Nurturing new talent – the lure of the graduate

The graduates are coming

Procurious is in Cardiff for Procurement Week. Are you attending?Come and join our #PW2015 group!

Today we’ve heard from Chris Nye of Axiom. Axiom is a service-driven business, specialising in the medical, industrial, and military fields.

In just a couple of years Axiom has doubled its workforce and trebled its turnover – and as any organisation knows
keeping this momentum is paramount to the success of the business.

And of course there are always challenges – for Axiom, number one was the realisation that its recruitment strategy needed a little help.

Axiom woke up to the idea that graduates can fill the skills gap.

What improvements can be made?

Axiom previously had trainees come and go, it was classically recruiting the wrong individuals. What it needed was a blank
canvas (with the right skill-set), and saw determined graduate trainees to be the best fit.

Graduates represent young, intelligent, questioning minds, and more importantly a lack of baggage. By hiring graduates
you can allow them to find their own skills and own career fit. Give them the opportunity to find themselves within the
business, to see what sticks and what interests them.

Axiom’s approach is not overly prescriptive – an entrenched view falls prey to shortsightedness, and errors can be locked into a vicious cycle. Instead you shouldn’t dictate the graduate’s path, encourage independence and let them find their own way. It is important that after the training period ends, graduates are deployed into only what they enjoy and
excel at – the fields they have chosen to specialise in and want to develop these skills further. The path should be continuously monitored and adapted as necessary to ensure the graduate is shaping the role.By adopting this approach it is possible to maintain the graduate’s youthful enthusiasm throughout the development plan.

The new power generation

By training (and inevitably employing) graduates you will often find this exercise opens-up new opportunities, and  you’ll be able to fill newly-created roles. What’s more graduates can be thought of as thought-provoking and questioning assets to any team. By mixing up your team and employing new blood, it encourages an honesty when it comes to looking for solutions. It’s all about balance – the graduates provide the business with a different view. Sometimes all it takes is fresh eyes…

Axiom put this into practice a couple of years ago – now, 2 years on it has welcomed 5 graduates through its doors.

By looking towards graduates you’ll be furnished with bright, young minds who possess an unquenchable thirst to continuously improve. The graduate solution is indeed a brave new world, the only constant being change…

How to Achieve Award Winning Procurement – Learn from the Experts

Procurement and Supply Chain Management Professional of the Year – Fabienne Lesbros, CPO, Britvic Soft Drinks

fabienne

Fabienne Lesbros started her procurement career in 1991 on the Channel Tunnel project. Since then she has worked across a number of sectors and industries, procuring for well-known companies such as Future Electronics and GlaxoSmithKline, before being appointed CPO for Britvic Soft Drinks in 2010.

Britvic has an annual global spend in excess of £1.1 billion, with suppliers in over 40 countries. Since 2010, Fabienne’s team has achieved great success in both savings and value creation, but has also led the way in sustainability, innovation and education.

In 2014, Fabienne was awarded the CIPS ‘Procurement and Supply Chain Management Professional of the Year’. Of her career she says, “My passion for the profession is stronger than ever, fuelled by a changing world focussed on sustainability, responsibility, innovation and the digital age.”

Fabienne talks to Procurious about her continuing journey and where she sees procurement in the future.

How did you get started in procurement?

Like a lot of my peers, I ‘fell’ into procurement at the start of my career. I had finished my studies and procurement was the first role I got. Again, like many of my peers, I didn’t really understand what procurement was or what the job entailed.

I started as an analyst in the procurement department as part of the channel tunnel project for Eurotunnel and I loved it from day one. I’ve always thought that procurement was a fascinating profession to be part of. You work with one of the few functions where you have contact with all parts of the business. You can touch so many things – the scope for procurement is immense.

What is your proudest achievement in procurement so far?

About a year ago, our CEO (Simon Litherland) spoke to the city about Britvic and how procurement was one of the key pillars to deliver the company’s strategy going forward.

This was a big achievement as it showed how much the procurement team was valued by the business. In many organisations, procurement simply doesn’t have that level of focus, although this is changing as more and more organisations realise that procurement is one of the most powerful tools at their disposal.

