Embracing Technology and Bring Dynamism to Your Workforce

Decision makers can bring dynamism to their workforce in 2016 by embracing technology. Paul Statham, CEO and Founder of workplace technology expert Condeco Software, examines the office trends of 2016.

Hot Desking

The office world is changing beyond recognition. Within a generation, the cigarette smoke-filled paper world has been streamlined and replaced by one of personal computers, tablets and clouds. As we move further away from the traditional hierarchical structures of the past, to a much flatter organisation, the need for new technological solutions facilitating this framework becomes more pressing.

In 2016, business leaders will be increasingly turning towards innovative tech to create a full picture of their companies’ office and meeting room requirements. This wider viewpoint of how their workplace operates will not only allow decision makers to rescale their office space and make significant savings in running costs globally, but also introduce lasting organisational change fostering better working cultures and environments across the world.

  • Dynamic Working

One of the main office trends is the push for dynamic working, necessary to accommodate a younger and more tech-savvy workforce that does not share the idea that they should be sat at their desk all day to prove they are doing a good job, but who feel rather that they should be up and about, keeping in touch with colleagues and clients anywhere and at anytime through the use of mobile technologies.

Dynamic working also reduces the need for desks and meeting rooms, which can be an expensive business as they often remain under-utilised, as highlighted by a study by Condeco Software which discovered that overall desk utilisation is as low as 58 per cent.

  • Hot Desking

Hot desking offers another solution to office space waste, as it renders unused space immediately available and allows for a smaller number of desks. Furthermore, hot desking can also contribute in the push for a less hierarchical organisational culture, as senior and junior employees share more and more desk-space together, which encourages a  more collaborative and informal working culture.

By utilising the power of technology and gathering vital analytics, companies can redesign their working space according to the newest organisational needs. This can promote better communication, improve collaboration, and help create a streamlined work environment.

  • Flexible Working

At the same time, hot desking and dynamic working fit perfectly well with new trends in flexible working, where working from home or from different locations is becoming more and more common.  This trend is only set to increase in 2016, as 82 per cent of managers believe that flexible working benefits their business.

However, flexible workers do need to return to the office from time-to-time, so it is vital to have a system in place which allows workers to easily check where available desk space is, rather than having to search around the office looking for an empty chair.

  • Greater Internationalisation

Businesses also need to adapt to the greater internationalisation of workforce. Technology can enable overseas workers to find a place to work in any foreign office while on a business trip, helping firms overcome one of the complications intrinsic to transnational teams. It can also help foster greater interaction and unity in dispersed teams.

  • Big Data and Artificial Intelligence

Another growing trend is the current push for big data and artificial intelligence, whereby data can be stored an analysed in order to inform business decisions. The reliance on data and automated systems is becoming ever more pressing and, in the future, many more management solutions will be performed by automated intelligent systems, capable of gathering and processing data.

Previously innocuous human tasks, such as booking a meeting room, could now be conducted by smart systems. By using intelligent systems, allocating work-space efficiently, and utilising big data, companies can implement the required workplace changes needed to succeed in the 21st century.

What Tinder Can Tell Us About Job Hunting – Part 2: “My mother warned me about people like you”

In the second part of this series, we look at how to make sure a recruiter sees you as the right person for the job.

Tinder App 2

You can read Part 1 of the series here.

This series of articles was co-authored with Andy Storrar, Digital Marketing Specialist.

The worlds of romance and recruitment have this fundamentally in common: someone is looking for the right person, “The One”, and they know that they may have to kiss a lot of metaphorical frogs before they find that person.

And you, my friend, want to connect with your ideal person or work for your ideal company, so let’s think about the lessons we can learn from Tinder.

In the heady early days of someone’s Tinder usage, all that exploratory frog-kissing is pretty damn fun: everyone looks exciting, glamorous, attractive and intelligent. We love them all! But after a few months, and a number of bad dates, the shine has worn off somewhat.

Make Them Feel Loved

Now let’s imagine that your Tinder user is instead part of the recruitment process. It doesn’t matter whether they’re working for a potential employer or for a recruitment agency, you can be sure of this – they’ve kissed a whole swamp full of frogs and they’ve got a rather nasty taste in their mouth. You are wooing a much more cynical audience, and so you need to take care about how you make your approach.

You want the object of your affections/approaches to feel wanted and appreciated – you wouldn’t start a love letter “Dear Sir/Madam” unless you were writing to a horrifyingly undiscerning audience – so make sure that when you make that first approach you show you’ve made the effort. At the very least you need to know the person’s name (and spell it right!), and as far as possible you should try to understand what they’re looking for.

You might be surprised by how many people, when applying for a job, use a template cover letter without bothering to change any details or to explain why they are an ideal match. To a slightly jaded CV-reviewer this doesn’t seem very different from the “numbers game” person at a disco who doesn’t care about nine offended rebuttals as long as they get a kiss the tenth time.

