Mind the Gap – Training vs Competencies

In our previous posts we talked about designing your talent management program and implementing a recruiting plan. However, these are only parts of a larger Competency Based Talent Management (CBTM) program. You have hired the people you needed. So what? How can you make sure they are integrated into your organization and are able to hit the ground running, creating the optimum amount of impact? Not only do you need to look at training your existing team, you need to create a training program for new recruits as well.

This sounds well and good (and perhaps a bit easy). However, it is not as easy as it sounds. We have heard from many of our Sourcing / Supply Chain peers, particularly at our last NPX, that they are struggling with their training efforts. Training is completed, but the learning is never adopted. So what can they do to change the results?

Adoption brings us back to our vowels (AEIOU). In the past we have talked about the importance of Adoption, Execution, Implementation, Optimization and Utilization in any organizational effort. However, training is just not about the act of learning (a consonant); it is about adopting and implementing that learning to drive business results. Using the vowels ensures that the people being trained start applying what they learned. Implementing the vowels is the key difference between training people and developing competency.

To effectively turn a training program into competency development, you must have a good understanding of your desired needs. This requires that you start with the strategic direction and objectives of the company and what role your organization will play. This will show you which organizational competencies you need and will give you an understanding of the gaps you have within your organization. Now, the closure of those gaps can be tied directly to the company’s strategic direction and the role your organization will play, adding value not just for individuals, but for the company as a whole. Sending 2-3 people at a time to some public seminar designed for the masses may develop individual competency but it is never going to develop organizational competency.

Your gap closure strategies must follow a multi-faceted approach (coaching / mentoring etc.). Make sure your entire approach is rooted in Adult Learning Theory and has experiential learning as its basic tenet. Making people sit through day long lectures with no ability to actually practice the new behaviors and competencies in a safe learning environment is of little value. In addition, the curriculum must include the strategic competencies found during the initial gap assessment. A program consisting of functional or process skills alone is doomed. The strategic competencies must also be integrated into the core process modules so that people know how to actually deploy the new process.

Your training strategies must look beyond the technical skills and focus on the strategic skills needed to be successful like change management, communication, collaboration, and decision making. Oftentimes these skills are overlooked when training, although they are the most important to organizational success. Anyone can learn to use any process and those are the skills most organizations worry about when hiring and training. However, developing strategic skills can take your team to the next level and have more lasting effects on the group. It takes your group from Best Practices to Next Practices.

Developing the right competencies within your organization is not easy. It takes a lot of thought and energy to train and develop your team. Sometimes closing the gap can make you feel like you are trying to build a bridge across the Grand Canyon. If you start by looking at competency development in terms of AEIOU and strategic alignment, you will no longer need to build a bridge across the gap. You will find that your organization will soar.

In our upcoming posts we will continue to address Next Practices associated with the Competency Based Talent Management lifecycle.

If you are interested in getting involved or would like to follow this topic further, here are a series of critical activities coming up:

  • Release of the results of the Executive Forum we just facilitated at the IACCM Global Forum for Contracting & Commercial Excellence on Talent Management.
  • A major research project to not identify the problem one more time but to identify Next Practices to solve the problems.
  • A webinar with IACCM on CBTM.
  • A White Paper to focus on Next Practices in CBTM.



Reposted on Sourcing Innovation.

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The Difficulty of Finding Qualified Supply Management Candidates

Welcome to the first of six in our series on Competency Based Talent Management (CBTM). Check back weekly as we discuss the challenges associated with CBTM and explore solutions.

Difficulty of Finding Qualified Supply Management Candidates  is the headline of a major research project by CAPS Research.  I am glad that they are bringing renewed attention to this issue.  My problem is that if you go back in the history of our profession, this issue has been in the top three issues of EVERY poll, research, think tank pronouncement, conference, etc. for close to two decades!   My history goes back over three decades in the world of Supply Chain and I can remember in the early 90’s when this started to become a critical issue.  And yet, here we are gathering insight yet again. We started this conversation by first defining who YOU are. Clearly not a scientific analysis but close enough for government work.  We then drew some insights from the profile that was created.

