Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, LI Europe Ltd

There’s no shortage of industry exhibitions, expos, conferences and trade fairs, and deciding which events to attend can be tough. After all, you don’t want to miss out on the latest industry updates, but equally, it’s impossible to attend every single event. These events can be an expensive day out and it’s difficult to accurately measure the return on investment.

Even if you aren’t exhibiting, there’s still the travel costs, food and drink expenses, and of course, the cost of your time. So, how can you measure the value of attending such events? How do you justify the spend?

When companies exhibit, it is easier to measure leads and enquiries and track the conversions. As a visitor, you may not necessarily have the opportunity to market your business, so you need to look at more than just the financial benefits of attending.

Seeing the latest technology is certainly an advantage. Listening to speakers can inspire ideas on which to follow up. Growing our networks can be hugely beneficial. And gaining insights from industry-leading experts can help us make more informed decisions.

That said, it’s no use simply saying you learnt a lot if you aren’t putting that learning into practice. You’ve got to take action. You’ve got to measure the return.

Think about the last industry event you attended. What actions did you take as a result? Investing in new technology? Changing a supplier? Streamlining a process? Cascading information and sharing your new knowledge with your team? What was the financial impact – did you see any positive effects on your bottom line?

You may have left the event feeling inspired, holding on to a goody bag full of branded merchandise and thinking about how nice the canapés were. But, if you didn’t take any action, did you actually get any real value at all? Or, was it just a nice day out at the company’s expense?

Simply attending every event you can, in the hope that you’ll get something from it, isn’t a strategy. Just like anything else in business, you need to go there with a goal – whether it’s to make connections, source new technology or develop your knowledge.

Before you book yet another exhibition, think about how it will add value. What are you hoping to get from the event? How will you measure that? How will it add value to your business?  

If it is unlikely that you will get anything of value from the event, then you might want to reconsider attending, no matter how appealing the free buffet sounds.

At LI-Europe, we understand the importance of value-adding events. That’s why we created The Ambassador’s Academy – a structured monthly meeting which enables forward-thinking managers to share best practice, learn about the latest improvement techniques and commit to actions back in the plant. And, because you commit to actions, you can see exactly how you are adding value to your business and what impact it has on your bottom line.

If you are a manufacturing professional looking for events that provide a real return on investment, then Ambassador’s could be right for you. To find out more click here or contact us to book a free taster session. 

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, LI Europe Ltd

Have you ever had one of those moments where something just clicks into place, like a lightbulb being switched on? You know the sort of thing; a solution falls into place, and it suddenly seems so obvious that you can’t believe you didn’t think of it before. Or you suddenly realise you’ve been looking at a problem or dilemma the wrong way.

Recently, I was working with a management team, looking at how behavioural styles can influence performance. Using DISC, I split the group into subgroups of similar behavioural style, although they didn’t know this at the time. I asked each group to outline what they liked and disliked about the characteristics of a different style. Once enlightened about their own style, each group fed back their likes and dislikes.

An ‘I’ (people and communications orientated) person in the room was shocked to hear that a ‘C’ (task and accuracy orientated) person likes silence and dislikes it when an ‘I’ doesn’t shut up. The ‘I’ commented; “I always thought I was doing people a favour by filling the silence. Oh, my goodness, all those times I’ve filled the silence and I had no idea!”

The lightbulb had not only switched on, it shone like a great big beam. The ‘I’ suddenly realised that they had been reading a situation completely wrong.

Understanding that everyone has their own behavioural style, as well as different learning styles, allows you to communicate more effectively. A good leader should certainly be familiar with different personality types and how to manage them. However, it can be even more beneficial if every employee understands their own behavioural style and how to interact with the other styles effectively.

When people have a greater understanding of how different individuals behave and learn, they become more effective at managing expectations and communicating relevant information. This reduces a lot of conflict and confusion, allowing teams to become more efficient, engaged and productive.

Some people constantly moan about their job, but I consider myself extremely lucky. Not only do I enjoy what I do, I get great satisfaction from seeing others develop. Nothing beats seeing that lightbulb moment when the penny drops for someone, as happened in this example.

Sometimes all it takes is that fresh perspective or for someone to ask you that simple question that you haven’t been asked before and Bingo! The lightbulb goes on. That’s why it’s essential that manufacturing professionals actively look for personal development opportunities, whether that be through training, networking or attending industry events.

At The Ambassador’s Academy, we see these lightbulb moments happening all the time. Our monthly meetings are a place for manufacturing professionals to learn and share best practice. You have the opportunity to tap into the experience of others, and they can gain from your knowledge in return. If you’d like to find out how Ambassadors could benefit you, contact us for a free taster session. You never know – it could spark your next lightbulb moment.

