All posts by Procurious HQ

What’s Your Big Idea? Tell Us in 60 Seconds or Less

Once again, we’re on the hunt for YOUR Big Idea – what are the things only you can say?

What's Your Big Idea?

We believe everyone has a unique vantage point in the industries, communities and businesses they work in. At the Big Ideas Summit 2016, which takes place on 21st April,  we will be asking our speakers and attendees to record their ‘Big Ideas’ live on camera for the whole of our Procurious community to see.

This was a huge success last year and if you’re keen to see some of the videos from 2015, head over to the learning section for some inspiration.

Where Do YOU Come In?

Procurious wants you to share your ideas with our community by creating a 60 second video. It’s super easy to do this on your computer, laptop or phone – whatever works for you! We’ve provided some more detailed advice below on how to submit your Big Idea.

You can make the most of your unique position as both a procurement professional and Procurious member by telling us what you think is the next Big Idea that will change the face of the procurement profession, based on some of the amazing experience and insights you have.

Your video will help to generate interest and discussion on your Big Idea, give you the chance to share your wisdom with a global procurement community, and provide you with a platform to amplify your thoughts, and turn you into an influencer. We will also be using your submissions to help guide the conversations and discussions at Big Ideas 2016.

Need Further Encouragement?

Why not have a look at one of last year’s videos.  Bertrand Maltaverne had a great Big Idea to share with us and we’re certain you do too!

How to Submit Your Big Idea

We don’t mind if you film your submission on your phone, tablet, laptop or PC. However, to help you out we’ve compiled a list of some of our recommended methods for reaching out.

Once you’ve completed your film, you can reach us by email ([email protected]); on Twitter (@procurious_) or via Google Drive or Dropbox (using [email protected]).

Record Your Big Idea

Probably the easiest way to record your video is to use the camera on your phone, laptop or PC. We’re not expecting a Hollywood-style production, just so long as we can see your face, and, just as important, hear your great idea.

If you’re struggling to record it on your phone, get a friend, family member, colleague, or trustworthy stranger to hold it for you! Remember, we’re only looking for a 60-second video, so know what you’re going to say, and practice a few times.

Once you’ve finished, and saved the video to your device, you then have a couple of options for sharing them with us.

Email

Want to submit your video using a good old-fashioned email? We’ll absolutely accept that!

Attach your video to an email with the subject line ‘My Big Ideas Video’ and send to [email protected].

In the body of the e-mail, give us a one or two sentence synopsis of your Big Idea so we can upload this information to the website too.

Google Drive or Dropbox

Is the video file size too large for e-mail? Then why not share it with us on Google Drive or Dropbox. Both systems are free to use and are simple to set up.

For Google Drive, get started using these instructions, upload your file, and then click to share with Procurious. You can use [email protected] for this too.

For Dropbox, you can find all the information you need here. Again, upload the video file, and then share it with us.

YouTube

Alternatively, if you have always dreamed of being an Internet star, you can use YouTube.

  • Head over to https://www.youtube.com/upload and either select a readymade video to upload, or hit ‘Webcam capture’ to film your piece on the spot.
  • Select ‘Start recording’ to get the camera rolling (remembering to tick ‘Allow’ should you be prompted by YouTube’s Privacy Settings)
  • When done press ‘Stop recording’ followed by ‘Continue’.

Don’t be daunted by filling-out the ‘Basic info’ – all that’s required is a title, short description, and some tags. For your title we’d suggest using something along the lines of: My Big Idea is… [insert here]

In order to make your video easy to find, we’d recommend using the #BigIdeas2016 and Procurious tags – but feel free to add more!

Click ‘Publish’ when you’re happy and remember to send us the YouTube URL when it’s live.

After that, you can sit back, relax and watch your number of views rocket!

Questions

If you have any questions (and we mean, any questions at all) about creating your video, sharing it, or what we plan on doing to it, please get in touch. One of the team will be able to talk you through what you need to know.

We can’t wait to go through all of your submissions and hear your Big Ideas for Procurement.

So…what are you waiting for? Get recording!

Tackling Technology and Risk: The Blockchain

The rise of digital payment systems has brought the blockchain into the public consciousness. But can blockchain be used to aid supply chain transparency?

Just shy of ten years ago, technological innovation and the supply chain might have been considered strange bedfellows. Now they go hand in hand. But as technology advances at an ever-increasing rate, it makes sense that supply chains the world-over are also becoming increasingly complex as a consequence.

However despite the numerous advantages brought about by this envelope-pushing, we must remain vigilant and alert to the increased risks such new avenues afford us.

Recent years have seen a rise in both the adoption and implementation of digital payment systems and so-called “crypto currencies”. Such innovations in payments have removed the need for traditional, physical currency, as well as the bricks and mortar institutions that process them.

