Not long ago, offshoring of goods and services was a foolproof way to keep costs down—if you could manage it. Now, however, due to changing markets, local sourcing is experiencing an upswing. Helped by Gabriele Rizzo, futurist adviser for private and public international defense organizations, and Alexander Bird, CEO of micronutrient food manufacturer Kiss My Keto, let's look at the pros and cons of local versus global supply chains.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Local and Global Supply Chains
Since local supply chains are often smaller, local suppliers may require less of an initial investment and allow smaller orders, which results in lower stored inventory costs.
In some foreign countries, worker wages are increasing, so the gap in labor costs between local and global supply chain strategies is diminishing. For instance, according to Eurostat data released in the fall of 2018, wage growth in the eurozone reached its fastest rate for two years, accelerating in the second quarter of 2017.
Also, goods and services production is becoming more specialized and geared to local customers, and in such cases, there is often an advantage of being physically close to the buyer. These factors led global management consulting firm AlixPartners to report that 69 percent of the 106 U.S. and western European manufacturing firms that responded to their 2016 annual survey were considering moving production closer to their home bases.
But global supply chains have substantial benefits as well. Today's economy is unquestionably global and having only local operations may result in lost opportunities and stalled growth.
Also, depending on your industry—and especially if you are in manufacturing—you may face significant skills shortages in certain U.S. regions, but can readily find available labor in countries such as China and Mexico. Raw materials may also be less expensive in a foreign market, and global supply chains also allow businesses to take advantage of the innovation afforded by emerging markets.
That said, time lags, shipping delays and language and communication barriers associated with global supply chains may negatively impact a business's speed, agility and on-time delivery record.
Finally, political situations can sour quickly, so global supply chains in certain regions of the world may carry a higher risk of business disruption overall.
Supply chain management plans will need to take into account automation and tech innovation, new geographies and regional sourcing, increased regulation and climate change.
Automation and Tech Innovation
Extensive job automation can affect your supply chain strategy for the better because it allows organizations to reap the unique strengths of both humans and machines.
"Teaming together human creativity, abstract thinking and adaptive response together with machine precision gets you the best of both worlds, leaving machines in charge of what they do best—easy, repeatable tasks—and freeing humans to be the best they can be," says Dr. Gabriele Rizzo, a futurist adviser for private and public international defense organizations.
But businesses will need towork with labor unions and governments to transition workers into new roles and help them to re- and upskill, and to enforce the appropriate labor laws involving safety, wages and hours. They may also want to consider developing a means to collect worker feedback and adjust operations, so they meet employee needs throughout the march toward automation.
According to Rizzo, implementing automation and other emerging technologies are of utmost importance in building and maintaining an edge in supply chain operations.
"These technologies enable fine-grained gathering of operational data, advanced analysis of processes and impacts and faster decision making," she says.
A 2017 Gartner report predicted that by 2021, virtual customer assistants (VCAs) and chatbots will handle 20 percent of all customer service interactions. Although technology innovations such as VCAs and autonomous mobile robots are getting smarter, human workers are still needed to integrate and oversee their participation—and this often requires a highly specialized, but not always readily available, skillset.
If your supply chain strategy already incorporates data analytics, you're off to a great start. But even so, it's becoming even more important for owners to zero in on the information that's most useful and relevant to them.
Technology-based supplier audits are valuable, as are digital platforms and dashboards that assess the effectiveness of operations and worker sentiment in real time.
To fully leverage Big Data's potential, owners must determine the data science skills required for their operations, and work to source these either internally or externally.
While many fear digital automation, more software arrives every day that saves business owners a great deal of money year by lowering costs and increasing productivity and efficiency.
Let's look at a few business-related areas in which digital automation can help make your life easier.
Need to hire staff? Predictive analytics is transforming recruitment.
Predictive analytics is deriving business insights from data to uncover patterns and illustrate potential outcomes, and it can tell you how well your efforts are resonating with your desired candidates.
A variety of platforms, including LinkedIn, leverage data mining and digital automation to show the number of candidates in a specialty and/or geographic area based on the number of job listings in each city.
Unconscious bias is a huge problem in recruiting that keeps business owners up at night. If often keeps us from seeing recruits' true abilities and negatively affects hiring for diversity.
Consider exploring software that use “augmented writing" to allow owners to phrase job descriptions with neutral language, and, using digital automation, removes names from resumes so evaluators don't make assumptions about gender, race or ethnicity.
Most business owners are still mired in paperwork. And when you rely on paperwork, you risk misplacing important documents.