Why Are You a Good Match?

At the same time, if you’re applying for a job for which you’re not quite right, don’t just fire in your CV without making any effort, like someone trying to hoover up a kiss from the drunken singletons at the end of a party. Take the time to emphasise the areas where you do fit and what makes you a good match: in the end, that job may not be quite right but it may still have an attractive sibling in search of “The One”.

Just as you wouldn’t use clichés in your Tinder profile because that would make you sound unimaginative and stupid, it’s not a good idea to glibly claim on your CV that you have a “unique combination of skills” if two million other people in the country can say the same thing. Another common cliché is to claim that you are “the ideal candidate” – this sounds presumptuous and more than a little conceited. The person reviewing your CV has a strong urge to swipe left.

Of course you want to stand out from the crowd…but in a good way. You won’t achieve this by posting Tinder pictures of yourself with drugged tigers or swilling champagne in a helicopter – these are the people your mother warned you about, although frankly she hardly needed to.

A potential employer also wants to know what is special and individual about you, so make sure to highlight the things that you have achieved: don’t try to boastfully claim the achievements of the whole team but instead flag up the specific difference that you made.

Recruiters read a lot of CVs that just list what happened on a project, without showing the contributions that the individual made, and they tend to think that, no matter how glittering the project may sound, the person probably achieved nothing – fairly or unfairly, the individual behind the CV has just sunk into the swamp. Swipe left.

The “One” Is Out There

Does it sound like your ideal partner will never swipe right on you? Not so. That person (or company) is still out there looking for their ideal match, and they really, really want to find them. In the world of Tinder, we know that Romance never dies (although it does sometimes get very cross indeed and give up for a month or so); in the world of employment, those hiring managers want to get the right match and they are being paid to kiss frogs to do it.

It’s your duty not to make the mistakes that might prevent them from seeing that maybe, just maybe, you’re “The One”.

Exposing the Risk of Conflict Minerals in Supply Chains

As Intel declares that its supply chain will be free from conflict minerals this year, we take a look at what other organisations are doing, and what impact these materials can have on a supply chain. Conflict-Minerals

Conflict materials are raw materials sourced from a particular part of the world where conflict, such as civil war, is occurring and affects the trading of those materials. The proceeds from the trade of these materials, such as conflict diamonds, are often used to fund armed groups in these regions.

Conflict minerals are the raw materials columbite-tantalite (coltan), cassiterite (tin), gold, wolframite (tungsten) and their derivatives, the vast majority of which are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo and adjoining countries, a region which has been ravaged by civil war and other conflicts for over 20 years.

These minerals are used in a wide variety of manufactured products, including consumer electronics such as computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones and even washing machines.

Global Regulation

In 2010, US President Barack Obama signed The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law. Section 1502 of the Act required all American companies to determine whether their products contained conflict minerals through due diligence carried out in their supply chain, and to report this to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

There were criticisms of the law on both sides, with some groups arguing that it didn’t go far enough and ban the sourcing of such products entirely, while others argued that over-zealous enforcement of the law could adversely impact legitimate workers in the region, who relied on trading these materials for their livelihoods.

Since the law was passed, it has been estimated that it has helped to reduce funds going to armed groups in the DRC by up to 65 per cent.

In the UK there is no strict regulation on conflict minerals, although there are initiatives that have been created to stop these materials entering the supply chain. These initiatives require organisations to provide a ‘proof of origin’ on raw materials, or carry out similar due diligence in their supply chains to assess where funds from trading are going.

During 2015, the European Parliament voted in favour of a mandatory monitoring system for minerals originating in conflict areas, similar to the provisions in Dodd-Frank. The system suffered similar criticism to Dodd-Frank in relation to provisions for legitimate traders and miners.

Supply Chain Transparency

Growing public scrutiny of organisational practices, and the rise of consumer power when it comes to sustainably manufactured or procured products, will lead to a requirement for a vast improvement in supply chain transparency in the short-term future.

With Intel now reporting that its supply chain will be free from all conflict minerals in 2016, many other high-profile organisations, particularly those in the electronics industry, will be keen to follow suit.

Apple reported progress in the removal of conflict minerals in its product in April last year, but cannot yet claim to be ‘conflict free’ as all of their suppliers are yet to complete the auditing process. A further 120 companies,including Dell, HP, Nokia and Microsoft, have signed up as members of the Conflict-Free Smelter Program (CFSP), which aims to ensure that metals and minerals are worked with in conflict-free factories.

However, there appears to be a lot of work for a number of organisations to do. A report released by Amnesty International last year showed that 79 per cent of a sample of companies who had filed reports to the SEC in 2014, had failed to meet the minimum disclosure requirements.

