Category: The Skills Gap

Future-Proofing Your Skills Gap

February 17th, 2020

Since talent has become a strategic topic for any executive who wishes to thrive in 2020 and beyond, it should top of mind for every manufacturing and distribution business owner or executive. Have you put time aside to think about this critical topic with your top team? If not, stop now and do it!

We have recently re-surveyed manufacturing and distribution executives, hiring managers, and related trusted advisors.  There is unanimous agreement that the skills gap remains. We also talked with business owners and executives from a wide range of manufacturing and distribution industries.

Talent is a hot topic for several critical reasons:

  1. Demographics – As baby boomers retire, it is leaving a gap in experience and expertise. It is a struggle to absorb or replace adequately.
  2. Technology – With the increase in technology required to run our businesses while providing not only a superior customer experience to grow but also with high levels of profitability and working capital, having talent with the skills to maximize the use of technology is essential. It is also changing the makeup of the talent required.
  3. Skilled Trades – There is a significant gap in the skilled trades such as CNC operators. There hasn’t been enough focus on the high school and community college career path into the sector. Those that find a way to bridge this gap have a leg up on the competition.
  4. Leaders – Whether high-tech or low-tech, leaders play a pivotal role in performance. It is FAR too often we see executives trade down to save money instead of looking at the return on investment over a multi-year period!
  5. Complexity – We live in a global, complex world with increasing rules and regulations to navigate.

How can we future-proof talent? There are a few priorities we should pursue immediately.

  1. Think Ahead: Don’t hire, retain and train for what is needed today. Instead, focus on where you’ll need to be in one year to thrive.
  2. Partner: If you need skilled trades, technology savvy resources and the like, consider partnerships. Successful executives have set up programs with local community colleges, partnered with trade associations such as the Association for Supply Chain Management (APICS – listen to the video below), collaborated with a makerspace academy such as Vocademy, brought in trsuted advisors, collaborated with competitors and more.
  3. Evaluate Technology: Evaluate which technology will provide a return on investment and spur profitable growth. There is no need to chase shiny objects but you should think prudently about how to accelerate success.
  4. Mentor: There is little better than establishing a mentoring process. Although training can be effective, people learn quickest through behavioral change modeling and feedback.
  5. Be attractive: You are in competition for your talent – both retaining top talent as well as finding new talent.

Proactively addressing this Skills Gap and future-proofing your manufacturing operations and extended supply chain is cornerstone to growth plans.

Lately, we’ve seen an increase in interest for an organizational structure and talent assessment to ensure the organization is shored up to deliver performance plans. If you’d like assistance in evaluating your readiness to meet business objectives, please contact us.

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Future-proofing Your Manufacturing Success

December 11th, 2019

One of our core roles is to pay close attention to trends, issues and opportunities that will impact our manufacturing and distribution clients so that we can give them a leg up on the competition.

Lately, we have noticed that the next “big thing” will be future-proofing. Although everyone seems concerned about potential recessions in one of the greatest periods of growth ever on record, that isn’t why we have chosen to focus on the topic of future-proofing. Instead, what we have noticed is that the future is simply unknown.

It has an equal or better chance to be ideal for growth. Yet clients will not be able to take advantage of the opportunity if they haven’t been future-proofing their business and customer base. Also technology is a big unknown. Certainly waiting on the sidelines for someone else to figure it out will not cut it! In today’s era of the Amazon Impact, the Skills Gap and the need for a Resilient Supply Chain, your future will still not be secure if you haven’t thought about future-proofing. So, we are excited to launch our next LMA-i, LMA Intelligence topic, “Future-proofing Manufacturing & Supply Chain

As we explore this new strategic topic, we always start with the fundamentals. It does not matter how much you spend on the latest and greatest, energy efficient windows for your house if your foundation is cracked, letting in air and sinking. People must be your foundation. No matter how high tech your company, it must be accompanied with high touch.

Have you taken a step back lately to evaluate your people?

  1. Do you have the right players on your team?
  2. Do they understand where they are going and why?
  3. Do they have a coach, mentor and/or adviser?
  4. Are there opportunities for career progression for key roles?
  5. Have you identified your stars and have a fast-track program in place?
  6. Are you recognizing your team?
  7. Do you have bench strength?
  8. Is your team prepared for where you are going currently or are they thinking about where they need to be in a year?
  9. How about your customers, suppliers and trusted advisors? Do they understand their value and how they can contribute?
  10. Are you willing to invest in people before investing in equipment and technology? Why or why not?

To future-proof your manufacturing business, you must know these answers. Of course knowing the answers is not sufficient. Is your team on board? How about your supply chain partners? Moreover, as unfortunate as it seems, being smart isn’t enough. You must apply this knowledge in a way that enables you to successful navigate the future while continually creating scalable, profitable growth.

Stay tuned for more articles on this topic and contact us if you’d like to assess your situation.

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Skills Gap – Where Do We Stand?

December 8th, 2019

The skills gap has been a hot topic for many years. Our original research shows a 87% gap. For example, any time Kash Gokli, Engineering Clinic Director at Harvey Mudd and I gather CEOs to talk about timely topics in executive roundtables, no matter the topic of the evening, the lack of talent (or the ‘right’ talent in the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time) arises. As technology comes on to the scene in a BIG way, there is even more conversation, confusion and interest in how to successfully navigate the skills gap.

According to research, automation and robotics have the potential to take over countless jobs. This can be seen as mass destruction of high paying blue collar jobs or it can be seen as a significant opportunity to scale up rapidly to meet rising customer expectations and providing new skills to the workforce. As business owners and executives, we view having the ‘right’ technology at the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time as a win-win-win. Better customer experiences. Better for the bottom line. Better for our employees as they learn new skills. The trick is navigating this skills gap successfully.

