability to predict their wants and needs. This understanding must then be effectively aligned with the company’s production and marketing efforts. Since, historically, the relationship between the product and the consumer had been managed by retailers, though, this competency remains largely underdeveloped throughout the CPG industry, so there is a way to go to bring the right skills online.”