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Developing Talent

Monday 13 September 2021

We talk about innovation and automation as a way to increase efficiency and productivity. Are these really the things that give us a competitive advantage as we move towards Industry 4.0? Or is it our people?

We’re fortunate to have over 30% of our employees who have been with us for over 10 years – these guys and gals form the core workgroup in the business. There is a level of comfort knowing that our people understand the business, our systems and our customers – and that they are committed!

However, the last 10 years have seen significant change to the way Apollo does its business, and the same can be said for manufacturing in general. We’ve improved the products that we manufacture to include smarter technologies to capture data, we’ve introduced automation to improve our ability to produce products more efficiently, better ERP systems to give us real-time information on financials, production outputs, materials planning etc – All of this equates to better control, higher productivity and SHOULD flow through to the bottom line. The level of investment to achieve these outcomes is high. But what about investment in our people and the development of their knowledge and skills? Without this investment, will you get the results that you are looking for? I seriously doubt it!

As I mentioned, we have a good percentage of our workforce with long tenure and these people provide the backbone of our organisation. That being said, they will only be as good as we allow them to be. The trap that a lot of businesses fall into, and we are no different, is complacency when it comes to providing ongoing education to their employees.

“This is the way we’ve always done it”

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”

These two comments are pet hates of mine and are exceptionally limiting to any business. Some things may not be able to be improved upon (I doubt it), however when you fall into an easy rhythm and neglect to educate and upskill, expect to hear these comments.

How do we develop talent? It sounds easy, but the formula is complex.

  1. Select the right people. Jim Collins, the author of “Good to Great” famously talks about having the right people on the bus. Having people who are aligned with your vision of what the business COULD be is all-important. It shouldn’t matter what the business is currently producing or the direction that it is currently heading – the right people will make any transition towards growth and future easier.
     
  2. Identify what training you should invest in to get the best value out of it – This takes research. There is a multitude of different options available to upskill your people. There are formal training options from apprenticeships through to postgraduate degrees. You can also go with knowledge transfer courses like simple Frontline Management courses through to Lean Systems Masterclasses and everything in between. The type of training that you invest in will depend on what outcomes you are trying to achieve, both for the business and for your people.
     
  3. Establish a budget for training. This takes discipline and a little bit of faith. Without a defined budget, the tendency is always to scrimp on training. Training is normally viewed as a cost line in the P&L and when a business is looking for ways at making below the line savings, training is often one of the first expense line items cut. Training is really about investment in Human Capital. Any other capital item in a business is viewed as a depreciable asset. Investment in human capital is no different. You can’t capitalise on the costs of training, but don’t lose sight of the fact that it isn’t about managing a P&L. It’s about improving your talent and THAT flows through to the bottom line! If you have the right people and you select the right type of training, you need to have faith in the process. The return on investment can be immense!