Similarly, getting the award from CIPS has to be right up there as one of my proudest achievements, both from a personal perspective but equally from a team perspective. I see this award as just as big an achievement for them.

What prompted you to submit a nomination for the CIPS award?

I hadn’t intended to submit a nomination for the award at all. However, a friend of mine from the CIPS Fellows said that I should and kept asking me until I applied!

The way it works is as follows: you write the submission yourself, but a lot of documentation comes from peers about your work, line manager testimonies and recommendations from colleagues and people you have worked with throughout your career.

After you have submitted the paperwork, a pre-selection takes place and people are informed if they get through to the next stage. If you are selected, you are given a month to prepare a presentation to be delivered to a panel of industry experts.

The key success factor in this part of the process was the ability to communicate, specifically being able to consolidate your message into something clear, concise and pitched at a business level. Of course getting it right first time is essential! This was a challenging exercise preparing 6-7 slides to cover a 20 year career to date.

However, this is no different to everyday procurement activity – one of the main areas I look to develop my team in is the ability to avoid procurement jargon and get their message across by tapping into business issues through the language of the wider organisation

What does the award mean to you and your team?

What the award gives to the team is a great external benchmark and recognition, which then leads to more gravitas internally and the ability to influence the business agenda at pace. People start to understand procurement’s role in more depth and realise that they can reach and surpass their own business objectives by collaboration with us.

Procurement can unlock the potential of the supply base to directly deliver the needs of the business rather than getting lost in the complex world of third party supply chains, which if handled incorrectly can have serious detrimental impact to an organisation.

Quality leads to recognition, which in turn leads to trust and building this trust means our business partners rely on and want to work with procurement for a quality output.

It of course works externally too, as suppliers clamour to work with an award winning team.

What is the most challenging aspect of being the CPO in an organisation the size of Britvic? And the best thing?

The most challenging aspect is the high number of initiatives that the organisation has running at any one time – we are an ambitious organisation and that means there is lots to do!

As commodity experts there is always a lot of pressure on procurement to avoid volatility and equally the cost consciousness agenda that runs through the organisation means our Indirect Procurement team is at the forefront of this – challenging but that’s the way we like it!

The advantage is the size of the company – we are not a behemoth and the closeness to the product that procurement has means we can act with pace. You can see the immediate impact on the bottom line that your decisions are making.

It’s also easier to get round all the business partners and you are able to do more of that face-to-face.

One of the best things about being CPO is being in charge of the coaching and development of the team. I find it very rewarding to develop the team and to see individuals achieve things that they didn’t previously think would be possible – we are nothing without a team that has development opportunity, ambition and talent.

What are your key aims for 2015?

Professionally, I am trying to get the team to develop greater engagement with the commercial and sales teams. The engagement often stops with the marketing or operations teams, but I believe that there is a lot to get from engaging on the commercial side.

They understand the competitive edge, trends and where future products might be heading. I’m pushing the team to work in this area, which will be a big change in terms of engagement, as it doesn’t really happen at the moment. I think you need to do things in a collaborative way and work very cross-functionally.

After all, sales can help procurement on getting into the mind of a seller and vice versa – it’s a trick many organisations miss, which could really strengthen supplier and customer negotiations and relationships.

How can procurement become more strategically involved in organisations?

For me, it’s all about understanding the business needs, adding value and not doing procurement in a silo. This goes back to the engagement with other parts of the business.

The procurement team doesn’t speak in procurement terms to other teams; they try to speak their language. You engage the business better by speaking in IT, marketing or operations terms to those other teams and understanding what their key drivers are

You constantly need to understand what the business’ needs are. You fulfil a need from the business, but finding a need that the business never knew it required in the first is far more powerful: this is how procurement adds value to the business.

Procurement can be seen as part of the team and can bring so much functionality into the business. It’s the only team that can touch everything internally and externally every day.

What do you see in procurement’s future and how can social media play a role?

You can look at this from two angles, the first being the impact from social media on the supply and demand for goods and services. We live in a world of multiple social media streams, which has completely changed the way we interact with our consumers.