Supply Chain Risk

Organisations must undertake a considerable volume of work to ensure that their supply chains are free from conflict materials of any kind, including conflict minerals. The management of this issue, and the associated risks, needs to be handled proactively, or the organisations will have to deal with any repercussions.

As political and socio-economic climates grow more unstable, global supply chains face increasing risks when doing business, and even the best prepared can fall foul of the actions or activities of a third party in the chain. However, there are steps that can be taken to minimise these risks.

Increased collaboration with suppliers and supply chain partners and creating greater visibility through the use of data, as well as policies and processes governed by procurement, can all help to reduce these risks. It’s down to the individual organisations to work out what is best for them.

Procurement risk, including supply chain transparency and ethics, will be one of the major themes at the Procurious Big Ideas Summit 2016. Stay tuned in the next couple of months for more information on the event, and learn how you can get involved.

Meanwhile, we’ve scanned the news feeds and Internet to find the major procurement and supply chain headlines this week.

‘Non-Compliance’ Issues Alleged at Co-op Group

  • Kath Harmeston, former Procurement Director at the Co-operative Group, has alleged that procurement policy non-compliance were as high as 70 per cent
  • The claims were made during an employment tribunal where Harmeston is seeking £5.2 million from the organisation for unfair dismissal
  • Harmeston alleged that staff “across the business were placing commitments with suppliers without going to the procurement department first”, including on up to 50 capital projects
  • The Co-operative Group responded that Harmeston’s claims were a “smokescreen”, covering up poor performance and the hiring of a firm of consultants who had previously been subject to whistleblowing claims
  • The case continues

Read more at Supply Management

Domain Registration Shows Apple Car Progress

  • Technology giant Apple has registered three car-related internet domains, raising speculation that they are ready to unveil plans for a driverless car
  • Reports in 2015 contained speculation that Apple would be ready to launch a driverless vehicle by 2019, fuelled by CEO Tim Cook’s comments that the automotive industry should expect “massive change”
  • The company has made a number of high-profile appointments from the car industry in the past 12 months, with new staff from the likes of Volkswagen being brought on board
  • Apple will face stiff competition in the industry from already established organisations such as Tesla and Google, both of whom have already revealed plans for similar cars

Read more at The Telegraph

Police to Save £7m with Collaborative Procurement

  • A collaborative procurement agreement on the purchase of vehicles for 34 police and emergency services organisations in the UK will create savings of up to £7m
  • The agreement, the largest of its kind ever put together in the UK, will see the supply of over 3,000 vehicles, 1,200 of which will be manufactured in the UK itself
  • The suppliers – General Motors UK trading as Vauxhall, Ford, Volvo and BMW – were selected from a list of companies on the national government framework agreement
  • David Wilkin, West Midlands Police’s director of resources and the national policing lead for the procurement of vehicles, said “All suppliers in the process had to demonstrate their working relationship with local dealerships to ensure that going forward maintenance of the vehicles such as warranty repairs are carried out locally, ensuring we continue to support the local economy”.

Read more at Supply Management

TRAFFIC Traceability Review to Show Supply Chain Tracking

  • TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, has conducted and released a ground-breaking traceability review of how trade in endangered species can be tracked along the supply chain
  • The tracking of products will help to ensure that all national and international legislation on the trade of wildlife is being adhered to throughout organisational supply chains
  • The traceability systems will help consumers access information on, amongst others, fisheries supply chains, to see that the products they are purchasing come from sustainable suppliers
  • It is also hoped that these systems will help to arrest the decline in shark and ray populations around the globe

Read more at Traffic.org

Deficit Reduction ‘Top Priority’ For UK Government

The Chancellor’s warning of a “cocktail of new threats” to the UK economy shows that deficit reduction must be the top priority for the UK Government, says the Institute of Directors.

UK-Coins-Budget-Deficit

A slow start to 2016 for global markets, particularly in China, Brazil and Russia, the ongoing tension in the Middle East and stock market falls were all highlighted by George Osborne in a speech made in Cardiff on Thursday.

Although only just over a week into the new year, economic alarm bells are sounding around the world, with China suspending trading on its stock market twice last week due to heavy losses, as well as the continuing fall in global oil and other commodity prices.

What is the Deficit?

The deficit is the total amount of money a national government borrows, with the UK’s current deficit estimated at just under 5 per cent of GDP. Net borrowing for the UK in 2015-16 is forecast to be £69.5 billion, which is equal to 3.7 per cent of the UK’s GDP.

However, it’s not quite as simple as being just the money that is borrowed, as the deficit can be impacted by a number of macro-economic factors, such as economic growth and the strength of overseas markets who the UK is exporting to.