Bitcoin – A New Way to Pay

Bitcoin is but one example that’s fast revolutionising the payment industry. Bitcoin is a digital currency that’s been heralded as both an innovator and disruptor in yearly tech trend reports.

Bitcoin is effectively a peer-to-peer system. Its users can carry out transactions without the need for a middleman, but all activity is recorded and verified by the blockchain. Think of blockchain as a ledger and you’re halfway there.

Bitcoin has given the blockchain an early success with its 15+ million bitcoins already in circulation. But with a limit of 300,000 transactions per day (a ceiling that’s fast-approaching), we have to wonder – is there a future for a digital distributed database format?

It’s worth noting that the blockchain isn’t owned or operated by a singular body – hereby distinguishing it from a conventional ledger system. Instead, each network node stores its own copy of the blockchain, so whenever a transaction is made it is first recorded in one place, before being transmitted to other nodes that make up the database.

The “block” comes from the name given to accepted transactions. The system checks approximately six times per hour for new ledger activity, and to determine if a bitcoin amount has been spent.

Bitcoin & Blockchain

Blockchain – Bigger than Bitcoin?

Putting bitcoin’s reliance on the blockchain aside for a moment, various figures have spoken out about its potential to transform not just payment systems, but improve the delivery of services and assure the supply chain of goods.

Nothing if not an encouraging sign, a report from Mark Walport, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, made proposals that the Government itself should explore applications for the burgeoning technology.

Walport said: “Distributed ledger technologies have the potential to help governments to collect taxes, deliver benefits, issue passports, record land registries, assure the supply chain of goods and generally ensure the integrity of government records and services.”

Records ultimately lie at the crux of the blockchain. So a technology that serves as an incorruptible ledger, and one that can trace each and every interaction, could prove extremely valuable in areas where accountability is key.

Gordon Donovan, Procurement & Supply Chain Manager for Metro Trains, has previously been quoted on Procurious suggesting the development of a ‘supplier wiki’ in order to build knowledge of the entire supply chain.

Blockchain technology could indeed be used to increase transparency, but there would be considerable work required in advance of opening this up, thanks in no small part to the highly complex nature of organisational supply chains and the numerous suppliers involved.

Blockchain network

A Chain is Only as Strong as the Weakest Link

If this reliance on blockchain is going to come to pass, more work needs to be done around trust and security – a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by bitcoin’s most vocal critics.

With high visibility services like Twitter, the BBC, and both the global networks for Xbox and PlayStation, all being taken offline by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, what crippling effect would such activities have on the blockchain?

Moreover it wouldn’t be too much of leap to suggest vulnerabilities could lead to ‘botnets’ taking control of nodes to reveal the identities of the parties involved in transactions.

But is all of this worry warranted? It would certainly seem so if the letter penned by bitcoin’s high priests is anything to by. The open letter informed the community at large of an action plan to reach a consensus on improving bitcoin security.

“We have worked on bitcoin scaling for years while safeguarding the network’s core features of decentralisation, security, and permissionless innovation” – it began.

“We’re committed to ensuring the largest possible number of users benefit from bitcoin, without eroding these fundamental values.”

In order to achieve these aims, 30-plus bitcoin developers organised two workshops (in Montreal and Hong Kong respectively) to try and carve out a scalable path for the cryptocurrency’s future.

If we’re not looking for a repeat of the Silk Road scandal, let’s just hope they came up with a solution…

Is it possible for blockchain and bitcoin technology to transform the future of digital payments and aid supply chain transparency? Let me know your thoughts.

30 Under 30 – Recognising Supply Chain Rising Stars

ThomasNet and the Institute for Supply Management have announced their annual 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars for 2015.

30 Under 30

Delivering more than $10 million in cost savings, spearheading a new global distribution model, and driving a startup’s exponential growth are among the outstanding personal achievements of young professionals today named winners in the ThomasNet and Institute for Supply Management (ISM) ‘30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars Recognition Program‘.

“These young professionals are leading by example for a new generation in the procurement field by demonstrating the huge accomplishments possible,” said Mark Holst-Knudsen, President, ThomasNet. “They are true role models for how millennials are paving a new path in supply chain management.”

Ahead of the Curve

Founded in 2014, the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars programme is designed to recognise individuals who have demonstrated leadership, innovation, collaboration, and other outstanding attributes.

This programme provides role models and illustrates supply chain and procurement as a viable and exciting career choice. Millennials are expected to comprise 75 percent of global employees by 2025.

“Our new best and brightest stars are ahead of the curve in recognising supply chain as a natural fit for their expertise and values,” said ISM CEO Tom Derry. “Applying their leadership skills, technical know-how and passion for making a difference, they are helping revitalise the industry in tangible, far-reaching ways.”