This is at the forefront of our marketing strategies which ultimately impacts us all – for procurement reacting to customer preferences and rapid changes in trends means we have to be quicker than ever in dealing with the supply base and sourcing innovation to match our needs. We have more information at our finger tips to inform us of supplier performance/preferences and this will only accelerate over the next 5 years.

Secondly, I look at social media from a perspective of developing the profession. Procurement is not a profession that is really on people’s radar, you don’t see procurement anywhere in terms of being a career. Kids don’t come home from school and tell their parents that they want to be a buyer!

We need to establish procurement as a profession in the same way as law and accountancy, and make people in schools and universities aware that there are careers in procurement out there.

Social media can help this happen. Engaging with schools, showing them what procurement is and how to qualify, what careers are available and what you can do in procurement – all of this can be shown on social media.

How can we engage with the next generation of procurement professionals?

As with the previous question, we need to show procurement as a profession. There should be programmes in schools about it, have universities linked up with CIPS to offer information and qualifications and courses in procurement and then for companies to create graduate programmes where they can.

The profession needs people. At the moment, we don’t have enough people with the right skill sets. Procurement should be a profession for which there should be a degree/professional accreditation, the same as being a lawyer or an accountant.

It’s vital for procurement to become a recognisable profession. It’s becoming too critical to organisations not to have people coming naturally from a professional stream.

Gravitas skills are key to unlocking door to boardrooms for women

Less than 25 per cent of board members of FTSE 100 companies are women…

Getting women into the boardroom

Britain’s boardrooms would change from ‘male and pale’ if more would-be leaders learnt to develop the skill of gravitas, according to author and leadership communications coach, Antoinette Dale Henderson. 

Antoinette regularly speaks on leadership identity, influencing with integrity, building inner confidence and communication excellence. In 2007, she launched Zomi Communications to commit to that mission, working with people to identify their purpose and define their unique leadership voice.

“Women, younger people and people from ethnic minorities often face particular challenges in tackling misconceptions about gravitas needed for the boardroom and that needs to stop” – says Antoinette.

“Gravitas is not an inherent trait – but it is an essential skill for successful leaders. My aim is to turn the old-school image of gravitas on its head and demonstrate that it’s a skill that can be developed by anyone who wants to fulfil their potential as a manager or leader. This book will help anyone, no matter what level of experience to use their own individuality to command respect and make a lasting impression. “

Leading with Gravitas is based on research conducted with a broad range of leaders including politicians, business and community executives, small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Her book aims to demystify the concept of ‘gravitas’ through exploring what it means for Britain’s successful leaders. Using a six-key model, it explores what the reader can do to develop their own gravitas and leadership style through practical exercises and tools.

Developing your own gravitas and leadership style

There are a number of practical exercises and tools which will allow you to develop your own gravitas.

The following is encouraged:

•Gain a clear understanding of the vital components of gravitas by analysing how you currently perform and what you can do to improve
•Increase awareness of your unique expertise and qualities as an authentic leader
•Access a range of powerful techniques to help communicate and present with impact
•Enhance your confidence, influence and ability to inspire others and deliver results
•Harness your passion and individuality to maximise leadership presence and project your best self

More information about Antoinette and her learnings can be found at www.leadingwithgravitas.com

Blast off! NASA announce new procurement chief

NASA announce new procurement chief - Kaprice Harris

In what may be one of the most interesting jobs in procurement, NASA has announced that Kaprice Harris will take office in the space agency’s Executive Service position of Procurement Officer and chief of the Procurement Division.

Harris started her career at the NASA in 1996 and has held various roles both within and outside of the procurement function over a career spanning more than two decades.

Harris will hold responsibility for planning, organisation and establishing the strategic direction of the organisation’s procurement function.

Speaking on the appointment NASA Glenn Research Centre Director Jim Free said: “Kaprice’s agency wide experience combined with her leadership will be a valuable addition to our Procurement Division.”

Industrial action is over, but trouble continues for US ports

US port closures

The first blog I wrote on Procurious was about McDonald’s horror year in 2014. One of many glaring supply chain issues for the fast food giant was its mismanagement of the industrial action that took place at ports on the US west coast in 2014.

This week something sparked me to go back and see where things had got to with regards to these disputes. What I found was interesting to say the least.

