Category Archives: Trending

Big Ideas in Technology: 2016 and Beyond

We’ve rounded up some of the biggest disruptive technology trends we expect to see in workplaces the world over in the next twelve months.

Drones and drone lanes

Drones and drone lanes

What: As drones have begun to take over our skies in 2015 concerns have grown over the fight for airspace.

Currently the FAA only prohibits drones from flying near airports and their associated airspace, but is this enough?

How: As we peer into the future we expect commercial delivery services from Amazon (and others) to begin rollout, as well as increased numbers of hobbyist pilots carving out lanes for themselves.

Tighter regulations will likely divide the sky with pilots of commercial and business drones utilising the 200-400 ft zone, while those using drones for recreation are limited to 200 ft and below. This will not only better promote safety in the skies but keep lanes clear for priority transport. This advantage will come into its own for those looking to improving logistics solutions in disaster zones, battlefields or delivering aid to inhospitable terrain.

Despite being used for good we should also remember that drones are already being used to the detriment of our profession. Drone surveillance is increasingly on the rise and advancements in camera technology mean drones are capable of spying on factories, warehouses and ports from afar. Thus firmly putting the threat of corporate espionage, competition and imitation back in the spotlight.

Bots

What: Chances are if you’ve been active on the Internet since the late 90s you’ll already be familiar with one of the surprising new trends for 2016: Bots. But while the bots we’ve likely grown accustomed existed solely to frequent chat rooms or perform basic monitoring tasks, the bots of the future are intelligent and much like us, learn with each interaction.

Not to be confused with the likes of your Siri or Cortana (smart virtual personal assistants) living on our mobile phones and tablets, those in the know believe that bots capabilities are now so advanced they could quietly boost our productivity levels and help transform time-consuming processes.

How: In business press offices and newsrooms bots will be poised to automatically sort and tag articles, as well as actively monitor and react to social media. While we’re not a point where bots can realistically replace your social media teams, automation could be used strategically to help manage the strain. Elsewhere bots will be utilised to manage stocks and HR teams will rely on them for getting new employees up to speed. We can also expect to see more automation in services like Slack, making the organisation of meetings and status updates a thing of the past.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality

What: Virtual reality (VR) has been the word on the lips of tech tastemakers since the sixties, now it looks like 2016 will finally be the year to usher in the VR dawn.

VR is best described as a computer-simulated reality. Modern technology grants us full immersion within the imagined environment through the use of a head-mounted display.

How: With backing from some of the biggest names in interactive technology (Oculus VR, Sony, Valve and Google to name but a few),

Unlike Augmented Reality (AR) which uses text, graphics and sound to add a useful extra layer of data to your immediate surroundings, VR transports the user into a carefully constructed world.

Although synonymous with gaming, virtual reality also offers-up an intriguing wealth of uses in the manufacturing, health and transport industries. Dassault Systemes – a European software company that specialise in 3D design and product life cycle management, works with organisations to ensure that costly mistakes are confined to virtual reality and the products rolling off production lines are perfect. Vehicle designers can explore the chassis of a car (both inside and out), food and drinks manufacturers can see their products on shelves, while advanced 3D modelling techniques have even recreated the Pyramids of Egypt and the Normandy D-Day landings.

Wearables

What: Despite wearable titans like Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Fitbit, Pebble, Garmin, Xiaomi and Jawbone sewing the market up in the last few years, wearable tech is only just beginning to deliver on the promises teased at its inception.

How: Fitness bands, sports watches and smartwatches are clever pieces of kit for sure but we’re on the cusp of welcoming wireless body area networks, neuroenhancers and earables which will shift wearables away from the wrists of the consumer and into real-world applications.

Think of earables as little computers that sit in your ears – according to patent reports, Apple is working on earbuds that are capable of both monitoring and relaying temperature, perspiration and heart rate. Head gestures could also be used to control electronic devices paired with the earable.

Wireless body area networks will also share similar recorded data with medical servers, computers and other interested parties. Utilising data from body-mounted sensors or ingestible devices, they will be able to keep tabs on every minutiae of employee wellbeing and the monitoring of trigger points like stress.

