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ROBERT BENNY, DIRECTOR, AMD
Developing talent for high performance supply chains
In this highly networked environment, high performance supply chains are key to growth. But for that companies first need to develop a talent pool
 
Companies have used the recent economic downturn to streamline operations and increase operational efficiency. Many are investing in technology, capital, and infrastructure, while others have sought to lure talent from less fortunate companies to bring in additional capability. While valid, if implemented outside the context of a clear strategy, these tactics may not sustain the expected returns.

According to a recent Accenture research, talent is a principal concern for executives, with six of the top ten business issues cited by executives being talent-related. For key workforces and operations, like global supply chain organisations, it requires new ways to lead, learn, and collaborate to develop this talent effectively. According to Accenture, “supply chain masters” devote disproportionately more time and energy than their competitors to develop talent. These high performance organisations create a talent mindset across the organisation while constantly measuring and aligning talent to changing strategies, objectives, and demands. They embrace new ideas for closing skill gaps. Instead of being reactive, they approach skill growth with a demand-side fulfillment approach, knowing that talent pools can come from any industry or geography. They mine hidden skills in their organisation, and they have a strategy for just-in-time development of their workforce that they can deploy when and where needed. Organisations that integrate their business strategies with talent strategies – and proactively manage talent the same way they manage their operations – will benefit substantially in the long run.

In 2010, AMD supply chain leaders set out to strengthen their talent pipeline. They began exploring learning and collaboration options that would support business goals and enhance efforts to attract and retain leading supply chain talent.

Like many companies, AMD had standards to address many core competencies and leadership skills, but had relatively few resources to support development of technical supply chain competencies.

After reviewing a number of options, AMD decided to participate in a pilot learning program in partnership with Accenture Supply Chain Academy. To prepare for this program, AMD supply chain leaders started by defining a competency framework for each of the job roles targeted for participation in the learning program. They also identified key projects, skill gaps, and goals for their individual organisations. Leadership participation was a key driver for the talent program to move forward through performance metrics.

Based on these inputs, Accenture Supply Chain Academy learning specialists developed a curriculum designed to target those business goals and learning objectives. Combining formal and informal learning activities, AMD leaders developed a comprehensive set of deliverables designed to encourage the highest return on investment for both the employee and the business. Included in the activities were formal online courses, informal “lunch with an expert” sessions, online collaboration via chat forums, and access to industry resources such as white papers, blogs, and other information. In addition, participants were asked to meet weekly with their managers to discuss the learning experience, including process improvement ideas and any obstacles to learning. Users and managers were asked to keep a log of key concepts they learned and project or business improvements they implemented for presentation to the executive team.


 
At the end of the nine-month pilot program, results showed that those who obtained the most value from the learning experience, and who had the most influential process improvement ideas, were those who:

• Regularly met with their managers • Set aside specific time for learning on a regular and ongoing basis • Were supported by managers who communicated the importance of a learning culture • Shared and discussed new ideas and concepts with their teams • Participated in opportunities to present their results to others.

A key challenge that many organisations face is defining return on investment (ROI) for learning programs. While the intrinsic nature of an educated workforce is generally accepted, it is often necessary to show results in a more linear way when proposing a new program that requires a substantial investment. AMD met this challenge by requiring employees who participated in the pilot program to document supply chain improvements that were implemented as a result of this new learning process. They presented the process improvements, including “before and after” metrics, to the leadership team. This was particularly significant and was a key tool in communicating the benefit of a focused and comprehensive learning program.

          
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