With an average age of 27, the 2016 supply chain superstars span industries ranging from manufacturing to education, financial services, medical devices, information technology, oil and gas, and government. Many are driving improvement in areas that matter to them and benefit society, such as sustainability.

Megawatt Star

30 Under 30 - Amy Georgi
2015 Megawatt Winner, Amy Georgi

Recognised as this year’s Megawatt Star: Amy Georgi, 30, a program manager in supply chain acquisitions and integrations with Fluke Electronics, a Danaher Company, based in York, Pennsylvania.

Each rising star will receive a one-year membership to ISM; admittance to ISM2016, May 16-18 in Indianapolis; and a free THOMASNET.com Supplier Discovery Lunch and Learn session for them and their colleagues. In addition, Georgi and her nominator will win an all-expense-paid trip to the ISM conference.

For profiles and photos of the winners, please visit www.thomasnet.com/30under30.

About Institute for Supply Management

Institute for Supply Management (ISM) serves supply management professionals in more than 90 countries. Its 50,000 global members manage $1 trillion in corporate and government spend annually. Founded in 1915 as the first supply management institute in the world, ISM is committed to advancing the practice of supply management to drive value and competitive advantage, contributing to a prosperous and sustainable world. ISM leads the profession through the ISM Report On Business®, its highly regarded certification programs and the ISM Mastery Model™. For more information, visit: www.instituteforsupplymanagement.org.

About THOMASNET®

THOMASNET’s flagship product, THOMASNET.com, is industry’s go-to platform for supplier discovery and sourcing for OEM and MRO products, as well as custom manufacturing services. This free platform serves procurement professionals, engineers, plant and facility management and other buyers from corporations, educational institutions, government agencies, the military and small businesses. It also serves manufacturers, distributors, and service companies throughout North America who want to get found by these buyers.

Big Ideas Summit 2016: Innovation Without Boundaries

The global conversation begins now! Register for the Big Ideas Summit on April 21st on Procurious and join procurement leaders as they share their insights.

Big Ideas Summit 2016 Logo

From drones to social networking, what new technologies and trends will transform procurement/supply management, and how can today’s leaders harness them to drive innovation?

Virtual Think-Tank

On April 21st 2016, 50 of the world’s most influential procurement and supply chain thinkers will tackle these questions and more during the annual Big Ideas Summit, the world’s first digital forum focused on procurement, powered by Procurious.

Through this virtual, think-tank event, Procurious’ 12,000+ members will have the chance to interact with these senior executives, thought leaders and CPOs, and gain insights into the future of procurement. All are invited to participate by registering on Procurious, the leading free online business network for procurement and supply chain professionals, and then joining the Big Ideas Summit group on the platform.

“Our goal is to inspire a new generation of business intrapreneurs—people who can think outside the box — who will lead change even in times of ambiguity,” said Tania Seary, Founding Chairman, Procurious. “By giving the global procurement community a place to connect, discuss and learn together, we hope to seed an innovation movement that knows no boundaries.”

New Era for Procurement

Sponsored by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), The Hackett Group, IBM and Coupa, the Summit will feature several provocative sessions on the trends that will take procurement into a new era:

  • Thinking the Unthinkable: How the global business environment is changing, how to spot trends and disruptions, and the “unthinkables” that organisations are already preparing to handle.
  • Rethinking the Possible: What is the “true cost” of doing business in the fashion industry? How are drones and 3D printing morphing the way we work? Presenters will address today’s mega-trends, from ethical supply chains to the Internet of Things.
  • The Conversation Century: With social media breaking all boundaries for collaboration and influence, the profession must master new “rules of engagement.” Learn how to use this channel to attract and retain the best and brightest talent, and to maintain a career edge.
  • Procurement’s Blind Spots: Benefit from real-life examples of how procurement is applying key agile capabilities in everything from leadership to information-driven performance. Then be part of a CPO debate about procurement’s blind spots, and how risk mitigation will prepare the profession for the future.

Thoughts Leaders and Experts from a range of high-profile, global organisations, taking part in these discussions include:

  • Tom Derry, CEO, Institute for Supply Management
  • Christopher Sawchuk, Principal & Global Procurement Advisory Practice Leader, The Hackett Group
  • Gabe Perez, Vice President of strategy and market development, Coupa
  • Elizabeth Linder, Politics & Government Specialist, Facebook EMEA
  • Lucy Siegle, Journalist and broadcaster, The Observer
  • Peter Holbrook, CBE, Chief Executive, Social Enterprise
  • Dapo Ajayi, Chief Procurement Officer, AstraZeneca

Get Involved

The Summit is more than a one-day event – the conversation has already begun. Members of Procurious are being invited to challenge the speakers – and each other – with hard questions, contribute to Discussions on the event’s key themes and topics, submit their own Big Ideas for consideration by their peers, and read exclusive, advance insights from keynote speakers and influencers.