Plus location-aware services will be able to track movements – as manufacturing.net has noted, think of the improvements in efficiency such technology would mean in production lines: “The wearable device tracks their location, “knows” that they have moved to a new production line, creates a job transfer, assigns a new work order, and automatically starts tracking their work. There is no need for employees to interact with a computer or time clock. The technology has already taken care of that for them so they can focus on what’s really important — the work at hand.”

Neuroenhancers will monitor your brainwaves through electrical activity and over time collect data and make assumptions based on its recordings and observed patterns. Crucially this will allow it to pinpoint those times your concentration is at its highest, when you’re at your most productive and when you should take a break.

Such innovations in wearable tech could help to lead a revolution on productivity and effectiveness in workplaces across the world, no matter what the field.

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”.

What Tinder Can Tell Us About Job Hunting – Part 1: First Impressions

In the first part of this series, we look at how to make a good first impression.

Tinder-App

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

My friend Anna was a little surprised last month when the 6′ fighter pilot she’d arranged a first date with turned out to be 5’2″ and appeared to have grown a different face since posting his Tinder profile. The ‘date’ lasted all of 30 seconds. There won’t be a second one.

It’s the same with your CV. Just like Tinder, it’s vital that it leads with a short summary capturing the essence of who you are, but ultimately, it also needs to be truthful. Embellishment and downright lies might make you a potential match, and even get you a first meeting, but no matter how vibrant your personality, you’re not even going to get to first base if a couple of well-chosen questions, or, in Anna’s case, a horrified first glance, are going to destroy your work of fiction. It’s a waste of everybody’s time, and word can start to get around, landing you with a reputation you really don’t want.

And in the rare event that you do somehow pass muster with some seriously creative additions to your profile, you’ll still have to live with the possibility of being busted later. Remember Scott Thompson, the CEO of Yahoo who got himself fired after it came to light that he didn’t have the degree in Computer Science his CV claimed? He was massively qualified for the job in every other way, but trustworthiness was the issue. And nobody wants to work, or sleep, with a liar, right?

Accuracy Matters

Both employers and potential dates are looking for specifics. There’s really no point in pretending to be what you’re not, or applying for roles for which you simply haven’t got the skills. You shouldn’t be applying for a senior role interacting with suppliers and internal customers if the only stakeholders you’ve managed are your own knife and fork.

My little pun on ‘stakeholders’ above masks a serious point: spelling and grammatical accuracy matter. Sure, some people care about it more than others, but if you’re aiming for a high calibre outcome you should be sure not to exclude yourself from the consideration set through appearing not to care. As a recruiter, I saw countless CVs from “mangers”, “analists” and other “bussiness proffessionals”. Spellcheck alone won’t pick up all the errors, but first impressions count.

You wouldn’t (I hope) use a profile picture on Tinder that shows spinach between your teeth and food down your front. Make sure your attention to detail is at least as good for your CV. If you’re not sure, or even if you are, it’s a good idea to get a trusted friend to check it over for you. Better to have any errors pointed out in confidence than be rejected by your target audience for being sloppy.

Accentuate the Positive

Attempting to punch above your weight on Tinder is one thing – the worst that can happen is that everyone swipes left – but pitching yourself far too high in the job market can seriously reduce your credibility. That said, successful job hunting is all about taking time to accentuate the positive. View yourself in a positive light and play the hell out of the hand you’ve got.

So, how best to do this? Ironically perhaps, you’ll want to reveal a little more of yourself than you might do on Tinder. Summarise your key achievements. Quantify them too: if you’ve delivered a project of specific value or managed to achieve a notable saving or reduction in spend, make sure it’s shown. Recruiters like evidence of achievement.

That doesn’t mean you need to list every single thing, and as your career progresses you can start to leave some of the detail off your CV (School Recorder Club, Swimming Badges, etc). Your resume needs to represent the detail of what you’ve achieved in recent years, and what you’re good at now, as that’s where the match is made.

Tailoring Counts

Finally, remember what’s appropriate. There are some pictures that (most) Tinder users just don’t want to see – you know what I mean, don’t make me spell it out. Unlikely though you are to put such a thing on any job application it is worth remembering what you’re applying for, and emphasising the appropriate parts of your experience to ensure you fit with the role profile.

Take the time to tailor your CV for each job application. This isn’t Tinder, where you’re putting yourself in front of a pool of millions of different requirements and may be a perfect fit for one, or some. Job hunting is all about making sure you’re the perfect fit for a particular suitor.