Let me take the liberty of using the title to develop my call to action.  Let’s start with DIFFICULTY. The question we need to ask ourselves is why are we dealing with difficulty? Clearly we are facing difficulty as a result of whatever we did or more importantly did not do in the past.  We have never identified talent as a top priority in our organizations.  And before you quickly pull out your strategic presentation to point to the slides, my first question will be to ask for a history of your training investment over the last five years.  In fact, take a look at your total investment over the last five years in supporting your Talent strategy and compare it to other investments that your corporation has made.  I bet it is nowhere close!!!    How does your new hire program fare under that scrutiny?  Has it been increasing over the last five years?  Is the leadership in your Supply Chain organization specifically measured AND incented on the maximization of Talent?  Are your people specifically measured AND incented on acquiring new competencies (not skills, not training . . . . . more on that later)?  These are but some of the things that would explain the inclusion of the word DIFFICULTY in the research.  At our last NPX conference and a recent Gartner event, numbers like 50, 100, 200, and 400 were being tossed as the current need of some major Global corporations in their Supply Chain organizations.  I will let you digest those numbers for now and we will come back to them later.  By the way, once you decide to invest in your Talent, there is an incredible amount of lead time that is required to make that happen.  Those companies that are looking to hire 50 – 400 new people should have started 12 -18 months ago.

If you are still defining FINDING  as developing a job description and handing it off to your HR rep and waiting for the candidates to roll in…good luck!  You need to step back and understand what your real needs are in terms of competencies for the roles that you are looking to fill.  Because FINDING is also a function of what you define as QUALIFIED. You then need to develop an aggressive, comprehensive approach to attract and retain the right candidates.  And unless you have thought your way through that entire life cycle, you will never resolve the issue.  Let me illustrate with an actual case study.  We were asked by the CFO of a major bank to help figure out why they were not able to attract any candidates to even show up at the campus job fairs for their New Hire program.  We helped them realize that their brand name was not enough to attract candidates anymore.  The real issues were that the prospects did not know what they wanted to do in banking yet and did not want to commit so early in their life.  We redesigned the entire New Hire program to include structured six month rotations for the 1st two years (and their selections would be considered), a leadership member assigned as a formal mentor (and feedback provided by mentee to CFO on mentoring), internal job fairs by senior executives of various organizations in the bank, a “friend” assigned from the previous rotation “class”, formal group meetings where the entire “class” would get together to provide feedback, etc.  And then we redesigned their marketing strategy (yes, you need to have a marketing strategy!).  They had lines forming up at the campus job fairs!

As I mentioned in the last paragraph, ALL of these issues are intertwined and tied together (but I’m jumping ahead of myself).  For example, if your definition of QUALIFIED does not really match your needs, you will always have DIFFICULTY FINDING candidates. The definition of QUALIFIED has to be based on the real needs of your “clients”.  One of the constructs that has proven very powerful as an image that we use with our clients is to think of your organization as a consulting company.  You would quickly realize that your ONLY asset that delivers value to your clients is your organizational competency and talent.  Therefore, you must match your competencies to the needs of your clients, both for today and tomorrow.  Otherwise, you will always be FINDING because developing organizational competency has a significant lead time.  Case in point:  We just had a conversation with the CIO of a Fortune 20 client leading to the conclusion that his organizational competency was geared towards new solutions and his group had been rolling out very successfully. His problem was that his clients had not yet “adopted” the solutions yet…meaning that they had not been fully deployed.  The Intended Consequences of the clients had not yet been realized.  What he quickly realized was that he needed to immediately develop significant deployment competencies.  Think of it as surveying your market to understand what their needs are going to be so that you can ensure that you have the right organizational competencies to deliver the value when your clients need it.  Ideally, you should be a step ahead.