Busy making other plans

While dockworkers were negotiating new contract terms, causing work operations at the ports to grind to a near halt, it appears supplier chain managers across the world were busy formulating back up plans.

Despite longer transit times from the buoyant Asian markets and increased shipping cost, many supply chain managers elected to re-route shipments paths from their original west coast destinations to east coast ports (via the Panama Canal), or though neighbouring Mexico and Canada in order to avoid the rigmarole these disputes have caused.

Those involved in the west coast shipping industry surely would have cringed at stats released last week suggesting that, for the month of January, year-on-year cargo figures have dropped by 28 per cent at the port of Los Angeles. The port of Oakland estimated even greater losses with cargo volumes shrinking by 32 per cent for the month of January.

They’re not coming back

Perhaps the area of greatest concern for the west coast shipping industry is that these sorts of decisions tend to be sticky. Firms that have made a commitment to alternative shipping routes (largely through frustration) are unlikely to resort back to west coast ports now that the industrial action is over. This is exemplified in the findings of a survey released by the Journal of Commerce last week, which suggested that 65 per cent of shippers planned to move less cargo through west coast ports in 2016.

The importance of supply chain flexibility 

Supply chain flexibility means that firms are now less reliant on individual ports than ever before. Aside from fresh produce, most goods can ship from alternative destinations, meaning that supply chain managers now have more options around how they move their goods. Sure, it may take longer, but with proper planning, a steady, reliable supply can in fact be established, something that west coast ports failed to offer in 2014.

Speaking on the losses and challenges the industrial action has created for the Port of Los Angeles, the organisation’s executive director, Gene Seroka, stated: “About a third of our cargo is purely discretionary, some of that cargo has moved to other port complexes. It’s going to be extremely difficult to earn that business back.”

When the cat is away the mice will play

While west coast ports are seeing significantly lower traffic flows, there has been a corresponding up turn in activity on the east coast, with the Port of Virginia seeing a 15 per cent increase in cargo figures. It’s also thought that the planned expansion of the Panama canal will make east coast ports even more attractive options for goods coming or going to the lucrative Asian market. The expansion of the canal, despite numerous complications, is due for completion next year.

So, while the industrial action has stopped, it seems like the impact of these disputes are yet to have fully played out for the west coast’s shipping industry. Can they make up for lost time?

Top five ways mindfulness can help you in the workplace

Work-life stress is taking its toll on the nation

A new study has revealed that cases of anxiety and stress are on the rise and taking their toll on our careers – in fact, other than being poorly, stress and depression are listed as the top reason people take time off work with one in five respondents admitting to taking time off work due to stress.

Is work-life stress taking its toll?

The research, which questioned 1,000 respondents and was commissioned by Anamaya to examine the impact our stress levels have on both our work and home lives, also revealed that more than half of us (52 per cent) actually only feel fully relaxed for just a couple of hours each week.

So what’s the answer?

Almost a third (32 per cent) of people questioned acknowledged that they felt mind training and meditation could make a real difference to their day to day stress levels but a quarter were unsure how to integrate mind training into their busy schedules.

Graham Doke, founder and narrator of the Anamaya app and ex-city lawyer, comments: “The majority of us have experienced how, at one point or another, the stress and strains of our work life can be brought back home with us on an evening. If not addressed, this stress can have a detrimental impact on our lives.

“When you look at the US and UK firms that have introduced mindfulness in the workplace, the results are overwhelming and show that simply taking 5-10 minutes out during your work day to focus on mindfulness, relaxation or to meditate, can have some truly remarkable results.”

Last year the US trend of focussing on mindfulness in the workplace began to take off in the UK, with firms such as the NHS and Transport For London introducing mindfulness and meditation sessions for their staff. 

The top five ways mindfulness can help you in the workplace:

1. Increased awareness of your emotions – office politics, rivalry, jealousy and competitiveness can all have a major impact on your work experience.  When executed properly, meditation and mindfulness training can increase awareness of emotions and the awareness of other’s emotion – helping you to control your reactions and be more aware when people are trying to provoke.

2. Manage anxiety levels – anxiety is proven to be an inhibiter of good performance, and it produces a self-feeding cycle of greater anxiety and stress. Awareness of your anxiety leaves you able to deal with the emotion itself, and clears the way to better performance.