A little extra time and care to ensure your resume is appropriate to your application may pay dividends in the end. It did for Anna. She’s getting married next week, but not to that guy.

Working Capital: The Role of Procurement

Procurement has a central role to play in the effective management of working capital, enabling investment, growth and supply chain efficiency.

working-capital-featured

This article has been written by Neil Ross, Regional Manager, EMEA Trade Credit.

Working capital is the fuel behind any successful mid-market organisation, representing the amount of cash available at any one time. If managed effectively, it ensures the business is able to invest in new products and services, optimising its existing operations, while also shoring up against future risks. Failure to maintain control of working capital will inevitably force companies to rely on borrowing, often through expensive bank finance, putting further pressure on the business.

There are three primary factors dictating working capital – Days Sales Outstanding (DSO), Days Payable Outstanding (DPO) and Days Inventory Outstanding (DIO). Essentially, if DSO and DIO are too high and DPO is too low, then companies will encounter cash flow issues. Simple economics mean money will be going out of the business faster than it is coming in, so striking the right balance between these three factors is imperative.

The Role of Procurement

Responsibility for the day-to-day management of working capital ultimately sits with the treasurer, whose role it is to ensure the company has the necessary funds to operate and meet its objectives for the months and years ahead. But the treasurer cannot work alone. He or she must collaborate closely with numerous departments across the business to ensure working capital is maximised. The procurement team forms a crucial part of this network.

As the primary interface between a business and its supply chain, procurement can make or break an organisation’s working capital strategy. Procurement has numerous factors to consider within its remit, not least management of cost vs. value from suppliers. However, a fixation on costs alone can be a mistake, masking other factors which can also seriously impact working capital.

For example, high logistics and warehousing costs can make working with a particular supplier unviable. Similarly, the ease of doing business with suppliers is a prime consideration – if their contractual terms or the process of purchasing are overly complex, this will eat up hours of administration time that could be better used elsewhere.

Favourable Payment Terms?

But perhaps the most important working capital consideration for procurement is the ability to negotiate favourable payment terms with suppliers, ensuring that money isn’t leaving the company bank account until it absolutely has to.

Extending payment terms is a popular method used by large and increasingly by mid-market companies to maximise their working capital and cash flow. Research by YouGov on behalf of PrimeRevenue and AIG[1] found that over three quarters of supplier businesses have been asked to accept longer payment terms, potentially holding up over £29bn.

A smart move by buyers you might think? Well not necessarily, when you consider the impact this could be having on the supply chain. YouGov’s research found that these longer payment terms are affecting suppliers’ cash flow (55 per cent), leading to additional administration (33 per cent) and putting a strain on client relationships (29 per cent).

The knock on effects can be huge, forcing suppliers to borrow money at a high cost, or to cut costs in production and investment. These issues ultimately drive up prices or impact quality, potentially reducing efficiency and sales, while increasing risk all along the chain.

Supply Chain Finance

Procurement professionals are now waking up to this dichotomy and looking at a more holistic solution to the problem. This means building greater collaboration with suppliers, fostering mutually beneficial relationships, and minimising the risk for the supply chain in the long term.

One key aspect to this more holistic approach is supply chain finance, a financing tool that enables businesses to offer their suppliers early payment, while retaining their own longer payment terms. This is possible through third party financing based on the credit rating of the larger buyer organisation.

Until recently, supply chain finance platforms have been limited to supporting the largest, investment grade businesses. However, innovative online and credit insurance backed solutions mean that it is now an option for thousands of mid-market, non-investment grade companies. This can offer a working capital ‘win-win’, while also helping to streamline processes for all involved.

With the economy on strong footing, many businesses are in growth mode, with ambitious plans for investment and expansion. But these plans won’t be possible without a comprehensive and strategic approach to working capital management. Procurement has a central role in making that happen. The tools and technology now available mean it has never been easier to optimise working capital, across both individual businesses and the broader supply chain.

Supply Chain Finance from PrimeRevenue and AIG frees up significant funding for mid-market (£100m+ turnover), non-investment grade companies and their suppliers, providing low cost access to working capital on both sides of the transaction. More information can be found here.

[1] AIG and PrimeRevenue research carried out by YouGov. Total sample size was 250 adults with responsibility for invoicing and payment terms within businesses which provide goods and services to large organisations (with revenues of £100m or more).

