Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The prickly Supply Chain Management training dilemma

Pacifying the sleepless Training Manager

Something which keeps Training Managers in Supply Chain Management from sleeping at night is to know when to carry out training in house and when it is best left to others. This article aims to provide more restful nights to those people.

The arguments

As with any insourcing vs outsourcing debate, there are a number of pros and cons on both sides when it comes to Supply Chain Management training.

Those supporting insourcing point to the variable standards of outsourced training, the financial instability of some private providers and the difficulties in assessing what is on offer. They argue that, by using their own subject matter experts, they can build training interventions which are not only targeted on the competency needs of their particular organisations, these interventions can also be tailored to their unique organisational culture. Their most compelling arguments are that only insourced training is flexible enough to meet their companies’ changing needs (very important for the uncertain environment in which we operate) and that it is only such training which can be used to transfer those skills which give the company its competitive edge.

On the side of outsourcing, proponents suggest that the formal qualifications offered by outsourced training institutions are essential to both employees and organisations as objective benchmarks of competency. The economies of scale achievable through outsourcing are also very persuasive and added to this is the question of the core business of the company: are we in the business of providing supply chain solutions or training?

The merits of each argument are what give Training Managers sleepless nights: it is suggested that the dilemma can be resolved by looking at it from a different starting point.

Strategy is key

The primary driver of the organisation’s training strategy is the overall strategy of the business.
A thorough assessment of the business performance needs and desired bottom line outcomes leads to the identification of the competency requirements for each division within the organisation.

We will find that many of these competencies are generic to the organisations which occupy each space in the Supply Chain for example logistics and transport, procurement and supply, manufacturing operations, warehousing and distribution. Included here is a very strong requirement for compliance with local and international legislative measures, industry standards and local regulations, often bringing with it the need for formal, externally accredited courses.

It may be argued that the common nature of these technical competencies should indicate that training towards them should be outsourced. There is however a powerful counterargument that says it is excellence in these basics which gives companies their competitive edge and that there is therefore a strong case for insourcing the “company unique” aspects of this training.

It is also true that organisations need to raise the bar in terms of rigour, evidence, and more structured and scientific approaches to identifying, assessing and developing leaders, a process which needs to start earlier in potential leaders’ careers. Leadership training may have its foundation in generic courses but it is the bringing of those competencies to bear in strengthening the culture of the company and achieving active participation of employees in the values of the organisation that can only be honed within the organisation itself.

The Supply Chain Manager’s solution- an exciting trend

A pillar of successful Supply Chain Management is collaboration – this principle applies as much to education and training.

There is an exciting trend developing: to address the problem of the unemployability of institutionally trained graduates and to enhance the marketability of their offerings, public and private learning institutions are collaborating with businesses to an increasing degree in both the design and sharing of responsibility for the delivery of programmes which blend theory with practical, workbased experience.

When combined with accurate assessment of each individual’s skills gaps, this integrated model offers an end-to-end designed learning experience.

  • Are you able to align your training strategy with your company’s overall strategy?
  • To what extent have you quantified the balance of insourced/ outsourced training in your organisation?
  • Are there providers in your area who have shown an interest in collaborating with your company?
  • Are you in need of more information regarding education and training collaboration in the Supply Chain Management field?


  1. interesting thought provoking article.

  2. Good to see your starting point is company strategy. From there one might add company values and ethics, to be ingrained during a period of basic training. Ideally then, a training manager would contract specialist outsiders to create and *leave behind* the right course content for standard requirements. The non-standard would pop up on the radar as the business environment evolves - this leaves the client free to steer the ship according to strategy. Good training is self-evident. You don't need fancy metrics to tell if things are working better sometimes. Excellent training will be felt within one or two financial quarters...when all of a sudden you have new friends around the client boardroom table.

    1. Thanks for your comments. Whilst I agree that metrics may not always necessary, it is at the same time importnat to objectively assess what the skills gaps are and, once training has been completed, whether they have been addressed. This is fundamental to training cost effectiveness.

  3. Please contact me on lisa@profounder.co.za or 011 346 8300

  4. Please contact me on lisa@profounder.co.za or 011 346 8300

  5. Please contact me on lisa@profounder.co.za or 011 346 8300