3. Ease the pressure – People claim they ‘work best under pressure’, and managers often feel they get the best from their team by being aggressively demanding. However, neuroscience shows that stress, pressure, reaction to aggression all produces a negative reaction in our brains. Anyone who thinks they operating best under pressure is simply not thinking straight! Meditation reduces the activity of this part of the brain and means we can think clearer.

4. Problem solving – meditation can change the structure of the brain, particularly the pre-frontal cortex – this change is measurable with MRI scans and leaves the meditator able to modify their behaviour. One of the most empowering changes that mindfulness can bring is the ability to be less fearful and more willing to approach a problem than previously.

5. Work/life balance – In the modern environment of instant information, instant reaction, and 24/7 availability, it is difficult to achieve any kind of balance. In this ‘always on’ culture, where it has become increasingly difficult to switch off thanks to technology, employers are now much more obligated to ensure their employees’ health and wellbeing is maintained.

You can download the Anamaya app here via the iTunes store.

Marks & Spencer’s future lies in its supply chain

Marks & Spencer supply chain

Marks & Spencer, once the darling of Britain’s high street, has developed a reputation in recent years for tired stores and even more tired fashion. However, the company believes that a supply chain revival will turn this perception around.

As part of broader supply chain optimisation project, M&S has elected to bring a significant amount of its previously outsourced operations back in-house. The firm has hired new designers and rejuvenated its online presence in a bid to revive its image and win back its core customers.

The moves are thought to be a reaction to changing consumer preferences in the British retail sector. The rise of the ‘fast fashion’ model of companies like Zara and H&M is creating a shift in purchasing patterns of the company’s most loyal customers (women aged over 50). These consumers are now looking for more contemporary designs.

Patsy Perry, a lecturer in fashion marketing at the University of Manchester said: “There’s a killing to be made if they can serve older women better. Unless you have money to buy designer clothes, it’s hard to find what you want on the high street unless you want to look like your daughter.”

Brothers in garms

Marks & Spencer’s bold new supply chain practices were kick-started with the hiring of Hong Kong based brothers, Neal and Mark Lindsey, as the joint sourcing directors in 2014. The pair had previously worked with high street retailer Next, and bring a wealth of experience in optimising fashion and retail supply chains.

While the benefits to simplifying supply chain processes appear clear in theory, in practice, implementing these measures will not be simple for the retailer.

Marks and Spencer’s supplier relationships and indeed its current business model date back decades. Until recently, the firm outsourced all elements of its garment production business, from design through to warehousing and delivery, to third party suppliers.

Previous supplier relationships were based around producing high quality products and lead times have generally been long. As the firm looks to emulate the ‘fast fashion’ model, these relationships must undergo drastic change.

Speaking on the challenges this may cause, M&S Bill Mills – a textile industry consultant who used to manage factories for M&S suppliers Courtaulds and Coats Viyella, said: “On the one level there are some cost savings, but on the other hand M&S will have to place resource in their buying offices, whether that be UK or local, to manage the factories. It is not a panacea.”

While there is a long way to go for M&S, both in reconfiguring its supply chain and in reclaiming some of its lost market share, the firm as already made some impressive steps in its supply chain optimisation program. By halving it’s number of fabric supplier, the team has already been able to negotiate improved terms to its remaining providers.

“Help! Why does my boss want me to do a capability assessment?”

Capability assessment

Picture this – you manage a team with a mixed bag of competencies and you are very aware that skill gaps need to be identified and addressed before they frustrate the execution of your strategy. You decide that rather than hiring externally, you’re going to upskill your existing team with a smart mixture of formal training, on-the-job coaching and mentoring. What’s the best way to go about it? You could launch an expensive hit-and-miss generalised training program for the whole team, or you could spend your limited development budget wisely by rolling out a capability assessment first to identify and target competency gaps.

You make your decision, find a great online capability assessment tool that suits your needs, and dash off a quick email to your team informing them that they’ll be undertaking a capability assessment next week…

… and suddenly you have a revolt on your hands.    

