Sunday, 2 July 2017

Drivers of future profitability growth

What’s the driving wind that will keep our corporate ship on course?

Yes, we know it’s skills, but what skills? How can we be sure that we’re training for future success?

What the market says and what academia thinks

Recent wanted ads in the Supply Chain Management field look for very specific skills:
  •      Development of monthly tactical, budget and forecast process;
  •       Manage importation processes;
  •       Manage interfaces between vertical operations (logistics, procurement, quality, plants and suppliers);
  •       Pursue opportunities around storage, transport and stocks in order to optimise for lowest landed cost;
  •       Develop and implement policies, processes and procedures around supply chain strategies
  •       Plan, purchase and distribute up to 2000 inventory items.

When looking at the academic curriculum intended to make those responsible competent to carry out these functions, the terminology shows some scary differences:
  •      Describe the evolution of the current distribution system;
  •      Reason out why organisations hold inventory;
  •       Provide a broader perspective on supply-chain management and logistics management;
  •       Define supplier relationship management;
  •       Illustrate and explain the role of purchasing and supply management in acquiring transportation.

Whilst these differences clearly illustrate why it is that university graduates don’t get jobs, what is perhaps more interesting from both sets of statements is that neither address what a survey such as Barloworld Logistics’ supplychainforesight identifies as key Strategic Supply Chain Objectives over the next 5 – 10 years:
  •      Improving service levels to customers.
  •       Improving visibility in the supply chain.
  •      Integration of technology.
  •      Lowering procurement costs & reducing order lead times.
  •      Improving the flow of business intelligence.
  •      Reducing the environmental impact of supply chain operations.

What is also very concerning is the lack of real future focus in all of these. In today’s disruptive world this is a costly omission.

Famous brands of US made horse drawn carriages were Weber, Columbus, Steel King and Buckeye- you don’t see those names in today’s automobile industry but also seems unlikely that Ford, Fiat or Ferrari will be the leading manufacturers of the autonomous vehicles of the future.

So, what’s to be done?

The future focussed company

It all starts with the company vision: By defining what value it adds to its customers, not what it does, the company vision can carry it into the future.

Living the vision: The current employment environment precludes lifelong tenure or anything like it, so how will people be driven by a future focused vision when there’s no chance that they’ll be around to see it realised? The answer to this lies in the current benefits to be gained from being part of a future focused organisation: after all, who wouldn’t want to work for Apple, Google or Tesla?

Disruption comes from the ability to accelerate speed-of-execution and the agility to seize new opportunities. People who innovate are, by definition, entrepreneurs who thrive in an unstructured environment. However, to sustain innovation, scalability is needed, which in turn requires accountability, reliability, and predictability, which cannot be achieved through an unstructured innovation network.

This leads to the conclusion that, in order to compete in a disruptive world, the company needs both strong entrepreneurial and structured cultures to co-exist.  

The nature of Supply Chain Management in such that, because of rapid developments in technology, success is anchored in the ability to create and embrace innovation whilst at the same time carrying out current day functions in compliance with to highly structured and regulated procedures.

Clearly, completely different skills sets are required to carry a Supply Chain Management into the future. We will be exploring how these can be imparted and acquired in future articles.

What steps does your company need to be able to thrive in the future?

How is your company training for future success?

Is it possible to have a dual culture company – one highly compliant?

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Blending Technology and Experience for Maximum Learning Engagement and Returns

Exponential changes in warehousing and transport technology demand that training keeps pace to ensure that we have an super competent workforce, one that delivers exceptional results while using minimal resources.

This article discusses how a winning blend of training technology and experiential learning can achieve this.

An evolution of a powerful learning methodology

The creators of today’s corporate learning environments have a huge advantage- their world needs to be as flexible as the business environments in which they operate. The days of learners ploughing through pages and pages of boring, online text are long over. That was Online Learning 1.0.

We are now in Online Learning 3.0, which is designed to create irresistible, sustained engagement for the learner through challenging, thought provoking learning experiences. It’s like a good novel that you just can't put down and consists of some really exciting elements:

  •        Integrated learning experiences combining workbased experience and assessment with the ability to switch seamlessly through a number of different online media;
  •        Interactivity, both in content and assessments;
  •       Engagement tools including things like gamification and mobile device learning;
  •        Incorporation of external materials from a wide range of sources;
  •      Competency based (learning by doing): online experiences which closely simulate real life and in which assessment takes place more on the job than in the exam room;
  •        Socially enabled programmes through which human involvement through online debate, collaboration, coaching and mentoring are integral elements of the learning experience;
  •        Curriculum which is aligned to life- long learning principles and fit-for-role learning solutions;
  •        The use of data to analyse learner behaviour and effect continuous improvement, to personalise programmes and ensure that they are infinitely adaptive to changes in the environment.

