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Executive Council

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Your People Have The Power: The Future of Talent

By Yana Buraeva|

We hear a lot about COVID-19’s significant impact on businesses in terms of demand disruptions, collaboration with the customers, and increased focus on data and analytics. But we don’t hear as much about risk management, contingency planning, and transitioning when it comes to people. People and the processes involved in ensuring a consistent optimization of talent are a key focus when it comes to keeping businesses resilient and adaptable when facing times of crisis.

Only 27% of supply chain leaders believe they have the talent needed to meet current supply chain performance requirements. The rest (73%) recognize that their talent strategy is not in alignment with their digital business strategy, according to a report from analysts at Gartner. 

Businesses need people who are capable of playing the role of a mobilizer: Passionate people who are willing to go the extra mile and accelerate the forward momentum of businesses. There’s never been a greater need for these people as the market anticipates more disruptions in the future and as supply chains become more and more complex. With this in mind, companies need to educate their people on how to assess impact on processes and respond quicker, how to fail faster, what to test and learn from actively, and how to collaborate effectively.

Supply chain organizations have to make processes resilient. More and more companies are championing flat hierarchies, resourcefulness when it comes to people, and high-hanging innovations to spend less time thinking and decision-making and more time focusing on laying the foundations for a better culture. 

Building the next generation of workers

During my time at LEGO Group, I volunteered to be a builder and was tasked with supporting the go-live of the LEGO Leadership Playground, which aimed to globally mobilize the company’s leadership culture by embracing transformation and fresh perspectives, realigning the workforce by using creative collaboration and creating a framework for all employees to unlock their potential. 

To give you a sense of the scale of this achievement, the LEGO Group has around 18,000 employees approximately ranging from production sites to sales, marketing, operations, IT, finance, etc. Then there’s all the geographies the Group represents: APAC, Americas, EMEA, and it’s a family-owned company headquartered in Billund, Denmark. To reconcile issues in a people-centric manner and unify this vast and varying pool of talent took an academic, and most importantly, empathetic approach. 

Energizing everybody every day is an internal slogan that keeps LEGO talent agile when facing the future, while encouraging them to be curious, focused, and brave: the pillars and key tenets of the global initiative. Combined, these simple principles allowed LEGO employees to be inspired and mobilize the company’s culture, challenge the status quo and innovate with purpose. 

This is one example of an ideal long-term journey and game-changing strategic direction that can encourage employees to develop and keep mobilizers growing within their positions. Every single team in the LEGO group has assigned a Leadership Playground builder in charge of seeing teams regularly and having fun while discussing real examples from the business, raising sensitive issues in a safe environment, and approaching their daily activities in a new way. 

If you’re wondering how you can start installing LEGO’s leadership principles into your organization, start with enlisting the services of a volunteer ‘Innovation Champion.’ This role’s responsibilities can be fluid according to the needs of your business but may include:

  1. Collecting and sharing external business insights and knowledge from external sources (such as “DHL Logistics Trend Radar” – a benchmark for strategy and innovation in logistics for supply chain organizations).
  2. Keep an eye on how digital-first companies such as Amazon are operating and innovating to future-proof their position as market leaders. Combine this with competitor and customer behaviour reports and share the insight with the team.
  3. Conduct regular blue-sky thinking workshops with the team, involving “What if..” brainstorming, asking yourself questions such as. “What if children were operating your business?” What would the company look like to them? What would be their most important values? “5 alternative solutions in 5 minutes”, and “Six thinking hats“.
  4. It’s really important for teams to get to know one another and most importantly bond through having fun. Consumer role plays are an engaging way to get teams to think creatively, emphatically and enjoyably – tailor the scenarios your type or are of business. Quizzes around innovations are another great way to engage your teams, encourage teamwork and learn. 

LEGO is one leadership initiative, but take another example: Amazon Leadership Principles. I learned about this set of 14 principles a few years ago when I was leading the supply chain workstream in the EMEA region back at LEGO. If we take a closer look, obviously, there are common ideas with the LEGO Leadership Playground like “Learn and Be Curious” or “Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit.” Principles that speak for themselves resonate with me the most: Take “Hire and Develop the Best” is a leadership principle that encourages managers to raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. People with exceptional talent are visible and recognized, and as a result, more willing to move throughout an organization that genuinely values their contribution. The idea of continuous leadership is reciprocal: leaders develop leaders and are serious about their role in coaching others. 

A talent management strategy such as this could go quite some way in explaining how Amazon mobilizes resources to react rapidly to a crisis such as the pandemic while capitalizing on explosive growth while other retailers in the market floundered. Their ability to mitigate disruption globally in a very short period of time.  

7 dos and don’ts when creating an inspired collaborative culture in the company

  1. Do take into account people’s cultural differences – what works for one geography may be met with resistance or a lack of enthusiasm in another. Buy-in is important. 
  2. Do expect some harsh truths. It’s the tricky part of promoting transparency, but the insight is worth the short, sharp feeling of discomfort. 
  3. Don’t foster a climate of repercussions in your call for honesty. Creating a safe space means that people need to be able to trust that what they say won’t cost them anything. 
  4. Do be mindful of personality types within your organization. What works for many may not work for some and vice versa. 
  5. Don’t start educating your employees without educating the leadership team first. There needs to be a cohesive and strategic approach to ingraining values into the fabric of the company’s culture, and that starts from the top.
  6. Don’t rush the process. When you deal with people, you deal with a number of different variables. It’s important to mediate expectations, mitigate disappointment, and welcome failure. 
  7. Do be aspirational. Imagine the company’s future state: how do you want people to feel when they come into work every day, what kind of values do you want your company to be known for, and how can you adopt a mindset that consistently welcomes feedback? 

To conclude, when asked what skills are needed to future-proof organizations and how individuals can develop them, I would highly recommend that supply chain organizations begin 2021 with training programs that allow people to understand how digitalization maintains business operations and connects businesses to customers. This should help engage while encouraging active learning and innovative thinking.

Secondly, I recommend focusing on situational leadership, where a leader adapts their style of leading to suit the work environment or needs of a team. This has proven benefits in allowing effective behavioral changes, accelerating the pace and quality of people’s development in areas like problem-solving, critical thinking, and self-influence.

And lastly, supply chain leaders should create and support a learn and fail culture while encouraging complete openness that lets employees know that “It’s OK to not be OK”. The sooner we accept people’s failures, their fluctuating moods, and the tapestry of personalities and individual differences that make up internal teams, the faster and more effectively we can test, learn and move on. Supply chain people have a playground where they can create simulations or pilots, embrace blue-sky ideas, and innovate freely. 

Take a block from Lego’s DNA: Ask somebody what the mission of the company is, and they will tell you it’s to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. 

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About Yana Buraeva

Yana Buraeva is a Logistics and Transport Manager at ABB. She describes herself as a dynamic senior professional in supply chains with a wealth of leadership gained through a progressive career working in EMEA.

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