Finally, what do you define as a SUPPLY MANAGEMENT CANDIDATE?   I guess we first need to decide what is Supply Management?  Because if your definition is focused on the Supply Base and managing costs and lead times and someone else is looking at the entire value conversion process, then your SUPPLY MANAGEMENT CANDIDATE is going to look rather different from your competitor.  If you think the role of Supply Management is to run an efficient process to ensure lowest cost, then you are probably not looking for candidates who can look upstream and downstream and start maximizing the entire system as opposed to the tail of the dog (supply base).  If you think that Supply Management is all about the process of defining requirements and negotiating contracts, then you are probably don’t want  candidates with all those so called soft skills (collaboration, teams, problem solving, etc.).   Now you can see why we seem to have DIFFICULTY FINDING QUALIFIED SUPPLY MANAGEMENT CANDIDATES.

Stay tuned for our next post where we discuss Competency Based Talent Management as a platform for solving some of the issues we have raised here.   If you are interested in getting involved or would like to follow this topic further, here are a series of critical activities coming up:

  • Major research project geared towards not just identifying the problem but to identifying Next Practices to solve the problems
  • White Paper to focus on Next Practices in Competency Based Talent Management
  • A webinar discussing our findings in detail

Please share your thoughts and challenges regarding Talent Management below. We would love to hear your insights.



Reposted on Sourcing Innovation.

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NPX Coverage – Talent Really Can Transform Your Organization

Repost from Sourcing Innovation:

In yesterday’s post, we discussed the NPX keynote by Don Wirth, VP Global Operations Supply Chain and Excellence of DuPont, on DuPont’s Journey to Supply Chain Excellence and how a key to success was DuPont talent. We also said that DuPont is a company that did more than just give their talent lip service and put their corporate money where their corporate mouth was and this is a key to their recent success (which saw a year over year EPS growth of 32% last quarter) and their plans to cut 3.7 Billion in cost from their supply chain.

How did they do it? When the economy was tanking in late 2008 and early 2009 and everyone was cutting jobs left, right, and center, instead of cutting their global workforce 5% to 10% with all their peers, which was the original gut feel reaction of some executives and board members, they took a step back and said “the market will come back like it always does and the best way to recover is to be ready and more competitive when it does“. And they realized that the best way to be ready was to have people who could capitalize on the opportunity. By capitalizing, they decided that they needed people who could deliver the necessary innovation while keeping supply chain costs down as that is the key to continued success in up or down economies.

So they created a center of supply chain excellence and took people from across the company who would have otherwise been laid off from under-performing divisions and trained them. And trained them. And trained them some more on supply chain best practices — lean, kaizen, negotiation, contract management, and other areas of critical impact. Then they sent them back into the business units with new skills and knowledge to guide unit operations and manage the supply chains with guidance from the center of excellence. And then the cost reductions started to appear from across the board.

From there, they modified their Dupont Production System (DPS) methodology to include best-in-class supply chain operations to provide the highest customer service with the lowest total cost of ownership by increasing overall supply chain resilience. And then they focussed on plant operations, supply chain design, and supply chain optimization and identified almost 3.7 Billion in cost reduction opportunities through improved operations. And now development is a key part of their mandate and a continued focus. And it’s for the best.

Special Thanks to Sourcing Innovation for covering NPX!

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For those that are classic rock fans, that is the title of one the iconic hits of that genre. But that’s not what we want to talk about today. I recently ran across a survey conducted by my good friend Tim Cummins at the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management (IACCM) and it paints a picture of YOU. Well, perhaps most of YOU at least. Because Talent Management continues to be a very high priority for our community and profession, we thought it would be interesting to answer the question that Pete Townshend asked in 1978….WHO ARE YOU??