     Online Learning 3.0 is driven by learner management systems which have the ability to bring together all learning and development interventions and report on them in formats which are useful to both learners and management.

Is it worth it?

The increasing power of computation (More’s Law), the changes which this technology is bringing to the market (one example: shopping malls are dying, so what will this do to warehousing and transport?) and the unprecedented changes in climate which we are experiencing are all bringing us into a world which was simply inconceivable at the turn of the century.

For any business to thrive in this kind of world requires high levels of human competency and flexibility. This can only be brought about by embracing the technologies and concepts which make up Online Learning 3.0.

This is however a journey, not an event. It is possible to implement a plan in which each step has immediate impact.

The pathway to Online Learning 

1.   Strategy determines structure
How does the business want to position itself in the future? What competencies will be required to achieve that goal? Which of those competencies do we have and how are we going build the rest?

2.     Think like a marketer
What would make for a “wow” learner experience for every one of our programmes, taking into account how millennials and the others in the target market actually learn?

3.     Embrace technology strategically
Features like games, virtual tours or any of these innovations serve no purpose unless they answer the question “What must the learner be able to do on completing this programme?

4.     Baby steps
Choose low hanging fruit – those programmes in which participation is like watching paint dry (usually compliance type courses)- start piloting improvements on them as the start of the strategy implementation. Select applications which have least cost and greatest impact.

5.     Don’t be afraid of data
Data is the most important tool for continuous improvement and for calculating returns on investment- incorporate it.

What strategies are you implementing to adapt to the creative destruction which is happening in your industry? 

How is your company’s current experience with online learning?

Do you feel that implementing a strategy like Online Learning 3 will produce the desired returns in terms of increased staff adaptability, productivity, retention, and improved profits?

Monday, 10 April 2017

Competitive Advantage Through Disruptive Learning and Development

Digital is reshaping customer experience. Digital competitors are entering markets with radically new offers, disrupting the ways that companies and customers interact and setting a high bar of simplicity, personalisation, and flexibility.

Sometimes we don’t even know who these competitors are until it’s too late.

The shift to pull

To capture new sources of value, companies will need to reinvent their customer experience – how?

Learning and development is key in the workplace, but it too must adapt to these changes, taking advantage of innovative technologies.

With every major economic shift a new asset class becomes the foundation of productivity and profitability: in the past the asset was land, more recently it was machinery. In today’s knowledge- human economy it becomes human capital- talent, skills, business acumen, empathy and creativity.

In the same way our customers are seeking products and services which are tailored to their needs, so our skills development must match the requirements of each individual in the organisation, their job requirements, their previous experience and training history.

How can we achieve this in our organisation?

In today’s work environment, school/ university education only equips the individual for their first job - lifelong learning is essential for every job thereafter. The pace of change demands a dynamic stability between the individual and the job.

This creates a demand for online and mobile platforms that empower both the individual to adapt their skills to the changing requirements of their respective jobs, whilst at the same time enabling the company to record, recognise and reward the individual for the attainment of new, relevant skills.

It starts with strategy: because customer demands are moving so fast, strategy needs to focus on innovation and adaptation.

For such a strategy to be translated into human development, it needs to be communicated to those who will carry it out in a way that that everybody is able to see how its demands will impact on the skills they have today in terms of the skills they will need to be a part of the strategy.

Some may react by not wanting to be a part of the new initiative, thus causing their experience and skills to be relocated elsewhere. For those wanting to be a part of it, the company needs everything in place to make learning accessible, engaging and relevant.

There are a number of  pillars on which successful human resource development in such a dynamic environment are built:

1.     The ability of the organisation and its employees to objectively assess what the skills gaps are in each individual’s case;
2.     A close working relationship with selected education and training providers of high quality who are prepared to adapt their courses to those of the organisation. In the case of smaller organisations, they may consider joint approaches to training providers;
3.     The ability to deliver the training required when the individual wants to engage, not when the provider’s schedule says so;
4.     A close alignment between training delivery and learning in the workplace which is facilitated by a mentoring culture in the organisation;
5.     The ability to assess the impact of courses in terms of improved organisational efficiency and to effect changes to courses based on such feedback;
6.     The ability to record and recognise learning achievement and to mine such information in order to fill vacancies.

Sound idealistic? Then consider the following:

·       HR Magazine reported that organisations investing USD1,500 or more per employee per year on training average 24 percent higher profit margins than those with lower training budgets. The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) gathered training information from more than 2,500 organisations and found that those that offer comprehensive training have 218 percent higher income per employee than those with less comprehensive training 1

·       In a study of more than 3100 US workplaces, a 10% increase in educational development produced an 8.6% gain in productivity. 2

Feel like adding to the discussion?

To what extent is your organisation geared to meet the technology disruptions sweeping the world?
Would you like assistance in gearing your organisation’s human development infrastructure to take full advantage of these developments?