In the era of digital automation, you can leverage applications to simplify note-taking and document storage. There are digital note-taking tools that can help save your ideas, snippets you hear and things you see throughout the day as clipped notes. Some can also scan your paperwork papers directly to the cloud and/or your mobile device and computer of choice. If you're worried about security, some even has encryption features for sensitive documents.
As for all those business cards you constantly have in your briefcase or jacket pocket, try address book management app. These can help manage your address book so you're alerted when people change jobs or roles.
The overall financial health of the global economy, as well as the resources we have available to make intelligent projections, will greatly impact business success in 2019. Let's have a look at two of the major market trends to expect this year.
Continuing Stock Market Volatility
We enter 2019 with the financial sector in a bear market. (A bear market is an economy in which security prices drop 20 percent or more and stay low for a long time period.)
The 2018 market was volatile and the stock market is currently in the correction process. The most critical factors relating to stock market volatility are trade policy and interest rates.
In the simplest terms, market trends indicate a sluggish economy—you should pay closer attention to your finances to avoid unnecessary losses. When it comes to investing, try to avoid having a knee-jerk reaction. If you can, stay focused on your long-term goals even if the pull to sell is strong.
On the customer spending side, if you are in the business of non-essential products and services, you can expect sales to decrease in a bear market. You may need to adjust your offering so that it's more in line with what customers need today.
Finally, it's a good idea to decrease your own expenses so that you don't need to borrow more money during this time. Due to rising interest rates, be very careful with new credit lines so that you don't get into an irreversible debt cycle.
Another of the critical market trends is trade policy. Keep an eye on new tariffs being issued by the U.S. government. A tariff is a tax on an import or export, and recently, we have seen new tariffs levied on goods coming from Canada, Mexico and the EU—not to mention China. These tariffs can increase costs, but you should balance how much of these costs you can safely pass on to your customers (i.e. through raised prices) without damaging your cash flow.
As a business owner who does a fair amount of her own accounting, I come up against reconciliation frequently. And, as a business and workplace adviser to others, I recognize its importance. Reconciliation is part of the ongoing accounting mix that leverages two or more financial records to make sure numbers match.
In other words, it helps owners and accountants demonstrate that the money going out of an account is equal to the amount spent, and that the amount coming in is equal to the amount earned. Account reconciliation provides a mechanism for accurate balancing at the end of each recording period. If you don't do it properly, you will move forward with compounding inaccuracies and will risk your business' overall integrity.
When I started my business in 2004, the new Sarbanes Oxley Act had greatly tightened the reins on reporting reliability. Although the law had the biggest impact on large corporations, it encouraged me to establish strong accounting practices. I'll admit that I struggled with account reconciliation. An ongoing problem involved client payments that arrived significantly after I declared the income. But fortunately, I never experienced strange inconsistencies I couldn't explain.
Over the last 14 years, I've witnessed and personally experienced the following reconciliation pitfalls I hope other business owners can avoid.
Reconciliation Pitfall #1: The Dreaded Spreadsheet
As someone who studies and applies future of work technology, I'm embarrassed to admit that I left my spreadsheets kicking and screaming. I was comfortable with them and grossly underestimated the manual processes involved with reconciliation. I regularly spent hours trying to get to the heart of a single discrepancy and even then, sometimes couldn't overcome the danger of human error. Today, we have the advantage of much more accurate cloud-based solutions to access real-time financial data from any device at any time and track the flow/monitor the status of each reconciliation. Just make sure you certify and secure your chosen system.
Reconciliation Pitfall #2: Non-Standard Processes
I can't tell you how many times I fell prey to this one. I'd do reconciliation one way, my business manager would have another approach, and then our accountant would come in and use a third technique. As you can imagine, this lack of standardization was problematic. To avoid this pitfall, sit down with all relevant parties and draft your organization's reconciliation policies. Store them in an online system connected to your financial data, make sure anyone new coming into the organization understands them and knows where to find them and emphasize their importance.
As a futurist, I often get asked to predict the business trends that organizations can afford to ignore, because, while they generate a lot of buzz, they are also likely to fizzle out. On the other hand, we must also pay attention to business innovations that are gathering such rapid strength that adoption is now essential. Let's look at a few.
A blockchain is a data structure that builds a digital ledger of transactions and shares it among a distributed network of computers. Using cryptography, each participant interacts with the ledger in a secure way without the need for a central authority. Bitcoin was the first app built using the platform in 2008, with a premise of sending digital payments between any two parties without the help of a financial institution. Bitcoin has now been joined by hundreds of other cryptocurrencies, and the model has moved out of financial services: organizations, employees, and customers are using it for all types of transactions.
