A proper supply chain training strategy, executed with commitment and determination, can make a huge difference to the evolution of your company’s supply chain talent pool.
For example, dedication to internal talent development can, over time, reduce the need to draw on what we are told is a diminishing market in appropriately skilled human resources.
Unfortunately though, supply chain training mistakes are commonplace, and chief among them are those born from obsessive, misconceived beliefs that stand in the way of effective staff education.
Is Obsession Shaping Your Supply Chain Training?
This post explores some of the aforementioned obsessions, which if allowed to prevail, will hamper the effectiveness of staff development in your supply chain operations.
If any of these obsessions are present in your company, a change in thinking could be just what the talent-doctor ordered, opening the door to improved supply chain training and consequently, better business performance.
Would you prefer your logistics and supply chain operations to perform better than they currently do? Most business leaders would reply to that question in the affirmative. Yet a preoccupation with current performance so often stands in the way of concrete, continuous improvement.
Breaking out of this vicious circle is never easy, but there are certainly a couple of ways in which it can be achieved:
1) By accepting that some tradeoffs must be made in terms of current cost-efficiency, service quality, or productivity, in order to release key people for supply chain training that will support ongoing performance improvement.
2) By implementing a training and education program that minimises intrusion on the operational needs of your organisation.
In reality, a combination of both approaches will be necessary. However, the use of option 2 to limit the need for option 1 would clearly be a step in the right direction.
Fortunately, online and blended learning programs are becoming more plentiful in supply chain education, offered by providers that understand the industry, and are committed to helping employers develop talent while maintaining manpower availability.
Obsession With On-the-job Supply Chain Training
There is no denying the value of knowledge gained from on-the-job experience, but this type of training alone is not sufficient to support step-changes in operational performance. Still, the assertion that “on-the-job learning is the best” is sometimes used as an excuse to wallow in operational preoccupation, and hence avoid the pain involved in changing the status quo.
But if your supply chain training strategies and programs don’t include some form of structured, packaged, and formalized pedagogy, your company is missing out on valuable opportunities.
You see, real learning is a process requiring more than experience. Your employees will ultimately be able to contribute more to your business if you get them out of the day-to-day, into environments where they learn through exchanges with peers, contact with industry experts, purpose-designed activities and exercises, and guided assignments, tests, and assessments.
Insistence on Internal or External Supply Chain Training
For many companies, argument for using internal or external resources for supply chain training and development is one of either/or. Yet a fixation on one or the other is a sure way to limit the effectiveness of supply chain education.
There are clear advantages to be had from combining internally delivered training (conducted by a mix of internal managers/employees and external training providers) with academic and/or pragmatic education programs run by specialist supply chain academies, colleges, and other institutions.
In a future post, we’ll cover the pros and cons of internally led and external supply chain training in more detail. Suffice to say here though, that the two approaches complement one another to provide benefits which in isolation, neither will offer.
Fixation on Functional Training
Supply chain training, education, and employee development needs have changed dramatically over the last decade or so. While an increasing number of companies are recognising this and adapting accordingly, others are still stuck in the traditional approach—training and educating their employees wholly in line with perceived functional requirements.
Of course it’s vital to train for technical expertise in functional areas such as transport, warehousing, procurement, and manufacturing.
However, the companies most successful in retaining talent and using it to best effect, are those taking an integrated, end-to-end approach to supply chain training (and supply chain management in general).
To succeed in today’s supply chain environment, a holistic training perspective is required. Supply chain managers and staff should be educated and encouraged to collaborate and work cross-functionally, and to clearly comprehend how all business components (including marketing, sales, and finance) come together to add value.
Compulsion to Cut Costs
When it comes to supply chain management, companies have for years been consumed with the desire to save costs. Training and development has always been one of the first areas to suffer from that particular obsession. The reason for this is understandable, but misguided.
It’s just so easy to justify cutbacks in non-operational activities when the squeeze is on. However there is a big difference between a cost and an investment.
Lumping supply chain training into the former category overlooks an unimpeachable reality of business—that people are a company’s most valuable assets, and that their value increases with their wisdom, knowledge, and ability.
This reality runs contrary to the financial performance of almost all other business assets, which continuously depreciate and yet still have money thrown at them throughout their lifetime. Supply chain training is one investment which actually increases the value of an asset, while also offering substantial returns over time.
These returns are generated not only from the improvement of business capabilities, but also through heightened employee engagement, increased retention and savings on the hefty costs of staff turnover.
It’s Time to Nurture New Beliefs in Supply Chain Training
Is your company’s supply chain training regimen blighted by any of these outdated, obsessive beliefs? If so, it may be heading for a talent crisis sooner or later, as competitors begin to take a more open-minded stance on supply chain training, perhaps even tempting your staff away with the promise of superior development opportunities.
It’s time to take the blinkers off and embrace the growing range of possibilities for supply chain manager/employee development.
For example, you might try…
- Sending your executives to share ideas with their peers at facilitated workshops
- Using online programs and eLearning providers to enrich the knowledge of your managers
- Setting learning objectives for staff members when you send them to industry events
- Introducing cross-training to help employees learn about life outside their functional departments
These are just a few ideas, and maybe you and your leadership team can think of others.
The important thing is to start thinking differently about supply chain training, and especially to cast off harmful obsessions that leave internal talent-potential unrealised … or perhaps even chase it out the door into the clutches of more forward-thinking competitors.