The “cocktail of threats” that Osborne warned about shows a picture of the global economy that is in sharp contrast to the rosier picture painted by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement, when he said that the UK economy was “growing fast“.

However, with planned welfare cuts set aside, and targets for borrowing exceeded in 2015, many experts are also warning that the Conservative’s plans for a budget surplus by 2020 may prove to be very difficult.

Importance of Deficit Reduction

With a less positive outlook for the coming year, the Institute of Directors has stated that reducing the UK’s deficit is now more important than ever, to allow the country to cope with any future financial crisis.

James Sproule, Chief Economist at the IoD said: “Osborne’s warning comes at an important time for the world – and British – economy. With turmoil on the stock markets, interest rates still at extraordinary lows, and various surveys painting a less than rosy – albeit more realistic – outlook for the developing world, the UK must be prepared for all eventualities. First and foremost, that means a continued focus on eradicating the deficit. 

“85 per cent of IoD members support the Chancellor’s plans to run a small budget surplus by the end of this parliament. They know that without bringing public spending under control, the UK’s debt pile will continue to grow. That means when – not if – the next crisis strikes, it is unclear how well we will be able to weather the storm. 

“The IoD warned last year that the Chancellor did not leave himself much room for manoeuvre by relying on a £27 billion accounting windfall in the Autumn Statement to balance the books. Now those concerns have come into sharper relief.

 “Without a concerted effort to bring ever rising public spending under control, tax hikes like the apprenticeship levy will always be tempting, and the promised increase in income tax thresholds and cuts to corporation tax may not materialise. The fact the sun seems to be shining a little dimmer highlights the importance of fixing the roof sooner rather than later.”

Procurious Big Ideas Panel Discussion #1 – What Does it Mean to Be An Authentic Leader?

What does it mean to be an authentic leader in procurement?

In the first of the panel discussions from the Big Ideas Summit 2015, Sigi Osagie, Sarah Trota, Helen Mackenzie and Andrew MacAskill discussed this question, and helped to provide a diverse view on the best answer.

From the power of public sector procurement and the figure of the leader clearing the path through the procurement jungle, to the brand of the profession and setting the belief, the discussion created some fascinating points.

Watch the full discussion here.

See all the keynotes and panel discussions from the Big Ideas Summit, plus Big Ideas from our 40+ Influencers.

Like this? Join Procurious for FREE and meet like-minded procurement professionals from across the world.

What are the Key Procurement Trends for 2016?

Did you successfully predict the key procurement trends in 2015? Chances are good that you were able to pick out at least a couple of the major themes appearing in the news and industry reports. But what does the coming 12 months have in store for the profession? Trends

Ethics, sustainable procurement, relationship management, technology and social media – these were just a few of the topics highlighted by the Procurious community when asked this question in 2015. Sure enough, a number of these themes were prominent in news stories and organisational strategy last year.

Roll on 12 months and there is a fresh set of trends to keep up with in order to remain relevant. We’ve picked out a few that we think will be making headlines, prompting discussions and keeping organisations on their toes in 2016. 

Technology

  • Rise of the Cloud

Last year we spent a lot of time discussing the Internet of Things (IoT) and its growing impact on procurement. However, it’s clear that many procurement teams have yet to get to grips with the Cloud. However, procurement has a great opportunity to leverage Cloud software in a number of ways, including as part of supplier collaboration.

The Cloud will allow ordering to be streamlined, increase visibility across the supply chain and allows for changes to be made more easily, even when goods are in transit.

Del Monte has already taken this step by moving its supply chain data to the cloud. The company can now access a wealth of global data, create orders, place contracts with suppliers and collaborate with partners, all in real time. Thus far, it has led to a 56 per cent saving in customs broker costs, better visibility and a 26 per cent reduction in inventory due to better information on goods in transit.

  • Improvements in eProcurement

As technology advances, systems that have been around for a number of years will have to play catch-up. Spend management and eProcurement systems are just a couple of those platforms that are in need of a reboot (while taking into account that organisations still need to be more selective when choosing theirs).

Better technology will allow for faster purchasing activities, and eventually enable an experience more comparable to what we are used to as individuals when we shop online. This will, in turn, mean that rules are less likely to be bent to “get the job done”, maverick spending and policy breaches should decrease, and procurement can stop being seen as a roadblock.

People

  • Meeting the Needs of Millennials

In truth, this could have fallen into the Technology section, but it’s important from a people perspective too. Millennials have high expectations, sometimes unrealistic, as to how procurement could and should be done, particularly when it comes to technology. Businesses need to be up to date as far as technology and connectivity go in order to meet these expectations and retain their millennials, as well as deal with other millennials working in the supply chain.

Why is this a people issue? Because if you’re not doing this, someone else will be and the best millennial talent will get a job with them instead.