Deep learning (programming machines to mimic the actions of the human brain), is driving a whole new set of business innovations. It's the process of training computers to recognize patterns in data and then classify and categorize them as a human brain could. Together with complex algorithms, deep learning is already helping machines to participate in defining project scope, analyzing risks, developing budgets and allocating resources. It's catching on because it has massive implications.
Last week, I shared some compelling results from the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Future of Jobs Survey. To recap, this research set out to represent the current strategies, projections and estimates of global business, with a focus on large multinational companies and more localized companies of significance due to their employee or revenue size.
Let’s examine some additional highlights from the report:
Emerging in-demand roles: Among the range of established roles that are set to experience increasing demand in the period up to 2022 are Data Analysts and Scientists, Software and Applications Developers, and Ecommerce and Social Media Specialists, roles that are significantly based on and enhanced by the use of technology. Also expected to grow are roles that leverage distinctively ‘human' skills, such as Customer Service Workers, Sales and Marketing Professionals, Training and Development, People and Culture, and Organizational Development Specialists. There will also be a variety of roles related to understanding and leveraging the latest emerging technologies: AI and Machine Learning Specialists, Big Data Specialists, Process Automation Experts, Information Security Analysts, User Experience and Human-Machine Interaction Designers, Robotics Engineers, and Blockchain.
Growing skills instability: Given the wave of new technologies and trends disrupting business models and the changing division of labor between workers and machines transforming current job profiles, the vast majority of employers surveyed for this report expect that, by 2022, the skills required to perform most jobs will have shifted Global average skills stability—the proportion of core skills required to perform a job that will remain the same—is expected to be about 58%, meaning an average shift of 42% in required workforce skills over the 2018–2022 period.
A reskilling imperative: By 2022, no less than 54% of all employees will require significant re- and upskilling. Of these, about 35% are expected to require additional training of up to six months, 9% will require reskilling lasting six to 12 months, while 10% will require additional skills training of more than a year. Skills continuing to grow in prominence by 2022 include analytical thinking and innovation as well as active learning and learning strategies. Sharply increasing importance of skills such as technology design and programming highlights the growing demand for various forms of technology competency identified by employers surveyed for this report. Proficiency in new technologies is only one part of the 2022 skills equation, however, as ‘human’ skills such as creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation will likewise retain or increase their value, as will attention to detail, resilience, flexibility and complex problem-solving.
Current strategies for addressing skills gaps: Companies highlight three future strategies to manage the skills gaps widened by the adoption of new technologies. They expect to hire wholly new permanent staff already possessing skills relevant to new technologies; seek to automate the work tasks concerned completely; and retrain existing employees. The likelihood of hiring new permanent staff with relevant skills is nearly twice the likelihood of strategic redundancies of staff lagging behind in new skills adoption. However, nearly a quarter of companies are undecided or unlikely to pursue the retraining of existing employees, and two-thirds expect workers to adapt and pick up skills in the course of their changing jobs. Between one-half and two-thirds are likely to turn to external contractors, temporary staff and freelancers to address their skills gaps.
Insufficient reskilling and upskilling: Employers indicate that they are set to prioritize and focus their re- and upskilling efforts on employees currently performing high-value roles as a way of strengthening their enterprise’s strategic capacity, with 54% and 53% of companies, respectively, stating they intend to target employees in key roles and in frontline roles which will be using relevant new technologies. In addition, 41% of employers are set to focus their reskilling provision on high-performing employees while a much smaller proportion of 33% stated that they would prioritize at-risk employees in roles expected to be most affected by technological disruption.
Overall, said the World Economic Forum, the report’s findings suggest the need for a comprehensive ‘augmentation strategy’, an approach where businesses look to utilize the automation of some job tasks to complement and enhance their human workforces’ comparative strengths and ultimately to enable and empower employees to extend to their full potential. However, to unlock this positive vision, workers will need to have the appropriate skills enabling them to thrive in the workplace of the future and the ability to continue to retrain throughout their lives. Crafting a sound in-company lifelong learning system, investing in human capital and collaborating with other stakeholders on workforce strategy should thus be key business imperatives. A mindset of agile learning will also be needed on the part of workers as they shift from the routines and limits of today’s jobs to new, previously unimagined futures.
What is the future of jobs? The answer to that question depends on who you ask, and in what context. The World Economic Forum has its point of view, which it explored in The 2018 Future of Jobs Survey. This original research set out to represent the current strategies, projections and estimates of global business, with a focus on large multinational companies and more localized companies of significance due to their employee or revenue size.
