Achieve your productivity goals

Roger OakdenGlobal Logistics

A training challenge.

Productivity is a term not far from the lips of politicians and industry leaders. But while bemoaning the lack of productivity by workers, they conveniently ignore the fact that productivity is actually driven by the managers of enterprises.

In the March Newsletter (subscribe at I discussed supply chain challenges for foreign multi-brand retailers who consider investing in India. One of the challenges is employing and training people so the supply chains provide availability of product and are responsive to consumer demand.

It is estimated that retail and retail logistics services in India currently employ about 40m people, but the majority work in the unorganised (or casual) sector. The consequential lack of visibility means that retailing and logistics hardly appear on the employment radar and few colleges offer training courses in the disciplines.

As governments are unlikely to provide the money, retailers will have to invest in rural and urban education and training programs, through sponsorship of colleges, courses and students. Is this a role of employers?

Investing in employees

Whether in a developed or developing economy, it is in the employers’ interest to have trained and therefore adaptable staff. In developed countries, company taxes will help to support public education and training institutions; in developing countries where investment in childrens’ literacy and numeracy is important, employers must invest directly in training their staff.

The outcome should be the same – to have a workforce that is capable and adaptable and not just hired mules to be told what to do and when.

In Australia, my most successful consulting assignments were with clients that had positive productivity thinking. In one, the pay scales were weighted heavily towards multi-skilled employees and staff were encouraged to upgrade. In a seasonal business, the payroll changed from weekly pay (with high overtime in the season and short hours in the off-season), to employees being paid an annual salary based on an agreed number of hours, with overtime paid in excess; in the downtime period, employees received additional training. At a 3PL business, the objective was to have all employees with a vocational qualification, so they were able to self-manage their work teams.

In each example, it might appear that the wages bill would increase, but actually total costs were reduced due to flexibility built into the businesses. This is productivity – what about your organisation?

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About the Author

Roger Oakden

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With my background as a practitioner, consultant and educator, I am uniquely qualified to provide practical learning in supply chains and logistics. I have co-authored a book on these subjects, published by McGraw-Hill. As the program Manager at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, I developed and presented the largest supply chain post-graduate program in the Asia Pacific region, with centres in Melbourne, Singapore and Hong Kong. Read More...