  • Meeting the Students

Organisations need to know where they are going to get the best people to fill their job roles, plus meet the rising expectations of the business. Universities and colleges are prime places to be doing this.

Work experience, apprenticeships, placements and sponsorship are all great options for organisations to attract current students and new graduates and school leavers. 2016 could be the right time for you to speak to the educational institutions near you and see what you and they can do together.

Risk 

  • Cyber Security in Contracts

Research suggests 78 per cent of organisations have experienced a data breach within the past two years. This goes beyond the high-profile examples of 2015, but puts a spotlight on the need to account for this risk as part of procurement contracts.

A lack clarity on who is responsible for the data within supply relationships, and how it can be stored securely, as well as plans for contingencies should a data breach happen, could leave both procurement and large parts of their supply chains exposed.

  • Supply Chain Transparency

Ok, so this isn’t necessarily a new procurement trend, but it’s one that’s going to get even more focus than in previous years. You just need to look at the new towards the end of 2015 (think Nestlé) to see stories of slave labour in supply chains.

From paddock to plate in restaurants and the food supply chain, to tracking clothes from the plant they were created from, there are a variety of areas that can and will be tracked.

Technological advancements (such as the Cloud), increasing mobile empowerment and increasing public scrutiny in this topic will certainly cause this to be close to the top of the vast majority of procurement departments’ risk agendas.

What do you think will be the key trends? If you have your own ideas, why not start a Discussion and share them with the rest of the community.

Mergers & Acquisitions in the Transportation Industry – A 2015 Retrospective

If you are already working in this sector, you do not need me to tell you there have been significant mergers and acquisitions in 2015. More are expected and you may be affected. The blog today reviews some of these events.

Merger 2

If you have not been following this sector, you will find recent financial details that are astounding and outstanding. Do not be deceived by recent lower annual growth figures in this industry when they are reported only in terms of percentages. This distorts the real growth, as the annual revenues in this sector are so large.

Company revenues, in many cases, are growing rapidly year on year. The sector reported revenues, globally, totalling $750 billion in 2014. Thanks also, without doubt, to the fact that eighty percent of Fortune 500 companies use some form of logistics and transportation provider.

But, why have there been so many recent mergers and acquisitions in the Transportation industry? Answer – consolidation is a must to stay competitive. The key word is scale. This is heard again and again when executives in this sector are interviewed.

Participants and Key Players

The participants are the firms who provide logistics services to customers for part or all of their supply chain management functions. These third party logistics (3PL) providers typically specialise in warehousing and transportation services, scaled to customer’s needs. Sometimes a service provider also offers value-added services, such as production or procurement of goods, and is a third-party supply chain management provider (3PSCM).

Many of their customers are reviewing their Supply Chain Roadmap to allow it to fit better to their business strategies. By contrast, the end game strategy that has led to some of the recent mergers has left some observers puzzled. But of no doubt is the importance of these changes, especially when one notes the size of these mergers, both in terms of geography and their financial size.

These have included for example, CMA CGM taking a 67% stake in the APL container group for S$3.4bn. The CMA vice-Chairman stated that the focus is on “scale”, adding that this is now “more critical than ever to capitalise on synergies and capture growth opportunities whenever they arise”.

Although more freight is being carried, global rates for freight have seen a decline, but sharp declines (40%) in costs of bunker fuel. So for CMA CGM they saw group net profit over 9 months approach $613m as opposed to $392m in the same period last year.

Sector Inertia

DSV Group (subject to UTi shareholders approval that is expected Q1 2016) will acquire US based UTi Worldwide Inc., who operate in 58 countries with 21,000 staff and have revenues of US$3.9 billion. Once again, ‘scale’ is the word used by the UTi Chairman.

However, there are now reports a rival bid may appear. DSV had stalled on the acquisition plan some time earlier when reports in the financial press caused a share price rise in UTi stock. The share price then fell following revised UTi profit forecasts.

Then there is Kintetsu World Express and their purchase of APL Logistics. Singapore NOL selling its APL Logistics division, making the transaction one of the largest in recent years. The state owned shipping line of Singapore will collect $1.2 billion from the sale.

This will give Kintetsu a much larger footprint. NOL were keen to point out that when calculating a purchase price based on a company’s financial results, the sale price obtained was well above the current market average for acquisitions in the sector. NOL sold both its logistics arm and shipping line business this year.

Further inertia in the sector was proved with announcements from FedEx confirming plans to acquire TNT Express for $5 billion. Confirmation is expected in the spring of 2016. This will make the combined company the second largest delivery service in Europe.

TNT shares rose 10 per cent when reports surfaced, saying a green light is expected from the EU antitrust regulators. A formal declaration is due by mid-January, although UPS continues to lobby against this acquisition. The firm tried to buy TNT three years ago but were stopped by the EU Commission, due to the estimated 30 per cent control they would be seen to have of the total market.