The survey was distributed to relevant companies through extensive collaboration between the World Economic Forum and its constituents, amplified by regional survey partners. The survey collection process was conducted via an online questionnaire, with data collection spanning a nine-month period in 2018. In total, the report’s data set contains 313 unique responses by global companies, collectively representing more than 15 million employees in 12 industry clusters and 20 economies. This makes it one of the broadest reaching studies of its kind.
Some of the more compelling findings included:
Drivers of change: Four specific technological advances—ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet; artificial intelligence; widespread adoption of big data analytics; and cloud technology—are set to dominate the 2018–2022 period as drivers positively affecting business growth. They are flanked by a range of socio-economic trends driving business opportunities in tandem with the spread of new technologies, such as national economic growth trajectories; expansion of education and the middle classes, in particular in developing economies; and the move towards a greener global economy through advances in new energy technologies.
Accelerated technology adoption: By 2022, according to the stated investment intentions of companies surveyed for this report, 85% of respondents are likely or very likely to have expanded their adoption of user and entity big data analytics. Similarly, large proportions of companies are likely or very likely to have expanded their adoption of technologies such as the internet of things and app- and web-enabled markets, and to make extensive use of cloud computing. Machine learning and augmented and virtual reality are poised to likewise receive considerable business investment.
Trends in robotization: While estimated use cases for humanoid robots appear to remain somewhat more limited over the 2018–2022 period under consideration in this report, collectively, a broader range of recent robotics technologies at or near commercialization—including stationary robots, non-humanoid land robots and fully automated aerial drones, in addition to machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence—are attracting significant business interest in adoption. Robot adoption rates diverge significantly across sectors, with 37% to 23% of companies planning this investment, depending on industry
Changing geography of production, distribution and value chains: By 2022, 59% of employers surveyed for this report expect that they will have significantly modified how they produce and distribute by changing the composition of their value chain and nearly half expect to have modified their geographical base of operations. When determining job location decisions, companies overwhelmingly prioritize the availability of skilled local talent as their foremost consideration, with 74% of respondents providing this factor as their key consideration.
Changing employment types: Nearly 50% of companies expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022, based on the job profiles of their employee base today. However, 38% of businesses surveyed expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, and more than a quarter expect automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their In addition, businesses are set to expand their use of contractors doing task-specialized work, with many respondents highlighting their intention to engage workers in a more flexible manner, utilizing remote staffing beyond physical offices and decentralization of operations.
A new human-machine frontier within existing tasks: Companies expect a significant shift on the frontier between humans and machines when it comes to existing work tasks between 2018 and In 2018, an average of 71% of total task hours across the 12 industries covered in the report are performed by humans, compared to 29% by machines. By 2022 this average is expected to have shifted to 58% task hours performed by humans and 42% by machines. In 2018, in terms of total working hours, no work task was yet estimated to be predominantly performed by a machine or an algorithm.
A net positive outlook for jobs: About half of today’s core jobs—making up the bulk of employment across industries—will remain stable in the period up to One set of estimates indicates that 75 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labor between humans and machines, while 133 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labor between humans, machines and algorithms. These estimates represent two parallel and interconnected fronts of change in workforce transformations: 1) large-scale decline in some roles as tasks within these roles become automated or redundant, and 2) large-scale growth in new products and services—and associated new tasks and jobs— generated by the adoption of new technologies and other socio-economic developments such as the rise of middle classes in emerging economies and demographic shifts.
Stretch opportunities are all the rage in the workplace. But as popular as they are, it’s unclear why some people decide to accept a stretch assignment or role – and others step aside. It’s also unclear why women haven’t benefited from stretches as much as men.
Selena Rezvani is Be Leaderly’s VP of consulting and research and a recognized speaker on women and leadership. She recently led Be Leaderly’s original research on how both genders decide if they are ready for a stretch, and how they make that decision. The report also explores how employers can create a workplace that supports employees who step out of their comfort zones. Based on a survey of 1,549 U.S.- based professionals, the research uncovered the following:
Men (48%) and women (52%) are equally interested in ultimately advancing into senior vice president or C-suite roles.
However, the largest portion of women (45%) don’t feel their employers make it easy to gauge if they are ready for a promotion, while the largest portion of men (40%) think their employers help them know whether they are prepared to advance.
Women are less engaged in and passionate (67%) about their jobs than men (77%), another possible explanation for why fewer women take on stretch opportunities. A strong correlation exists between employees who feel engaged and passionate about their work and those who perceive that their employer makes it easy to assess their readiness to advance.