Businesses were asked how much of their revenue is currently tied up in invoices with payment terms longer than the standard. If these results were replicated across all businesses in the UK which provide goods or services to large organisations they suggest that around £29 billion is tied up in this way.

A Game Changer is Born

Digital disruption is inevitable, it’s happening everywhere. But who are the disruptors and how do we ensure they are working for our organisations, changing our landscape and transforming the way we work?

gamechanger_shutterstock_279452315-660x400

Leaders are crying out for people who have the ability to change their organisation’s landscape. These individuals are the people who have the ability to completely upend the way a particular organisation, market or industry works – they are the Game Changers.

Think about the likes of Uber, who reinvented the transportation business, and Instagram, who changed the nature of photography – we need the Game Changers to transform the way we do things.

These are two examples of the high level impact Game Changers can have, but not every organisation needs this level of change. The reality is Game Changers are out there changing things every day. Whether it be reinventing an administrative process or the way a department works, having Game Changers on board gives our businesses the opportunity to accelerate evolution at every level within its operation.

The DNA of a Game Changer

Our study, The DNA of a Game Changer, identifies the key traits of a Game Changer and delves a little deeper to investigate what these individuals need to deliver results. It gives us the code we need to identify the Game Changers and identifies the ten key behaviours of a Game Changer:

  • Big picture thinkers
  • Very strategic
  • High on vigour
  • Creative idea generators
  • Passionate about the idea
  • Ambitious, obsessive drive to succeed
  • Risk takers
  • Strong influencers of people (above and below)
  • Great at articulating a vision
  • Likeable

Game Changers exist at every level of our organisations – in fact, 84 per cent of leaders believe people can change the game in their company without having to be put in a senior management position. But do you know who your Game Changers are?

Now our study has identified the characteristics of Game Changers it is easier for us to develop a framework to recognise those within our organisations who have game-changing potential, and to better utilise their obsessive imagination, passion and drive.

Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, got it right when he said, “The most talented, thought-provoking, game-changing people are never ‘normal’.”

The leaders we surveyed echoed Branson’s comments saying they believe Game Changers are often considered disruptive by others.

Without the right business culture or management mindset these game-changing individuals will often leave organisations as a result of being stifled, get removed for being too disruptive, or simply become the “vanilla” and conform to the continuum of corporate complacency.

Ticking boxes

Game Changers don’t tick standard corporate boxes and they will certainly challenge the status quo, which often means managers find them difficult. We need to move away from this tick-box mentality and encourage our managers to take a risk and give Game Changers the freedom to fulfil their potential if we are to reap the benefits.

This is reflected in the process that needs to be implemented when recruiting Game Changers. Recruiting managers need to be able to take a different approach and have the freedom to take a risk. The standard “experience, qualification and skills” recruitment model won’t allow them to identify these characteristics within individuals, which means Game Changers could slip through the net.

This freedom to take risks doesn’t stop with the recruitment process. Managers need to adopt a different management style to allow game-changing individuals to achieve their potential. They need to become more open minded, be willing to listen to potential ideas and support them moving forward, all of this while creating a safe environment for these risks to be taken.

This is where the ‘safe to fail’ culture has its strongest benefit. A Game Changer needs to have the flexibility to challenge the status quo, explore new opportunities and be able to present them to the open ears of management.

The Conclusion

These Game Changers are out there, quite often they are in teams but without the right culture in place we are at risk of losing them. Now we know their “DNA”, it’s in our best interests to utilise these exceptional individuals and give them the freedom to grow and help improve our businesses.

We need to take a risk giving them freedom, that safe to fail culture and in return for our risk they’ll provide our organisations with fresh energy, new ideas and deliver growth and development.

eg.1 is a business insight and talent consultancy. We work globally with organisations when they want to scale, make a strategic step change or simply disrupt the status quo. Our methodology encompasses the acquisition of game changing people, teams and companies underpinned by bespoke market intelligence and talent frameworks.

Future Proofing Procurement – Social Sourcing and Supplier Networks

Traditional procurement processes and methods are being overtaken and replaced. While they still have a role to play, how can you make sure your procurement organisation is ready to meet the future head-on? tech-913034_1280

A few weeks ago, I was involved in a Twitter chat on behalf of Procurious on the subject of social media, supplier networks and social sourcing. It got me thinking about how procurement can prepare for an expanding strategic role in the coming years.