Why now?

It will not come as any surprise that mergers and acquisitions are seen as the vehicles of choice to build company size. But these logistics companies are themselves seen as targets, with potential, by private equity investment firms.

Changes in the global financial markets may have led to brakes on acquisition plans prior to 2014, until such time that target company share prices had become weaker, or rather, not seen as being over-priced. This, together with other factors, has meant that 2015 has been a bumper year for M&A.

As if to confirm the pace of announcements, Japan Post recently announced they would buy Toll Holdings of Australia for $5.07 billion. Toll has come a long way from its roots in 1888 in New South Wales, delivering coal!

 

3PL companies are being asked by many of their largest customers to supply more services, and indeed many want to and know they have to. Companies want to offer a wider range of services to make them the one and only provider of transportation services to these major customers. This objective makes a wider geographical footprint a must have, and this, along with recent private equity involvement and strategies, also explains the 2015 dynamism in the sector.

Acquisition provides an easier route to achieve many of these aims, albeit with potential staff repercussions that are seen in any industry. Most commentators agree that these changes will continue. Whether the financial benefits that result from an acquisition match the forecast is another topic, but by that time the seller is out of the equation.

The Benefits of Balance in 2016

Balance is a hard act if you’re trying to survive and thrive in the corporate world. But balance is key to getting through your busy day – and out the other side. 
Mindfulness

Work impacts on the lives of corporate citizens more than ever before, making it difficult to find time to achieve balance.

But don’t feel bad. Corporate types need to accept that work/life balance is a myth. Instead, they should focus on finding a way to balance the constant imbalance that exists in their life, advises CEO and founder of Wellineux, Amanda McMillan. Wellineux runs corporate retreats and other programs in Australia.

Take a Minute for Yourself

“The reality is that we work in a 24/7 society now, given the proliferation of technology, so it’s about finding ways to slow down that internal busy-ness so you’re not always in that stressful feeling of flight or fight mode. This is a feeling that can eventually make us feel exhausted and worn down, meaning we’re not performing at our best or thinking clearly,” McMillan says.

The truth is that it can just take a minute or two to think about the little things that can have a positive impact on your day. Considering what could make you feel 5 per cent happier during your day is a powerful exercise, McMillan says.

“Calling someone you love on your lunch break to say hello or stopping and pausing for a few minutes during a stressful part of the day can actually contribute to making you far more effective during your work day,” she says.

Rise of Mindfulness

Given the constant corporate pressures on us all, the practice of mindfulness is starting to creep into the corporate vernacular, according to Gillian Coutts, Australian partner for organisational effectiveness program based on mindfulness, The Potential Project, and co-author of One Second Ahead.

Mindfulness is not for tree huggers or yoga practitioners, but for leading edge professionals who understand our neurological limitations and see value in the skilful introduction of mindfulness into their organisation’s culture, she says.

“While technology has been a boon in many respects, it has also meant the boundaries between the space and time of work and home have become much more blurred. Learning to cultivate balance when there are no clear boundaries is a challenge for anyone’s wellbeing, productivity and creativity.”

According to science, our mind wanders for almost half of our waking hours, which can make it difficult to get that all-important downtime in our life, she adds.

“From an evolutionary perspective, the ability to think about things that are not happening right now was a significant advantage. But in today’s complex, fast-paced, demanding work environments, it just makes us less productive and more likely to make mistakes,” Coutts says.

Applying Mindfulness

If you’re unsure if this is true, set a timer for one minute, pick a thought and try and think of nothing else until the time ends. If you find this difficult, you are completely normal in that you have a wandering mind, she says.

Mindfulness training has proven to help us with impulse control, and can help us clear a cluttered mind that has become filled with our long ‘to do’ list, and pause in a moment of busyness and make a choice about what is most important to do now, Coutts explains.

“Balance is determined by our state of mind. It’s not always easy, but learning to be mindful and present to whatever is here, now, and being able to let go of thoughts about the past or the future is a challenge for anyone’s wellbeing, productivity, and creativity.

“A growing body of scientific studies demonstrate that the mind can be trained to enhance focus. This mind is like a muscle. If you want it to be fit, fast and high-performing, we need to train it. And specifically, mindfulness training has been shown to enhance focus, so we’re better able to manage our attention.”

Remember that our brains are habitual, which makes it easy to get caught up in negative work patterns, making it difficult for organisations to change, Coutts says.

The Best-Laid Plans

To test this out for yourself, close your eyes and visualise hearing news that the leader of your organisation will be announcing major changes tomorrow. Take a moment to reflect on how this makes you feel. Are you excited to hear what’s in store, or dreading what your brain has already decided will be bad?

