Innovation and The Workday
I average about 300 emails a day through my business account. That’s not counting the number of personal messages I receive. I try multiple means to control the influx. I have systems of production where I only check it a few times a day, filter certain subjects and senders into folders to stay organized, and generally strive for Inbox Zero. But I share most everyone’s consternation with the technology. As a recent Fast Company article has stated, email has become the most reviled means of communication on the planet.
But like most individuals, I’ve observed that almost all companies see it as the most effective means of communication. Introduced in the 90s, email has worked its way into our corporate culture. It’s “the way things have always been done.” It goes along with standard eight-hour workdays in an office, “face time” with you boss, 30 minute to an hour for lunch, and weekly staff meetings. They’re “the way things have always been done.” But is it the way things should continue to go? Are there better ways of doing things? Some people think it’s time for a change.
As a former Fortune 200 Chief Human Resources Officer, there are multiple challenges to create a cohesive workforce of individuals with the right mix of talents in an environment that fosters success. That success is the cornerstone of corporate capacity, the agility to withstand and thrive in all market conditions. With that said, there are new and interesting ways to construct a workday. Think of it as the new way things are done, versus the way they always have been:
Six-hour workdays: By many recent media accounts, a good number of Swedish firms have discovered success with six-hour workdays. They don’t demand individuals work on their off-time and they report that employees are laser focused, more productive, happier, healthier, and able to have a more fulfilling life. It might sound soft, but our influx of millennials might suggest looking at this structure. They value work-life balance over almost anything, and how many people are actually really working all eight hours during a regular time-clocked day?
Eliminate “overwork:” In the United States, working outrageous hours has become something of a status symbol, with people glued to their phones all hours of the day and night, and managers sending emails expecting replies 24/7. But is that really increasing productivity? A 2015 article in Business Insider calls the question of whether such time demands are a sign of lack of efficiency, and they really have a point. Unless it’s an international deal that has to be signed on international time, pretty much everything else can wait for 12 hours of work-life balance and proper rest. And even with that international time zone difference….is it really worth stressing an entire time zone over the issue? Mega-television writer and producer Shonda Rhimes has famously set the boundary of not responding to emails after 7 pm or on weekends, which she says forces her to delegate as well as stay organized and on target during the day.
Lunch hours and rigid workdays: It seems foreign that as adults we still have mandated periods of time where we have to eat and then return to our desks, rather than setting our schedules to work around our workloads and team responsibilities. This is where flexible work schedules can be incredibly productive within certain guidelines. As long as the team member meets their responsibilities, does it matter that they prefer to come in at 6 am and leave at 3 pm, or that the majority of your staff would prefer to come in at 8 am, work straight through to 1, come back at 3 and work until 7? As long as your employees work enough hours to qualify as full-time under the statutes of your labor laws and work gets done, let loose the reins a bit. Your vision depends upon connected workers who must meet their obligations. Who are we to tell them exactly how that must be done?
These are but three examples of how innovation can assist the workday, but there are many more. Face time with the boss can now be virtual conferences via Skype or other networking technology that allows individuals to see reactions and build teams wherever they may be. While in-person human connection is always important, sometimes it’s not practical, and virtual technology can be incredibly successful. But these suggestions and others are indicative of our changing times and the demand to change along with them. Let us rethink the workday and other means to impact our workforce and corporate capacity. A little flexibility may go a long way.
Rita Trehan, is the former HR lead at Honeywell and AES Corp and is an expert on company culture, reputation management and workplace challenges.
NTT DATA Services, Remodelling Supply Chains for Resilience
Joey Dean, the man with the coolest name ever and Managing Director in the healthcare consulting practice for NTT DATA and is focused on delivering workplace transformation and enabling the future workforce for healthcare providers. Dean also leads client innovation programs to enhance service delivery and business outcomes for clients.
The pandemic has shifted priorities and created opportunities to do things differently, and companies are now looking to build more resilient supply chains, none needed more urgently than those within the healthcare system. Dean shares with us how he feels they can get there.
A Multi-Vendor Sourcing Approach
“Healthcare systems cannot afford delays in the supply chain when there are lives at stake. Healthcare procurement teams are looking at multi-vendor sourcing strategies, stockpiling more inventory, and ways to use data and AI to have a predictive view into the future and drive greater efficiency.
“The priority should be to shore up procurement channels and re-evaluate inventory management norms, i.e. stockpiling for assurance. Health systems should take the opportunity to renegotiate with their current vendors and broaden the supplier channel. Through those efforts, work with suppliers that have greater geographic diversity and transparency around manufacturing data, process, and continuity plans,” says Dean.
But here ensues the never-ending battle of domestic vs global supply chains. As I see it, domestic sourcing limits the high-risk exposure related to offshore sourcing— Canada’s issue with importing the vaccine is a good example of that. So, of course, I had to ask, for lifesaving products, is building domestic capabilities an option that is being considered?