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, Procurious wants the global procurement profession to help shape the agenda. On April 21st, members will be able to exchange ideas about the proceedings, shared by video, and get involved in real time via social media, on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook, using the hashtag #BigIdeas2016. Members will also be able to access more rich content in the days and weeks after this gathering.

The first annual Big Ideas Summit, which debuted in 2015, brought 5,000 virtual delegates together, and generated more than one million tweets. Join the global movement now. Visit bigideassummit.com and register today.

Tweet this: Join the global conversation with your Big Ideas for #procurement at the @procurious_ #BigIdeas2016 Summit, April 21 www.bigideassummit.com

About Procurious

Procurious is the world’s first online business community dedicated to procurement and supply chain professionals. It’s a hub to advance your career, develop your skills and expand your global professional network. With 12,000+ members across the globe, Procurious aims to empower procurement leaders to connect, collaborate and take a more innovative professional outlook.

Think of Procurious as a professional network, news and knowledge hub, learning and career center, all in one place. Join now at www.procurious.com – it’s free to register and participate.

International Women’s Day 2016 – Pledging Parity

As the world gets ready to celebrate International Women’s Day, there is an ominous warning that progress towards gender parity has slowed.

International Women's Day Celebration
Image Courtesy of http://www.happypics99.com/

According to a report produced by the World Economic Forum at Davos earlier this year, gender parity is now unlikely to be achieved until 2133. This represents even slower progress for parity than had been predicted just 12 months previously, with 2095 the estimated timescale.

Pledge for Parity

It is against this backdrop that the official theme for International Women’s Day this year is Pledge for Parity. The concept behind the theme is that every individual has the ability to make a change, whether it is in highlighting imbalances, helping girls and women achieve ambitions, or create more balanced cultures.

Since launching the campaign a little over 2 weeks ago, over 14,000 people have made an individual pledge. However, this is by no means enough. For the target of 2030 to be achieved, both the International Women’s Day organisation, and the UN, are looking for more people to get involved. You can make your pledge here.

Gender Bias in the Workplace

Procurious has written in the past about the major imbalances between the sexes in the workplace. Although more women than men enrolling at university in 97 countries, in just 68 of these countries do women make up the majority of the skilled workforce. Only in 4 do they represent the majority of leaders.

There is an on-going challenge to organisations to get more women involved in traditionally male-led professions, such as engineering. Career stereotypes, discussed heavily during International Women’s Day 2015, persist, made very clear by last year’s #ilooklikeanengineer campaign on social media.

And the situation is worse when it comes to the wage gap too. According to the WEF report, women now earn on average what men were earning 10 years ago, with men still earning twice as much as women. In country leadership, 50 per cent of countries have a female leader, but only 19 per cent of parliamentarians are female.

Onus on Organisations

In the UK, the Institute of Directors’ (IoD) Lady Barbara Judge, the first female chairman of the Institute in its 110-year history, has called on organisations to make changes. Specifically, to support efforts to increase the number of women in executive leadership positions.

Her recommendations include shaking up recruitment practices, and introducing gender-blind applications; creation of part-time and job-sharing executive roles; and introducing mentors and role models to champion women in senior roles.

She also said, “The remarkable success in increasing the number of women on boards in the UK over the past six years shows how enthusiastically businesses have embraced their role as champions of female progression. Now, we must channel this progress into tackling the next item on the agenda – getting more women into senior, executive, decision-making roles. The onus must be on employers to do everything they can to harness their female talent. After all, it is a business’s loss if it fails to make the most of half their workforce.”

However, it is not about introducing quotas, as has been suggested by some. Gender-balanced leadership expert, Dr. Karen Morley, has spoken extensively on this subject, giving recommendations to businesses to achieve their “critical mass“, but also why affirmative action is not the solution.

Make a Difference

Beyond making a pledge, there are a number of ways you can get involved with International Women’s Day celebrations.

  • Events – Throughout the week there are events around the UK, and around the world, focusing on the celebrations. Find out if there is an event near you, and get along to it.
  • Raise Your Voice – If you are a witness to gender imbalance, tell someone about it. Whether it’s discrimination in the workplace, or impingement of rights, only by speaking up and shining a light on this can a difference be made.
  • Social Media – Can’t make it to an event? Make sure to follow all the progress on the 8th on social media. Follow International Women’s Day on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Share your thoughts by using the hashtag .