“Most of us spend the majority of our time thinking and behaving in habitual ways. Even if we recognise benefits of changing how we operate, our brain’s natural response is to resist. It prefers things to be done like they were done before, which can be limiting in modern-day work environments,” Coutts says.

While planning time for mindfulness is key, the best laid plans go belly-up when a client has a crisis or there’s another drama at work.

“The imbalance we experience is really determined by our state of mind. It’s not always easy, but for me, learning to be mindful and present to whatever is here now, and being able to let go of thoughts about the past or the future when necessary has been vital.”

Eat the Frog…and 6 More Tips for Boosting Personal Effectiveness in 2016

Congratulations – you’ve survived your first day back in the office! You’ve cleared your inbox, written an alarmingly long To-Do list and even written your name and phone number (neatly) in a brand new Moleskin notebook. You’re practically smug with a sense of organisation and readiness.

Eat The Frog

Fast-forward one week: 213 unread emails, endless meetings, doing ‘real work’ after 5pm, and back to scribbling on loose-leaf.

Many years ago, I sat next to the Executive Assistant for the Chief Marketing Officer at a very large bank. To me – a person who is calm in the face of 1352 unread emails – Ali was something of a mystery: alarmingly organised, a spreadsheet navigator-extraordinaire, and always ready with colour-coded sticky notes, Ali’s idea of heaven was a Scandinavian Container Store.

Although I can’t pretend that proximity to Ali transformed me into a Type-A Goddess, she did share some great, practical tips for increasingly personal effectiveness that I pass onto all fellow Type B’s today.

Eat the Frog

Most of us have a limited amount of willpower that decreases steadily throughout the day. Anyone who has ever planned to go to the gym after work, only to never actually get there will be able to attest!

For this reason, professional coaches like Brian Tracy recommend getting the hardest, most important task done first.

According to Tracy, your ‘frog’ should be the most difficult item on your to-do list; that ugly, distasteful, difficult job that you’re most likely to procrastinate about.

Rather than delaying, dreading and allowing your frog to sit there, staring at you while you do other less important things, eat it up first and feel energised for the rest of the day.

You probably already know what your frog is, but if you are in any doubt, look through your list of tasks and rate each one according to:

  1. Things you don’t want to do, and actually don’t need to do.
  2. Things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do.
  3. Things you want to do and actually need to do.
  4. Things you want to do, but actually don’t need to do.

Your frog will fall into Category 2, and the best way to ensure it doesn’t fall victim to procrastination is to subordinate it to habit.

Eating your frog at the start of the day is just such a habit and will leave you free to do things you’ll actually enjoy.

Meeting 101: Spend less time in Meetings

Getting out and meeting stakeholders and suppliers is a critical part of any procurement professional’s job, but what about the myriad meetings that go round in circles, without any clear outcomes, sucking energy and time from your day?

In this world of instant messaging tools (we have a fondness for Slack at Procurious) that make file-sharing, getting answers quickly, and making introductions easier, it should be possible to cut back on a lot of those meetings.

Where only a meeting will suffice, here are some hints for improving their effectiveness:

  • Only accept meetings where the organiser has sent through a clear agenda. Even then, think about halving the allotted time to create a sense of urgency.
  • With 10 minutes of the meeting to go, review the objectives and clearly agree what action items have come out of the meeting and who will be responsible for completing these. Set a clear date for completion of next steps.
  • If appropriate, try scheduling a walking meeting. A change of scenery and the action of moving in the fresh air can help clear the head, stimulate creativity and can be particularly effective when having conversations that you don’t want to.

Don’t Skip Lunch

The 80s might be long gone, but Gordon Gekko’s “Lunch is for wimps!” philosophy still is alive and well in some firms.

While its possible to mistake ‘busy-ness’ for importance, evidence shows there are significant cognitive benefits of allowing our fatigued brains regular downtime.

So what’s the perfect work/rest ratio?

DeskTime App monitored employees’ computer use and found that the most productive 10 per cent of employees tend to work hard for 52 minutes, then take a break for 17. If this seems short, it is – our brains can in fact focus for up to 90 minutes, but then need roughly 20 minutes rest.

Strategic breaks equal more efficient work. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your 17 minutes should be spent online shopping – there are a multitude of more valuable (and less costly!) things you can do to refresh and reset:

  • Most gyms offer express classes at lunchtime. Consider taking a 45-minute yoga class to reset your brain and energise you for the afternoon.
  • Watch a 2-minute eLearning video or stretch your mind with a Big Ideas video or Ted Talk.
  • Prepare a list of easy 2-minute tasks, things that won’t stress your grey matter but need to get done, that you can tick off in your down time.
  • Embrace a creative pursuit. Stimulate your brain by doing small creative exercise daily. This might be a little sketch, writing a blog, or making a video. Share your habit daily on Twitter or Instagram – it builds accountability. Check out #yearofcreativehabits for inspiration!