• 54% have been in a contracting, negotiation or procurement role for 11 years or more.
• 41% have a Master’s degree
• 33% are over 50 years old
• 40% support both sales contracting and procurement
• 46% are individual contributors in their job role, with no direct reports.
• 52% would characterize themselves as having no career path or a very limited one.
• 60% say they like their job and are satisfied with their current position.
• 65% say they plan to work 5 or more years in their current career path.
• 40% said they liked their pay, the flexible hours, and location.
• The four things that people liked best about their job: Challenging work, Negotiating with customers or suppliers, Drafting and reviewing contracts, Managing customer or supplier relationships
• The three things that people disliked most about their company: Failure to invest in its people, Company culture, Pay
• The four things people disliked most about their job: Poor management/leadership, Administrative responsibilities , Lack of career path, Lack of clarity in roles/responsibilities
• The four most important skills and attributes for performing your role: Communication skills, Problem solving ability, Negotiation skills, Attention to detail
• 57% believe their company will help them acquire the skills and knowledge for a future in their profession.
• Out of a high score of 5 for what motivates people at work, Personal objectives received a score of 4.21; Company performance (bonus schemes) received a 3.51; Company control standards (audits, etc) received a 2.93; Company collected cycle time (metrics) received a 2.73; External professional standards (certification) received a 3.02.
• Compared to others in their profession, 75.5% consider themselves a high performer.
• 46% DON’T believe there are clear and meaningful rewards for high performance contract professionals in their company. (Click here for the full survey results)

Next week we will interpret the data and see what challenges and issues this information presents. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the data.

If you are interested in additional details, I am hosting an executive session at the IACCM Global Forum for Contracting & Commercial Excellence to discuss these very issues in Talent Management. On November 4th, the Next Practices Xchange hosted by us is being held at the Oak Brook Hills Marriott in Oak Brook, IL. All of our research will end up in a white paper that will consolidate all this research and try to make some sense out of it. Stay tuned!




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Adoption / Implementation and “Going Green”

As I was getting my day going by catching up with my typical round of marketing blogs, I caught an article on mashable.com about the value Canon is getting from “going green” (4 Ways To Make Your Office Greener, http://mashable.com/2011/07/12/green-office-canon/).  I found this article interesting as I have always thought that the use of the word “green” in marketing and business is overused, trendy, and underwhelming. This feeling comes from my tendency to cringe every time a word becomes overused in advertising like cutting-edge (of course we will ignore my tendency to use the word awesome at every opportunity). However, as companies work to find ways to cut costs and streamline processes, it appears that the savings some organizations are experiencing by “going green” are anything but underwhelming. In fact the results can be quite impressive.

According to mashable.com, Canon saved 2.7 million kilowatt-hours of energy from 2009-2010. This equaled a savings of more than $300,000 in utility fees over a two-year period. With companies scrimping and saving these days, we aren’t talking small organic potatoes. The four areas they focused on in this initiative included replacing monitors, switching traditional light bulbs with low carbon lighting, and replacing personal printers with multi-function systems. However, the area of change that stood out most to me was on the operations side. The change went beyond the usual turning off of lights and updating equipment. The drive to “go green” also became part of the organizational cultural. As part of the program, they conducted environmental education and training for the staff. In my opinion, this additional step was why their initiative was so successful.

According to the Daily Energy Report (Feb, 2011 http://www.dailyenergyreport.com/2011/02/how-to-incentivize-employees-to-go-green-at-the-office/) most buildings that are considered green are not living up to their green performance ratings. The main reason for this discrepancy, the Report states, is that the employees themselves are not “going green.” They are not following the green guidelines for various reasons. To rectify this issue, organizations need to look beyond the processes and see what they can do to influence the organizational culture with stakeholder buy in from all.

It is amazing how these articles mesh perfectly with our AEIOU approach. The vowels stand for Adoption, Execution, Implementation, Optimization and Utilization. An organization can have the best processes of any company in the United States, but without the additional AEIOU, the process stays to paper and rarely becomes fully executed to its full potential.  AEIOU gives meaning to the measureable components and creates a real transformation effort.  Unfortunately, this additional step is frequently overlooked as organizations concentrate on the areas that are measurable.

For a company to truly go green, they need to look beyond how many energy-saving printers are available and look at how best to get employees to move from thinking to acting. Processes and Training are only part of the equation. The culture also needs to change to create maximum impact. That is why Canon was successful at going green, while other organizations have missed the mark. They understood that changing light bulbs and printers was not going to give them the results they were looking for. They created support from their employees and made them stakeholders in the change.

So perhaps I should look at “going green” a bit differently myself and see it as more than just a marketing catch phrase but truly a frame of mind.


If you have any thoughts or want to add to the conversation, please do.  I’m always interested in other perspectives.

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