And if you need any more persuasion to get involved, look no further than Procurious’ own Tania Seary. Tania is major advocate for equality and has frequently highlighted the females who have influenced her career. You can read her thoughts here and here.

Why We’re Embracing e-Procurement in 2016

While e-Procurement has been around for a number of years, it seems to have made significant strides in a number of areas recently.

You might have seen that the Procurious team attended the eWorld Procurement & Supply Conference in London last week. This bi-annual event is the leader for procurement innovation and it was great to be a part of. We’ll be sharing some more content about our experiences there soon.

However, it has been interesting to note that the subjects of e-procurement and technology have turned out to be hot topics all-round in the procurement and supply news over the last seven days.

The Ukraine has introduced e-procurement to help fight corruption; Verian, a software solutions company, has announced the release of its e-procurement solution; and a report by Webexpenses has claimed that UK workers are hindered by outdated technology.

Ukraine Introduces e-procurement

Ukraine are launching a new electronic public procurement system this April which will make procurement in Ukraine more transparent and save money.

The system, called ProZorro, will be mandatory for all public procurement tenders. To date, 15 per cent of public sector buyers, approximately 3000 of them, have signed up voluntarily to ProZorro, as well as 10,000 potential suppliers.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Ukrainian Prime Minister, said in January that public procurement had been a source of corruption, something ProZorro will prevent. The system will also reduce government spending and lower prices.

Verian Aim to Raise User Engagement

Verian, a US-based cloud spend management and P2P solutions provider, recently announced the release of its winter e-procurement solution, aimed at helping to change user behaviours to gain the benefits of e-procurement such as greater efficiencies and cutting cost.

Businesses will be provided with a configurable solution that allows users to track performance metrics and top performers. It will be possible to see a visual representation of the impact of a user’s individual behaviour on the success of the organisation.

Heidi Murphy, Director of Procurement, YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities commented that, “We wanted these metrics to show users how they were personally impacting the process, and create a common ground for communicating with them on something other than policy adherence.”

Verian are hoping that the latest updates to its software will help with user engagement, long believed to be one of the main barriers to successful e-procurement implementation.

UK Held Back by Outdated Tech

A recent survey on workplace technology has revealed that 85 per cent of UK office workers believe their company’s technology is not up to scratch.

The survey, conducted by Webexpenses, a cloud-based expense management provider, also revealed that the workers believed that if this situation were to change, work would be completed more efficiently.

Over a quarter (26 per cent) of participants specified that it was the IT systems which they felt needed improvement, while 41 per cent thought that the process of managing teams and internal communications could be easily enhanced with better technology.

The report ultimately reinforces how crucial it is for businesses to engage with the latest technologies. Don’t get left behind!

As always, we’ve been on the lookout for more of this week’s top procurement news stories.

Foot and Mouth Disease

  • The US has calculated that an outbreak of foot and mouth disease could cost the livestock industry in excess of USD$188 billion.
  • The Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee met to discuss how prepared the US are to handle such an outbreak and determined that there was an alarming gap.
  • Michael Conaway, Agriculture Committee chairman and Republican Congressman, said, “It is essential we have all of the plans and infrastructure in place so we can be suitably prepared against intentional or unintentional introduction of plant or animal pests and disease”.
  • The hearing formed part of a series by the committee highlighting the importance of agriculture to national security.

Read more at Supply Management

Australia to Boost Defence Procurement

  • Australia is to increase spending on defence by AUD$29.9 billion over the next decade, including funding to help SMEs access global supply chain markets.
  • The Department of Defence has published its 2016 Defence White Paper outlining strategic defence priorities and challenges up until 2035.
  • The investment plans include: a continuous naval shipbuilding programme, starting with nine future frigates and 12 offshore patrol vessels and 12 submarines.
  • The government is also creating a new Centre for Defence Industry Capability and a new approach to defence innovation. 

Read more at Supply Management

Apple’s Supply Chain Recovery

  • J.P. Morgan analysts tracking the Apple supply chain issued a note to investors this week, revealing that build projections for the coming months are better than had been anticipated.
  • Having initially forecasted iPhone sales to drop up to 15 per cent quarter over quarter, units are expected to be flat between March and June, at about 45 million units for each.
  • Their visits with the supply chain suggest a build rate of 2 million units for the new 4-inch “iPhone SE” this quarter, growing to 4 million in the June quarter.
  • The  “iPhone 7” update is expected to arrive later this year.

Read more at Supply chain 24/7

India Expands e-Waste Recycling Company

  • Attero, an Indian company based outside New Delhi, has patented a technology which extracts gold and other precious metals from electronic waste.
  • The company collects one million pounds in weight of mobile phones and computers per month in India and resells the precious metals it extracts back to the electronics industry.
  • Attero has won the backing of US investors such as the International Finance Corporation and Draper Fisher Jurvetson to help it expand into the US.
  • It is much cheaper to install Attero’s urban mining centres than the European counterparts and the centres take up less space.