Silence

Silence!!

The constant stream of chimes, pings, flashes and emails, Whatsapp and Facebook alerts is impossible to ignore – it’s designed to be that way!

Schedule at least 3 x 30 minute sessions into your day where you close Outlook, shut all your browser tabs and turn off your mobile phone.

It might sound scary at first, but it will help you power through those difficult tasks without interruption and at the end of the day, you’ll feel real satisfaction knowing what you’ve completed.

Harness the Power of Habit

We know that social media can eat up hours in the day. How often have you kicked off with a valid Google search, only to find yourself aimlessly clicking through old school-friends’ baby photos or reading click-bait articles like 21 Life-Changing Lessons From The Dalai Lama’s Twitter Account”. 

At Procurious, we talk about establishing a ‘social media daily habit’. This isn’t only to limit the time you spend online, but to ensure you spend it wisely.

We suggest you dedicate approximately 20 minutes every day (and where you can, twice a day) to ticking off value-adding tasks:

  1. Build your network: Aim to expand your global contacts by connecting with stakeholders, peers you’ve met at conferences, thought leaders or find colleagues who look after similar categories in other geographies or industries.
  2. Scan the news: Using Google Alerts or Twitter hashtags, find out if your company, your category, your suppliers or even your competitors have been in the headlines. Login to Procurious and check out what’s happening.
  3. Share the intelligence: If you find something interesting, chances are someone else will too. Share the URL on Twitter, Procurious and/or LinkedIn.
  4. Ask a question: Scan the Discussion Board on Procurious and share your knowledge. If you’ve got a burning question, post it and make the most of this global brains trust!
  5. Learn something: Brush up on your skills and challenge your thinking by watching a 5-minute eLearning video or listening to a Podcast

And Before You Go…

Rather than working frantically right up until the last minute of the day, slamming your laptop shut and dashing for the train, stop working 30 min before you need to leave.

Use your last half an hour to review your day’s plan, transferring items that are still relevant, and adding any new priorities that have emerged during the day.

Categorise these tasks according to the Eat the Frog principles so that your first task tomorrow is ready and waiting to go.

And, unless you are fortunate enough to have a Personal Assistant, review your calendar and print out any documents that you may need to review ahead of meetings. Spending the first 30 minutes of your morning fighting with a printer is not the way to productivity!

Vote for Procurious in the UK Blog Awards 2016

How often do you find yourself coming to the end of another smashing Procurious blog article and think, “Gosh, that was great! I wish there was a way for me to acknowledge just how great that was.”?

UKBA16 Vote Now

If this sounds like you (and we wish everyone did think this!), today is your lucky day! Throughout January, you can vote for Procurious in the UK Blog Awards 2016.

Blog Awards

If you haven’t come across the UK Blog Awards before, they were created to recognise ‘true viral style and creative excellence across a variety of 16 UK industries’, and celebrate the best of British blogs from both companies and individuals.

Now in its third year, the Awards offer individuals and companies the chance to promote their business and content, but also to network with other blogging professionals across a whole range of categories, including Digital & Technology; Education; PR, Marketing, Media and Communications; and Travel.

You can find out everything you need to know about the Awards, the categories and previous winners here.

Your Vote Counts

Procurious entered the Blog Awards for the first time last year and were delighted to be awarded ‘highly commended’ in the PR, Marketing, Media and Communications category. This represented a great achievement for us in what was our first full year of curating a blog.

However, this year we want to go one better and win! And this is where you come in. We need your votes – as many votes as possible – in order to be considered for the final category shortlists. The more votes we get, the better our chance of consideration.

Voting is now open and runs until the 25th of January at 9pm. It’s dead easy to vote too – just go to the Procurious profile on the UK Blog Awards website, and click ‘Vote Now’ at the top of the page. You can vote once per day for our entry (even from outside the UK), and we appreciate any and all votes we get.

And, if you’re really keen, you can share this with your colleagues, peers and friends across social media and get them to cast their votes too!

What it means for Procurious

As we have said, the recognition last year from the UK Blog Awards was a big deal for us. Going on to the next stage and being shortlisted at a national level, and potentially being one of the judges’ picks will help to build awareness of Procurious both within the blogging community and across individuals and organisations.

As we build more awareness, and attract more people to the community, the networking opportunities for all our members grow, the richness of the discussions increase, and we can continue to provide high-quality, relevant content for all our members, plus all our followers on social media to read.

Details

If you want to refresh your memory of some of our, and our contributors’, best and most popular articles from the past 12 months, head over to the blog to check them out or read the ‘Best of the Procurious Blog 2015’.

Every vote you cast really does count. To vote, go to the UK Blog Awards website and visit the Procurious profile. Thanks!