“Domestic supply chains are sparse or have a high dependence on overseas centres for parts and raw materials. There are measures being discussed from a legislative perspective to drive more domestic sourcing, and there will need to be a concerted effort by Western countries through a mix of investments and financial incentives,” Dean explains.
Wielding Big Tech for Better Outcomes
So, that’s a long way off. In the meantime, leveraging technology is another way to mitigate the risks that lie within global supply chains while decreasing costs and improving quality. Dean expands on the potential of blockchain and AI in the industry.
“Blockchain is particularly interesting in creating more transparency and visibility across all supply chain activities. Organisations can create a decentralised record of all transactions to track assets from production to delivery or use by end-user. This increased supply chain transparency provides more visibility to both buyers and suppliers to resolve disputes and build more trusting relationships. Another benefit is that the validation of data is more efficient to prioritise time on the delivery of goods and services to reduce cost and improve quality.
“Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML) is another area where there’s incredible value in processing massive amounts of data to aggregate and normalise the data to produce proactive recommendations on actions to improve the speed and cost-efficiency of the supply chain.”
Evolving Procurement Models
From asking more of suppliers to beefing up stocks, Dean believes procurement models should be remodelled to favour resilience, mitigate risk and ensure the needs of the customer are kept in view.
“The bottom line is that healthcare systems are expecting more from their suppliers. While transactional approaches focused solely on price and transactions have been the norm, collaborative relationships, where the buyer and supplier establish mutual objectives and outcomes, drives a trusting and transparent relationship. Healthcare systems are also looking to multi-vendor strategies to mitigate risk, so it is imperative for suppliers to stand out and embrace evolving procurement models.
“Healthcare systems are looking at partners that can establish domestic centres for supplies to mitigate the risks of having ‘all of their eggs’ in overseas locations. Suppliers should look to perform a strategic evaluation review that includes a distribution network analysis and distribution footprint review to understand cost, service, flexibility, and risks. Included in that strategy should be a “voice of the customer” assessment to understand current pain points and needs of customers.”
“Healthcare supply chain leaders are re-evaluating the Just In Time (JIT) model with supplies delivered on a regular basis. The approach does not require an investment in infrastructure but leaves organisations open to risk of disruption. Having domestic centres and warehousing from suppliers gives healthcare systems the ability to have inventory on hand without having to invest in their own infrastructure. Also, in the spirit of transparency, having predictive views into inventory levels can help enable better decision making from both sides.”
But, again, I had to ask, what about the risks and associated costs that come with higher inventory levels, such as expired product if there isn’t fast enough turnover, tying up cash flow, warehousing and inventory management costs?
“In the current supply chain environment, it is advisable for buyers to carry an in-house inventory on a just-in-time basis, while suppliers take a just-in-case approach, preserving capacity for surges, retaining safety stock, and building rapid replenishment channels for restock. But the risk of expired product is very real. This could be curbed with better data intelligence and improved technology that could forecast surges and predictively automate future supply needs. In this way, ordering would be more data-driven and rationalised to align with anticipated surges. Further adoption of data and intelligence and will be crucial for modernised buying in the new normal.
These are tough tasks, so I asked Dean to speak to some of the challenges. Luckily, he’s a patient guy with a lot to say.
On managing stakeholders and ensuring alignment on priorities and objectives, Dean says, “In order for managing stakeholders to stay aligned on priorities, they’ll need more transparency and collaborative win-win business relationships in which both healthcare systems and medical device manufacturers are equally committed to each other’s success. On the healthcare side, they need to understand where parts and products are manufactured to perform more predictive data and analytics for forecasting and planning efforts. And the manufacturers should offer more data transparency which will result in better planning and forecasting to navigate the ebbs and flows and enable better decision-making by healthcare systems.
Due to the sensitive nature of the information being requested, the effort to increase visibility is typically met with a lot of reluctance and push back. Dean essentially puts the onus back on suppliers to get with the times. “Traditionally, the relationships between buyers and suppliers are transactional, based only on the transaction between the two parties: what is the supplier providing, at what cost, and for what length of time. The relationship begins and ends there. The tide is shifting, and buyers expect more from their suppliers, especially given what the pandemic exposed around the fragility of the supply chain. The suppliers that get ahead of this will not only reap the benefits of improved relationships, but they will be able to take action on insights derived from greater visibility to manage risks more effectively.”
He offers a final tip. “A first step in enabling a supply chain data exchange is to make sure partners and buyers are aware of the conditions throughout the supply chain based on real-time data to enable predictive views into delays and disruptions. With well understand data sets, both parties can respond more effectively and work together when disruptions occur.”
As for where supply chain is heading, Dean says, “Moving forward, we’ll continue to see a shift toward Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and advanced analytics to optimise the supply chain. The pandemic, as it has done in many other industries, will accelerate the move to digital, with the benefits of improving efficiency, visibility, and error rate. AI can consume enormous amounts of data to drive real-time pattern detection and mitigate risk from global disruptive events.”