Read more at Supply Management

Denmark’s Out-of-Date Food

  • The first supermarket in Denmark called Wefood selling food beyond its “best before” date has opened to help cut the 700,000 tonnes of food waste produced by the country each year.
  • The food is still safe to eat but would be considered waste by supermarkets because it has passed its “best before” date, has damaged packaging, is labelled incorrectly or too much has been produced.
  • The Danish minister for food and the environment, Eva Kjer Hansen said “A supermarket like Wefood makes so much sense and is an important step in the battle to combat food waste.
  • Similar stores across the country are planned if the first is a success.

Read more at Supply Management

The Best Companies to Work for 2016

The Sunday Times released its “100 Best Companies to Work for 2016” last week, and there was a new name at the top of the list.

Best Companies to Work for

London-based online insurance retailer, Simply Business, beat the competition to top the main list this year. Not only has the business never been in the top spot before, it was a completely new entry for 2016.

The retailer beat telecoms reseller, Chess (up one place to second, from third in 2015), and Red Carnation Hotels (first in 2015, but third this year), into first place.

How To Be ‘The Best’

The Sunday Times has been running their Best Companies survey since the year 2000, attracting the big names in UK business, all trying to make one of the high-profile lists – Best Companies; Best Small Companies; Best Not-for-Profit Organisations.

The organisations register themselves to take part – 925 did so this year – but it’s their employees who decide if and where they make the list. This year, over 240,000 employees completed anonymous surveys about their employers, rating that on the following categories:

  • Leadership – the head of the company and senior leaders
  • Wellbeing – stress, pressure and work-life balance
  • Giving Something Back – if companies are putting back into the local community and society in general
  • Personal Growth – whether staff feel stretched and challenged by their job
  • My Manager – how they feel about immediate and day-to-day managers
  • My Company – how they feel about the company, rather than the people
  • My Team – how they feel about their colleagues
  • Fair Deal – how happy they are with pay and benefits

It’s not a one-time thing either. Firms choose to enter on a year by year basis, and it’s clear that they need to keep engaging with employees and working hard to stay on the list. There were 79 new entrants in the three lists for 2016, meaning some companies will have to work hard to regain their place next year.

Secret to Success

Analysing the survey results this year, The Times has highlighted team spirit as one of the key factors in enabling companies to succeed. Although many of the survey participants said their workplace stress was increasing, this was frequently outweighed by the benefits of a strong staff identity.

Jason Stockwood, CEO of Simply Business, also highlights employee empowerment as part of his business’ success. Since taking over as CEO in 2010, Stockwood has worked to build an engaged workforce, aimed at bringing benefits to all business stakeholders.

He says, “It’s a fact of modern business that by investing in a happy, engaged workforce you’re also investing in your customers. Getting it right internally is good for everybody, including the SMEs buying our products.

“Six years on we have grown from 130,000 to 350,000 small business customers and the workforce has doubled in size. This has only been possible by making every single member of the team feel empowered to achieve their full potential.”

Not All About Rewards

And working towards being one of the best companies doesn’t necessarily mean spending more money. In fact, strong leadership, a focus on employee engagement for all employees, and ensuring a good work-life balance were all seen as more important factors for the top companies this year.

It was also found that small companies were out-performing their larger counterparts across all the categories this year. According to Dr Ian Dennis, Best Companies’ Director of Research, the teamwork found across the small organisations that is making the difference.

The Table Toppers

It was all change at the top of the Best Small Companies list, while two of the top three from 2015 were up at the top again in the Best Not-for-Profit Organisations.

Best Small Companies to Work for 2016

  1. Paragon Interiors Group (New Entrant)
  2. Phaidon International (23rd in 2015)
  3. Educ8 (New Entrant)

Best Not-for-Profit Organisations to Work for 2016

  1. SLH Group (1st in 2015)
  2. Wales & West Housing (3rd in 2015)
  3. B3Living (7th in 2015)

To see the full “Best Companies to Work for” lists, and get more information on all the companies involved, visit The Sunday Times.

Why It’s Critical to Keep Your Skills Up to Date

Technological change is disrupting every industry and profession around the world, and obliging professionals to ensure their skills are up to date.

In recent weeks, Procurious has published a number of articles on personal development, training and up-skilling. The idea of keeping skills up to to date, and making time for learning and development, are applicable not only in procurement, but also to virtually every profession in every country.