Social media is well established for connections and networking for individuals, and forward-thinking procurement teams are ensuring that their brands are positioned to take advantage. But where should they be going next?

Supplier Networks

Supplier Networks are built on the premise of using social media to create a pool of organisations, which have the same or very similar requirements, and combine resources in order to achieve favourable rates on large-scale purchases.

The favourable conditions are not just for the buying organisations. Suppliers who are part of the network are able to access more organisations, combine orders (allowing for more efficient manufacturing or production processes) and reduce their own costs too. Think of this as a ‘win-win’ situation.

It was on this thinking that Innovo was created. Innovo is a free online business-to-business (B2B) marketplace for all goods and services. The platform aims to connect buyers and suppliers on the basis of requirements.

Buyers outline what they need and suppliers are notified when buyers are looking for their products. The site then facilitates volume sharing between buyers, rebating savings for bulk purchasing across the group, and enables suppliers also to share volumes and reduce their own prices.

While not directly linked to the ‘traditional’ social media platforms, sites like Innovo are facilitating online relationships and allowing procurement to both add value for organisations through improved supplier relationships, but also deliver savings for the bottom line.

Social Sourcing

Social sourcing is defined as buyers or purchasing organisations using social media platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, to access a wider supplier market, where new solutions, supplier innovation and alternative products can be found.

What may be holding procurement back in this regard is the need to be open in a public environment with requirements or products issues. While this is not something that has been widely done in the past, there are a few organisations that are using social media to good effect in this regard.

This openness tends to be around lower value, non-critical products currently, but the possibilities of using this more widely will grow as more organisations become comfortable with it.

Currently there are a few examples of good practice in the market, but we’ve highlighted two of the best here.

  • LV= (Liverpool Victoria): The UK-based financial services organisation realised that they could use social media to share issues and ideas and attract responses from a wider community of small to medium sized suppliers.

This approach, seen as less formal and more flexible, has enabled LV= to have more collaborative discussions with a much wider community and benefit from innovative thinking.

  • GE and Quirky: General Electric and Quirky, a crowd-sourced innovation platform, to create a new platform to enable innovation. The platform enables crowd submission of new products and small-team designs, giving suppliers access to GE and GE a ‘renewable’ source of crowd innovation.

These smaller organisations also have the advantage of being able to access retail relationships that would have been difficult previously, as now they have the support of GE.

(Note – Quirky filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this year. However, their innovation journey continues on Wink.)

Securing Procurement’s Future?

Procurious are big advocates of using social media as part of the procurement process. Through conversations we have been having with procurement professionals around the world, as well as technological and industry experts, we believe that these are the conditions the majority of procurement will be carried out in the future.

Adopting a new approach to procurement is a big transformation for organisations, however, in order to ensure that procurement remains relevant, adds value for organisations and retains a strategic presence, the profession needs to keep up with the times.

The benefits of social media are there to see – you don’t need to jump in with both feet straight away, but can ease into it slowly in order to make a smoother transition. Our challenge to you would be – what could you be doing differently in your procurement process? Why not be the one to take the first step and ultimately get ahead of your competitors and up your social media game.

If these organisations are leading by example, what is yours doing? Is your organisation future-proofed? We’d love to hear more from you if you have a great example to share!

Queen Bee Syndrome debunked: the sting isn’t where you think it is

Historically, successful women have run the risk of being characterized as the “quintessential ‘bitch’ who is concerned not at all about others but only about herself”.

Queen Bee

Women regarded as successful attract negative reactions that focus primarily on their interpersonal capabilities. Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada is often used to illustrate the point. The supposed source of the character Streep portrays is Anna Wintour, who is described as having an aloof and demanding personality, earning her the nickname ‘Nuclear Wintour’. Closer to home, Peta Credlin is characterized similarly.

While we might all be able to recognize this pattern, up to date research indicates that the sting doesn’t come from women in senior roles.

But first: what is a Queen Bee? In organizations with few senior women, expectations about behaviour and style are firmly male. Women take care and men take charge. Queen Bee syndrome is used to describe the “bitch who stings other women if her power is threatened” and the term is used to blame senior women for not supporting other women.