What went wrong? Any form of assessment can understandably create anxiety, with people’s immediate reaction being that it’s some sort of performance management exercise. And when management rolls out a performance management program, we all know what’s coming next. Positioning and communication, therefore, is absolutely imperative before introducing a capability assessment.

The ‘quick email’ mentioned above should have been a carefully crafted piece of communication to the team about why a capability assessment is being carried out to gain trust and create buy-in for the process. In The Faculty’s 2014 Mind The Gap report on procurement capability, survey respondents nominated “positioning and communication” as the single most important factor in running a successful capability assessment. A surprisingly high 52.5% of respondents who had carried out a capability assessment reported that it had a negative impact, which may very well be attributed to confusion or distrust from their teams about why an assessment was being conducted.

Explicitly assure your staff that the assessment isn’t a performance management exercise and make an effort to spell out what’s in it for them. Some of the benefits to communicate to the team may include:

  • Empowering individuals to have meaningful development conversations and take ownership of their careers.
  • Providing staff at all levels with a vehicle and direction for their professional development plans.
  • Establishing a baseline of current capability at an individual, team and organisational level.
  • Demonstrating genuine leadership commitment to learning, continuous improvement and optimising talent, while reducing the need for external hiring.
  • Identifying high-potential employees and aligning skilled candidates with job descriptions.

This isn’t to say that a capability assessment can’t be used for more sinister purposes such as identifying “incapable” staff for upcoming redundancies – if this is the case, best of luck with writing the communication piece! But an assessment can also be a positive experience and can potentially help place participants on a meaningful professional development and career path.

What do you think? If you were asked to undertake a capability assessment would you view it with mistrust or see it as a positive opportunity?  

New initiative champions best practice to recruit and retain female professionals

More needs to be done to recruit and retain women and last Sunday’s International Women’s Day was just the start…

More needs to be done to train and retail female professionals

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has joined forces with Prospect, the trade union representing professionals in the UK, to announce a new joint working group to help companies recruit and retain more women engineers and scientists.

The group, which has grown out of a conference to coincide with International Women’s Day, will establish best practice guidance to share across industry on how best to recruit and retain women in science and engineering roles.

Read more: It’s time to tackle career stereotypes

Whats’s holding women back? 

In the engineering industry alone, only six per cent of engineers in the UK today are women. This is due to a number of factors from the careers advice girls are given in schools, to schools not instilling girls with the confidence to opt for science and maths at A level. But it is also due to some employers needing to make their approach to recruitment and retention more female friendly. This is unfortunately an issue all too common, that affects women from all walks of life, engineering or otherwise.

Supported by Meg Munn MP, Baroness Prosser, Naomi Climer, President of Sony Media Cloud Services and IET President-elect, and Denise McGuire, Vice President of Prospect, the group will also have industry representation from a range of major employers who attended the conference, including the Met Office, Atkins Global and BAE Systems.

Unconscious bias: How can organisations and individuals shift subconscious social attitudes, stereotypes and ingrained recruitment and promotion attitudes that exist and negatively impact a more diverse workforce?

Good practice for retention: How can we encourage organisations to recognise that creating a level playing field for women benefits everyone. Flexible working, fair pay and a more inclusive culture should be on all organisations’ agenda because they are proven to improve overall staff retention, and are good for business.

Commenting on the new working group, Naomi Climer, President-elect of the IET and a member of the working group said: “We have talked about the lack of women in engineering and science for many years now. More female-friendly retention and recruitment practices are an important part of the challenge. By bringing together a working group which for the first time has representatives from Government, trade unions, industry and professional bodies, we want to get to the crux of the issue and come up with some hard hitting and practical guidance that can help more companies address this significant problem.

“While International Women’s Day is about championing women’s achievements, it’s also about making sure that women are achieving their potential. And it’s also about making sure our world economies – which increasingly depend on engineering, manufacturing and technology – are not being hampered by the fact we are missing out on the talent and contributions of 50 per cent of the potential workforce.”

Denise McGuire, Vice President of Prospect, said: “Women are in STEM for careers, not just for International Women’s Day! We need to stamp out Unconscious Bias and make the world of work a fairer place for everyone.”

Read more: International Women’s Day