However, this is not to say that all the onus is on the individuals to take responsibility for their development. It’s important also for organisations to ensure that resources are made available to allow employees the opportunity to take advantage of the training that is available.

AT&T – Remaining Competitive

AT&T is a US-based telecommunications company, currently owned and operated by SBC Communications. In the USA, the company is the second largest provider of mobile phone services, and the largest provider of fixed phone services. The company also provides broadband services.

The rapid pace of technological change in the telecommunications industry has left AT&T vying to remain competitive against larger technology organisations, such as Google and Amazon. Part of the strategy for remaining competitive in this industry is ensuring that employees’ skills are up to date.

It was estimated that approximately 280,000 employees need to update, or learn, coding skills, something that the organisation is supporting through the provision of eLearning. The company will reimburse around $8,000 (USD) per year per employee for this training, although this will still mean employees are funding some of the training themselves.

Up-skill. Or else…

While this may sound like the organisation is being supportive of employees’ efforts to ensure they have the skills they require to perform their job, there is something of a darker undertone. In essence, AT&T are forcing their employees to learn these skills, or find that their career choices are “very limited”.

CEO, Randall Stephenson, has been quoted as saying people who do not spend 5 to 10 hours per week in online learning will “obsolete themselves with the technology”. The time commitment involved means that many employees are now working evenings and weekends, on top of their day jobs, just to keep up to date.

The company also plans, eventually, to include personal development and learning as part of performance reviews too. This will be based on what people have studied, how well they did, and whether they are willing to keep learning.

The Right Reasons

It would be easy to point the finger at AT&T and say that they are being unfair. That they shouldn’t be forcing employees to learn skills, or essentially be out of a job. However, there are many organisations who do not offer the support that AT&T are giving their employees.

Yes, employees own time and money are required in order to keep pace, but if these employees don’t have the same skills as those at competitor organisations, then the chances are good that AT&T will cease to exist, and those employees will be looking for new jobs in an ultra-competitive job market.

It is also not to say that AT&T are leaving their employees to fend for themselves. The company has a programme called “Vision 2020”. It combines online and classroom-based work in subjects like digital networking and data science, but also looks at old skills that can be transferred to new careers.

AT&T management want to ensure that the company has a future, and the employees have got on board with this, and are actively working to make sure that they have the necessary skills to do so.

Stay ahead of the personal development game by making use of all the eLearning resources at your disposal. Check out the Learning Hub on Procurious for over 80 free video and audio resources, from learning about procurement, to learning from the experts.

Manufacturing in China? Here’s What You Need to Know

Manufacturing in China might be a cost-effective solution, but it can bring with it inherent risks to global brands.

For procurement professionals, that means trying to understand the cultural nuances that dictate how to do business in China.

Stories of issues have appeared in the media, including now-defunct Australian boot manufacturer Bennett’s Boots blamed a Chinese factory for trying to reduce its margins for the collapse of the entire business. While early orders were perfect and business grew, subsequent orders were cheap imitations, with 80 per cent of the container load of boats un-sellable.

Company founder Amanda Bennett told BRW magazine that: “Success to the Chinese is trying to do things behind your back and get away with it. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, it’s a cultural thing.”

Navigating the Cultural Landscape

But there are companies that specialise in helping foreign companies wanting to manufacture in China navigate the cultural landscape.

Chris O’Halloran is the founder of Striking Group, a project management consultancy, and has been to China dozens of times to build the bridge between China and Australian companies since launching in 2008.

O’Halloran admits that the Chinese do business by going in cheap and then trying to recover the margins by cutting corners, hoping no-one notices.

When manufacturing in China, the biggest trap Australian companies fall into is sending a drawing to China, and asking for 10,000 products to be manufactured without enough instruction, he says.

“To the Chinese, if it looks the same to them, then it is the same. They’re not trying to be nasty, it’s just the way they do business.

“Having said that, I’ve been to factories in China completely automated where you can eat off the factory floor that are far beyond anything we’ve got here.”

New Wave of Challenges

China has emerged as a manufacturing powerhouse, with immaculate robotic factories and far greater capability to manufacture luxurious goods rather than just mass produce cheap items.

However, the country faces new challenges. According to this report by McKinsey & Company, these include increasing wages, more complex value chains, and consumers growing more sophisticated and demanding.

Australian companies trying to do business with China also often fall down by thinking they’re dealing direct with the manufacturer, when in fact there’s two or even three middle men shielding the manufacturing operator, O’Halloran explains.

“The Chinese like to keep their cards close to their chest, so often you don’t really know if you’re dealing with the manufacturing facility or not. This is very common in Australia, and not the best way to do business.

“However, no-one can build to scale as well in Australia. They are light years ahead of many major manufacturing hubs around the world, and often Australian companies don’t realise how big these Chinese companies are.”