The power of the dominant group is attractive. Where women are in the significant minority, there is enormous pressure to join with the majority group, which causes ‘insider’ women to become hostile to ‘outsider’ women. As a personal survival mechanism some women become as ‘unwomanly’ as possible and react with hostility to other women. They become part of the dominant group (men), sometimes take on dominant group member characteristics, and exclude members of the non-dominant group.  Queen Bees are seen to hold on to their power as the ‘token woman’ by denigrating other women as ‘emotional’, expressing anti-female attitudes, and avoiding female-focused programs and gatherings.

Such women who perform well in male gender-stereotyped roles are generally not liked: they attract negative reactions that focus primarily on their interpersonal capabilities, and their lack of warmth in particular. Both women and men see them as less desirable as bosses, compared with men described in similar ways.

In just-released research Dezso and colleagues examined the under-representation of women in the top executive teams of US S&P 1,500 firms over a 20 year period. They found that the presence of one woman in a top management team reduced, rather than increased, the chance that a second woman would be appointed to that team.

As that seems so counter-intuitive, they explored the potential causes further, and explicitly tested the Queen Bee hypothesis. Was it this syndrome that prevented a second woman getting into the top team? They examined organizations with a female CEO: according to Queen Bee syndrome, if the person with the top job is a woman, it should be less likely that another woman will be appointed to the top team. The reverse was in fact the case. A second woman was much more likely to be appointed to the top team if the CEO was a woman. In addition, firms appeared to hire women into senior management roles in response to actions by their female board members.

Where does the sting come from then? The researchers suggest an ‘implicit quota’. They argue that firms gain legitimacy if they have women in top management. However, the marginal value they gain after one woman is appointed declines with each successive woman “whereas the perceived costs, from the perspective of the male majority in top management, may increase with each woman”.

What can you do?

1. Accept a broad range of leadership styles.

2. Challenge the myth whenever you get the chance. Cite the research.

3. Support, and make supportive comments about, women who trail blaze.

Are We Still in Love with Black Friday?

With Thanksgiving over, consumers and businesses now turn their attention to the start of the festive shopping period – beginning with Black Friday. But are people falling out of love with this shopping day?

Black-Friday

Originally an American phenomenon, Black Friday is the semi-official start of the festive retail period. There’s no consensus as to why Black Friday is called Black Friday, although one compelling theory is that it represents the day where retailers start to earn a profit.

It’s easy to see why that might be the case. In America alone, approximately 249 million people will purchase something on Black Friday, with the total spend in 2015 estimated at $50.9 billion. Black Friday first appeared in the UK 2 years ago, and total spend this year in the UK is expected to exceed last year’s total of £1.5 billion.

Give it a Miss?

Despite the obvious draw of low priced goods at a time of year when many are budgeting for Christmas, some have begun to look upon Black Friday as a symbol of a highly consumerised society and something that adds stress in an already stressful part of the year.

From needing to be in line well before midnight to get the best deals, to the big name brands not being on sale at all, and the potential to get caught up in unsavoury scenes similar to those that played out in shops across the UK last year, there are compelling reasons for giving the shops a miss on Friday.

Alternatively people will look for other options, such as shopping online on Friday (where many retailers have the same, if not better deals), or choosing to wait until Cyber Monday to make their purchases.

Retail Fatigue

It also appears that retailers are beginning to fall out of love with Black Friday too. Far from boosting profits, statistics have shown that many retailers actually lose money on Black Friday, with sales not being sufficient to outweigh the slim margins they have to cope with. It’s also believed that increased transactions are as a result of consumers waiting for these sales, rather than purchasing earlier in the year.

Even Asda, owned by Wal-Mart (attributed with introducing Black Friday to the UK), has decided that they will give the sale day a miss this year, citing customers’ “shopping fatigue” and electing to spread out their seasonal offers over a longer period of time.

Supply Chain Strain

Organisations that aim to maintain high customer service levels for online operations face having to hire additional employees and increase logistics capabilities to keep up with demand.

Organisations need to ensure that their supply chains are up to scratch, with consumers likely to go elsewhere if products are either out of stock or unable to be delivered in good time. And if supply chain issues have been present during the year, customers may not return to the retailer at all, in spite of the deals being offered.

Being able to cope with increased demand, and being flexible enough to react to changing trends, is key for organisational supply chains. This includes being able to assess demand in real-time and potentially move stock between locations in order to satisfy customer wants.

