Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Building Strategic Weaponry for Competitive Competence

The current speed of change requires employees to be trained continuously to out-think and out-manoeuvre competitors.

Customisation is key - this article explains how to tailor programmes to maximise synergies between company strategic objectives, individual needs and lifelong learning.

Identify areas to be addressed
A previous article, “Targeting Training for Strategic Success” identified tools for determining the skills gaps of each individual within the organisation, both in terms of the company’s current needs and future strategy.

Having applied these tools, the company will have a strategic overview of what must be trained, at what level and to how many people at each level.

Structure content and strategies for training programmes
Diversity of approach and company structures mean  that there is no “one size fits all”: every company must align training to its own bottom-line objectives.

To achieve this, the company will need to create a matrix in which the identified skills gaps are grouped into areas of similarity at different levels.

Such a matrix will look something like this:

Company Systems
Strategy / Management / Supervisory
Soft Skills
General Management



General Worker

Identify the specific objectives of each training unit 
By populating this matrix we have a strategic overview of the competency requirements of our organisation. It also represents a lifelong learning path for each employee.

The skills gaps which have been identified in each of the matrix cells need to be fleshed out so that each defines what the person who has been trained in that area will be able to do. 

For example, if we have identified “manage inventory” as a skills gap at operator level, we might, after consultation with those involved in the function, decide that a person who has been trained in this function will be able to:
  • Explain the principles of freight logistics 
  • Receive, dispatch and return freight
  • Control and locate stock
  • Locate freight in a warehouse
  • Pack, handle and secure freight 

Million dollar question- insource or outsource?
Now the burning question: which of these competencies should be trained on an in house basis and which should we outsource to external providers?

According to the supplychainforesight 2014 report “With the education system of South Africa under increasing scrutiny, there is a clear gap between relevant qualifications and skills that are marketable in the workplace.” This is a clear indication that, at least in the field of supply chain management, the bias should be towards insourcing. This, by the way, is not a uniquely South African phenomenon.

Other considerations are:
  • What do we have the ability to execute in-house, and what can’t we perform internally with quality and consistency?
  • Which of the competencies we have identified give us our competitive edge, which of them give us our unique character in the marketplace?
  • Consider outsourcing those generic “soft skills”  (communications, time management, leadership development, decision-making, and problem-solving), as well as environmental and health-safety issues. Keep in mind that if we were to keep training entirely in-house, the only resources we’d have are the skill sets that exist in our current staff.
  • To what extent can we insource training without compromising the operational requirements of those Subject Matter Experts who will be required to do facilitate training? Put another way, how do we manage the risk of loss of focus on our core business, if we implement in house training programmes?

Moving target
Nothing stays the same. Both the competency matrix of the company should be subject to annual review as an absolute minimum.