Fostering Relationships

O’Halloran shortlists a number of factories for his clients and helps them foster a relationship with the business owner and arranges guided factory tours. He also conducts spot checks for clients.

“We’re looking for things like, do they have a quality control process in place, and how do they buy their goods, and whether Fair Trade Agreements are in place. We always try to establish if they’re managing the entire manufacturing process in-house, because sometimes they’ll outsource some of the work to a sweat factory down the road without telling you.”

He also says that the Chinese are not great at design, but they’re amazing at copying and reproducing something, and mass producing it. Smaller scale runs are also increasingly cost-effective. Australian companies also need to understand cultural nuances, such as the importance of hierarchy to the Chinese, he adds.

The Chinese are also very superstitious, and their lucky number is eight, he says.

“The Chinese will go out of their way to find the number eight in their business dealings. They even design buildings with eight floors or eight windows in a room, and other things based around feng shui,” O’Halloran concludes.

Top Tips for Manufacturing in China

  • Don’t try and navigate the Chinese manufacturing industry alone, hire an expert.
  • Explain what you want in as few words as possible. Don’t leave anything open to interpretation.
  • Always start slow, on a small scale.
  • Understand cultural nuances and the importance of hierarchy.
  • As a sign of respect, when you accept a business card with two hands, and look at it carefully. Put the card on the table in front of you, never in your pocket.

 Source: Chris O’Halloran, Striking Group.

The Fine Art of Negotiation

Your negotiation skills come into play practically every day in the procurement game. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

Strong negotiators master verbal, written and non-verbal communications. They’re assertive, approachable and know what they want.

And while procurement professionals are relying on their negotiation skills more than most, there’s always room for improvement to ensure you’re getting what you want during the negotiation process, regardless of whether you’re the buyer or seller.

Getting the Right Result

Strong negotiators rely on specific skills including patience, self-confidence and creativity. This is according to Australian business and leadership coach Cheryl Daley, who focuses specifically on the art of influencing others.

“People don’t often believe they have strong negotiation skills, but it’s a skill we all need in life, particularly in business. There’s always better ways to approach negotiations, but we often fall into the same rut and forget about the importance of looking for new ways to get the result we want when negotiating,” Daley says.

Negotiations often become a power-play between two parties, but the aim should be for everyone to walk away feeling good about the outcome, she says.

Long-Term vs. Short-Term

Anyone about to enter into a negotiation of any kind should start by determining the type of negotiation it will be.

“The type of negotiation will have a huge impact on the way you approach it. A buy and sell negotiation with someone you will deal with once, will be a completely different situation than if you’re entering into something you believe will be a long-term partnership,” Daley explains.

“The longer-term negotiation processes in the business world can take months or even years. These usually involve higher stakes, and can involve a discussion back and forth for some time until everyone has an outcome they are happy with.”

Set Your Goals

Be sure to set the goals in your own mind, before the initial discussions with the other party, so you don’t feel disadvantaged from the outset, Daley says.

“Be prepared to do some personal preparation before the first discussion with the other part. Always be polite and create a dialogue that doesn’t position one party as the ultimate winner and the other one as the loser. Be firm, but not aggressive. Stay calm, because the moment you lose it, you’ve lost the battle.”

Knowing what the other person’s weaknesses are will really help. It’s easy to be steamrolled by the other party if there’s no connection or relationship in place, so take the time to get to know them, and how you can help them achieve what they’re aiming for.

“It will always be more difficult to negotiate if you don’t first ask a few questions of the other party first to determine whether you’re able to solve their problems during the negotiation process. Otherwise, you could find yourself at a disadvantage,” Daley adds.

Not All About Price

Meanwhile, licensed Buyers’ Agent Nicole Marsh reminds us that negotiation isn’t always just about price. Often, negotiating other terms for real estate buyers such as a longer settlement, being able to move in on an earlier date, or the vendor leaving behind the white goods is enough to get the deal over the line.

“Long term partnerships may require each party to make concessions to make it work and may involve more problem solving skills to get the deal across the line,” Marsh says.

On the other hand, when a negotiation does come down to price, it’s important to set a ‘walk away’ price so you don’t agree to a higher price than you can afford, she says.

“It’s never too late to look at how you approach your negotiations, and consider adding new skills to your repertoire,” Marsh says.

Top Tips for Negotiating

Marsh also shared her top tips for negotiating:

  • Be firm, but not aggressive.
  • Strive for solutions that work for both parties.
  • Stay calm. Stick to the issue, and don’t become hostile or frustrated.
  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Pick a mutually convenient time and place for the negotiation to take place.
  • Put details in writing.
  • Consider whether you need legal advice.