The End for Black Friday?

In spite of all this, it’s unlikely that Black Friday will cease to exist entirely. Retailers who have their strategies well planned and the ability to meet customer demand, will want to remain in a good position to take a share of the billions of dollars spent.

However, as more organisations extend their Black Friday sales, either by starting earlier in the week, or extending them over the holiday weekend and beyond Cyber Monday, it is possible that it might be the last we see of these sales in their current format.

Is your organisation having a Black Friday sale? Are you involved in ensuring the supply chain is able to meet demand? Get in touch and tell your story.

How to Build a Network of Procurement Evangelists

Procurious were lucky enough to attend and present at The Procurement Summit in Manchester last week. While we were there, we sat in on an interesting (and very funny) keynote from Chris Barrat.

chief-evangelist

Chris was talking on the subject of how procurement can build a network of “evangelists”, people who champion the function and help spread the word about the good work being done in organisations.

Procurement hasn’t always enjoyed the best organisational reputation, or the best relationships with other business functions, and this can make the process of finding and developing evangelists difficult.

Barriers and Perceptions

Chris’ first aim was to get the attendees to provide some context on the main barriers to developing evangelists within organisations, as well as forming a view on how procurement was perceived in organisations. The latter, in particular, threw up some surprising responses.

Among the barriers were all the classic external views on procurement:

  • Procurement is too process oriented
  • There is a lack of understanding about the function and the value it adds
  • People don’t see the bigger picture, only the spend in their ‘silo’
  • The idea that “shopping is easy”

This is nothing that seasoned procurement professionals haven’t heard before. What was more surprising were the terms volunteered by the audience when they were asked to sum up the procurement function in their organisation.

Yes, the word “blocker” was at the top of the list, but the attendees also added in the terms “professional”, “expertise” and “aligned”. While it’s unusual to find such positive terms used, it’s certainly good to see that some procurement functions are highly regarded in their organisations.

Building Your Evangelist Network

Chris then went on to offer a three-step process of how to build a network of evangelists. The process was built on the idea of getting procurement themselves to believe that they offered a valuable service, and then building their organisational reputation step-by-step on top of this.

  1. Get Your House in Order

The first step revolved around three questions – What do you stand for? What is your brand? What do others see as your brand? – and built on the concept of procurement as a service provider.

“Engaging people is critical when providing a service” – this was a clear message and measure of success for procurement at this stage. People care about the service they have been given, and the ‘how’ and ‘who’ of the service is more important that it’s ever been.

In order for people to be evangelists for procurement, they need to know that the people they are dealing with are competent, but also actually want to work with them. Chris used the “Likeability vs. Competence” four-box model to demonstrate this point. You can read more about the model here.

Once procurement departments had got their own house in order, they could then take the next step.

  1. Be More ‘Bourne’

Yes, this did mean Jason Bourne. No, it didn’t mean cutting a swathe through the organisation getting rid of people you don’t like.

Being more Bourne meant being on a mission – knowing what needed to be done and being proactive in your aims. There were three key aspects to this step:

  • Name names – find the 3-5 key people you need to get onside as evangelists; focus on them
  • Be an Eagle, not a Vulture – find and see the opportunities, don’t just want for them to present themselves to you
  • Less is more – do fewer things, but do them well; focus on your key people and what their angle is and interests are

It was clear passivity is not an option at Stage 2!

  1. Tastier Carrots, Nastier Sticks

The final stage of the process was all about how to motivate others and how to communicate procurement’s message. Chris’ point was that people are naturally motivated away from (through fear or risk), or towards (through rewards) something. It’s down to the individual in procurement to work out which will be more effective.

No matter the method, carrot or stick, that was used, it was critical that it was done properly and meaningfully. All rewards to be given, or threats to take things away, need to be relevant for each individual. This will help to drive home the idea that procurement is serious and needs to be seen as such.

Returning to the concept of procurement as a service, Chris emphasised the need for candid communication – if you can’t do something, then say so. People will appreciate it more than coming back to them in the future to tell them it isn’t actually possible.

It all seems easy when it’s laid out like that. While it might not be as simple in reality, the general consensus leaving the room was that it might be a good starting point for some procurement organisations, as part of a larger strategy.

You can read articles by Chris on Procurious, and we’d love to hear from you if you have implemented this, or a similar strategy, and what the results were.