We are also starting to see more and more baby boomers start to retire or think about retiring. The unfortunate thing for our clients is that their knowledge base cannot be replaced with one person, maybe not even two sometimes.  That certainly throws a wrench into the plans! Have you started to unearth what knowledge is in your employees’ minds that you take for granted? Innovative companies are pairing up experience with young, fresh ideas. There can be much to gain if managed well.

Please help us understand what is most relevant in today’s business environment. We will share the results for you first, and we appreciate your support. Take our survey here.



Food & Beverage and Future Proofing Your Business

November 27th, 2019

As I have been thinking about the food and beverage industry (and process manufacturing) and future proofing your business, I see several examples of proactive clients and colleagues future proofing their business.

As this is my latest, hot-off-the-press LMA-i, LMA Intelligence topic, I thought we’d explore a few trends related to food and beverage.

First, the industry as a whole does provide some level of future proofing because it is more recession proof than other industries. After all, we all need to continue to eat!

Next, since I talked to several attendees of the PMA’s (Produce Marketing Association) Fresh Summit, I was intrigued with the level of technology and complexity. For example, one apple expert (spanning multiple tiers in the supply chain) was keeping up with an incredible amount of detail with crops in a database as it was integral to the view 9-12 months into the future and how he could navigate for success. In essence, he was using predictive analytics to position his company for success in his specialty area. He also mentioned keeping up with technology to evaluate trade-offs to handle the skills gap, costs and more. He was keenly focused on future proofing his extended supply chain. Are you?

Technology and sustainability continue to pop up when looking at future proofing. For example, according to PMA CEO Cathy Burns, the top 5 trends include conscious capitalism, a focus on emotional health and megatrends shaping the industry (which both link back to produce and floral), and how corporate sustainability and technology matter.  Also, certainly all of the largest food and beverage companies are exploring the ‘right’ technology and systems upgrades to improve performance. They know that in order to future proof their business, they have to lead the pack with technology that will return value to their customers, investors and employees. And NONE of these higher level concepts are unique to food and beverage!

What Should We Consider and/or What Impacts Could Arise?
First, how are you up-to-speed on what is happening in your industry, technology impacting your industry and what you need to do to successfully future proof your company? If you don’t have a plan that is part of your daily, weekly or monthly business cycle, you better re-think your plan!

Next, are you trying to navigate on your own? You certainly are less likely to succeed. I also talked with additional experts who had a clear strategy of partnership and collaboration to maximize impact and minimize risk. Of course, you must choose wisely. Similar to a ‘bad spouse’, a bad partner is definitely worse than no partner at all. Yet, I’m seeing more executives realize that as much as they require more control and even vertical integration to control the customer experience and associated costs, they also need to find ways to make 1+1 = 22.

In today’s Amazon-impacted marketplace, the fast prevail. How can you leverage your extended supply chain and network for exponential success?

And, of course, a big part of future proofing your business goes back to creating resilience. Check out our many articles with ideas to create a resilient supply chain on our blog. Why not pick 2 or 3 ideas and run by your trusted advisors and collaboration partners…

 



The Skills Gap in the Modern Era

October 2nd, 2019

People are the #1 topic on our most successful clients’ executives minds. That’s because these clients realize that even the best strategies and plans will fail without people.

On the other hand, we have seen clients who appear the least likely to succeed, overcome great obstacles to not only become competitive but also to gain a strategic advantage in the marketplace. The secret ingredient is people. As a former VP of Operations and Supply Chain, there was no doubt that my success was directly correlated to the strength and attitude of my team.

Since it is such a key topic to ensuring growth and profitability, we wanted to dig into the current state of the skills gap. As a follow up to our research several years ago when we found that 87% of companies were experiencing a skills gap, we wanted to understand the current state of this topic and how it has evolved as we are knee deep in the technology era. For example, there is quite a bit of discussion on the topic of people vs. robots. Do we need to think about the skills gap if robots can take over? In other circles, the talk is all about artificial intelligence (AI). Will AI transform the industry? For example, there is a concern about this happening in the accounting profession. However, it might just mean that those trusted advisors must add value to what can be taken over by robots. That is certainly true in manufacturing environments. The skill requirements are changing. Perhaps we need people to interpret data? And how about to get people and technology to work together?

Please take our skills gap survey as we would appreciate your feedback into the following types of questions:

  • Which skills do you need the most?
  • Are technical skills enough? Do you need a savvy communicator as well?
  • How do you find your best talent?
  • Do you offer incentive to keep top talent such as rewards and recognition programs, performance management programs (tied with compensation systems) etc.?
  • How have you seen these requirements changing with the hot bed of technology?

A few highlights from what we’ve seen at a cross-section of clients across closely-held businesses to private equity backed companies to global enterprises:

  • Broad skills: Companies are looking for a broader base of skills. It is no longer sufficient to be an expert in a specialized area.
  • Presentation skills: Those who can present ideas effectively succeed whereas the most talented resources will struggle if they can’t get their ideas across.
  • Technology overload: Although everyone is interested in the latest technology, we are overwhelmed with all the options. Selecting just enough technology to advance a key point is often the best course of action.
  • Your network is your most valuable asset: It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a new hire, sourcing a supplier or getting just the ‘right’ trusted advisor at just the ‘right’ moment, the best way to find these resources is through your network. Are you nurturing your network?

The bottom line is that the most successful companies pay close attention to their #1 asset, their people. This idea extends to your customers, suppliers, trusted advisors and more since your face to your customer will be inclusive of each of these people. As the rubber meets the road, navigating your skills base will be of paramount importance.

Participate in our skills gap survey and we will ensure you are the first to receive the findings to help all of us successfully navigate the skills gap.

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People and Robots Can Coexist Successfully
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