In order to apply for a job, both women and men feel that they need to meet, on average, 75% of the qualifications for the role – a surprising difference from accepted thinking about gender attitudes toward the qualifications people feel they need to try for a new position.
Women may hold back from taking stretches because when assessing how ready they are for a new job, they are less likely than men to overestimate or “round up” their skills, and more likely to underestimate or “round down” what they know or can do. (73% of women disagree that they round up their skills while 60% of men disagree).
For both men and women, the top criteria for deciding whether to take a stretch assignment are having the influence to create a positive outcome (40% women/43% men), and getting an assignment that lines up with their career goals (33% women/33% men). Both genders say office politics is the biggest practical challenge to taking a stretch assignment (38% women/33% men), with lack of time a close second (34% women, 31% men).
Money matters. Men are 3.5 times more likely than women to cite pay as an important factor in evaluating the appeal of a new assignment, job or level.
So what do we make of this? Well, if the workplace is being disrupted by sweeping, large-scale trends, employees must have the opportunity to continually redefine and hone their skills. One way employers can offer that is through stretch assignments that provide intrapreneurial short-term “gig economy” type work with minimal risk and disruption, all within the organization’s dominion. Employees, especially millennials, want to “job-craft” their roles. Offering an internal gig economy – or stretch marketplace – delivers big.
In the last decade, webinars have become a popular vehicle for delivering training. It makes sense. Scores of software options make it possible to simultaneously showcase audio, video, slides, and other visuals to participants around the globe. Organizations don’t have to pay to send their people to one place, and those who can’t attend live have the option of viewing the material at their convenience.
In my career as a human resources and workforce consultant, I’ve conducted around 100 webinars. I enjoy doing them, but over the years I’ve learned that the skills and techniques necessary to deliver an effective in-person course are not the same as those required for an engaging webinar. Here are considerations to keep in mind as you dip your toes into webinar planning and execution.
Interactivity is Even More Important
In an in-person class, participants at least feel somewhat obligated to pay attention, or at least refrain from doing three other tasks at once. There are no such constraints with a webinar, however. Participants can do whatever they want, and the instructor is none the wiser. For this reason, it’s essential that you hold their interest by stopping every few minutes to ask a question, do a poll, or request a chat response. If you tell your participants at the beginning that you’re going to do this, you have an even better chance at keeping everyone on board throughout your remarks.
Beware the Super-Dense Presentation
Just as in an in-person course, less is often more. Not only are wordy slides harder to read on a computer screen (or god forbid a phone), but they will also tempt an instructor to read from them directly. You also run the risk of overwhelming your audience with too much information that they aren’t free to immediately ask questions about, and this may prompt them to zone out. Instead of trying to communicate everything you’ve got on a topic, select three main points, explain them succinctly, and use colorful case studies, statistics, and anecdotes to support them.
Keep Up With New Feature Releases
If you’re been using the same webinar software for a while, it’s easy to get complacent. You think you know the program like the back of your hand, and you don’t think to learn about fresh offerings that can further enhance your presentations. As an example, one program I use is now able to analyze audience chat and questions in real time to determine the topics that are of most significant interest, and/or the aspects of my remarks with which people are struggling or need clarification. This feature helps me enormously in zeroing in on an individual audience’s specific needs, but I never would have known about it if I didn’t regularly communicate with my vendor.
Train the Trainer
In-person corporate trainers often have education or work experience in instructional design and delivery, and many rehearse extensively prior to getting in front of a new audience. For some reason, though, webinar instructions are not always held to the same standards. Being across an Internet connection instead of a room does not remove your responsibility to be smooth and prepared (rather than awkward and stammery). If you are planning your first webinar, consider a trial run with colleagues or friends and collect feedback on strengths and areas for improvement.
Test and Backup Your Tech
In an ideal world, software and wireless connections would be foolproof. However, in delivering lots of webinars over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that this is not the case. Obviously, you cannot conduct a webinar if you are unable to log into the hosting system, so make sure you’ve tested your software in the exact physical location and using the exact hardware and connections that you will employ on the day of the live webinar. If something doesn’t work properly at go time, you may not have time to fix it, so have a backup plan for gaining quick access to your audience. For example, even if a webinar is supposed to run over Wi-Fi, I always make sure I have an available phone line just in case.
Webinars can be an efficient and cost-effective way of conveying experience and transferring knowledge, but don’t take their ease-of-use for granted. Adhere to these best practices and you’ll realize the full benefits of this learning platform.