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, LI Europe Ltd

Last year, when the summer holidays came to an end, I vowed that I wouldn’t leave everything to the last-minute next time. And yet, when September came around once again, I found myself rushing around trying to label school uniforms, getting everything ready, panicking about shoes and bags and blazers.

Now there’s talk of Christmas, and there are those infuriatingly organised people who have already bought and wrapped their gifts.

They’re the same people who are organised at work. They never miss a deadline, always have everything under control and never seem phased, no matter how busy things are.

Were these people just born super organised? Have they been blessed with natural time-management skills?

While it certainly can feel that way, these skills aren’t formed in the womb; just like any other skill, they are learnt and then practised. And, as with anything, the more someone practises a skill, the more proficient they become. These people have got into the habit of being organised, and you can too.  

The problem is that we are often ‘too busy’ to invest in time management training. Isn’t it senseless that we are too disorganised to make time for something that will help us get more organised?

It can be like that a lot in business. We know what the issues are, and even how to resolve them, but we don’t take the required steps to get from where we are to where we want to be.

All too often, we see FMCG professionals who have either neglected their own development completely or have been given the tools they need but just aren’t using them effectively.

Again, a lot of this comes back to ineffective time management. Learning takes time. Implementing the learning takes time.  

If you want sustainable change in a business, you have to make time to create strategies, train your teams, implement and embed the change. And who has time for that?

So, what is the answer? How can managers better manage their time? How can they create opportunities to train and develop their teams and give them the time to implement their learnings? 

The first step is to invest in your time management skills. Learn how to prioritise your time so you can work proactively, rather than reactively.

Make time to create time for change. Don’t use the excuse of being too busy. Don’t wait until things ‘are less chaotic’ or ‘have calmed down.

If you don’t manage your time effectively, you will never find time to make change. You’ll find yourself constantly promising that next time you won’t leave it to the last minute and next year you’ll start planning earlier. You tell yourself that tomorrow you’ll be more organised – but only if you have time of course!

If you are struggling with time management or would like your teams to manage their time more effectively, then LI Europe can help. Contact us to find out more about how to create time to develop and implement sustainable improvement programmes for your FMCG organisation. Alternatively have a look at our monthly Ambassador’s Academy to see if that’s the right approach for you.

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, LI Europe Ltd

I recently attended a county schools’ athletics meet for eight to ten-year-olds. I was watching the long jump competitors, and as the children took turns, I noticed an interesting difference in how they approached the task.

The first child took his place at the top of the track, waited for the all clear and ran as fast as he could before taking off. He recorded a decent jump of 2.5m, but he was unable to repeat the same success with his second jump. It was clear that he had a lack of experience and repeatability.

The next child had a completely different approach. He carefully paced backwards from the jump board to determine his optimal start position. He was focused and knew what he needed to do to maximise his performance. Just like the first child, he ran at a good pace, but he achieved a much longer jump; an impressive 3.8m. What was more impressive was his ability to repeat his performance on his second attempt.

It struck me that, even at the young age of nine, this child had learnt that process is important if you want consistent results. What he has developed, over time and through practice, is a precise routine that starts minutes before his actual jump. His preparation placed him in a great position to deliver his best performance – a winning performance.

The first child simply threw himself into the event, hoping for a good result; the second child worked out what needed to be done to achieve the desired result. He didn’t leave it to chance.

So, what does this tell us about performing at our best?

We can be like the first child and simply turn up and go for it with no guarantee we will get the outcome we want. Alternatively, we can follow the example of the second child and learn what steps are required to achieve the results we want – we can create a process. We can then repeat that process to get consistency in our results.

Just as the young boy has worked out how far from the board, he should be to start his run, we need to find our optimal starting point. We can then make small continuous improvements to move us to the end goal. Sometimes we will make mistakes but learning from those mistakes will help us move closer to our desired outcome.

Of course, the processes required within a manufacturing business are on a much larger scale than the processes required by a nine-year-old long jumper. That doesn’t mean that you can’t apply this lesson to your business.

We’ve developed a range of tools to help manufacturing businesses. Our FMCG Academy is an ideal starting point for working out where the gaps are in your processes so that you can start working on closing those gaps and getting consistent results.

Visit our FMCG Academy Platform now to learn how process can benefit your business.

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, LI Europe Ltd

When do people learn most?

At school or university? Through reading or video? At the start of their career?

It’s easy to think about the knowledge gained from educational institutions, books or documentaries, but real learning comes through experience. Some of my best learning has certainly been established when I have tried to implement a practical solution. 

What I find most interesting is that I always seem to learn more when things have gone wrong rather than when things have gone right. This can be a painful journey, with possible embarrassment and potential cost.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this unfortunate way of learning either. There is an abundance of quotes about how it’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all, or how it’s not our mistakes we should be judged on, but how we deal with them. It seems that many people believe that mistakes provide us with an excellent learning opportunity.

But it’s not just our own mistakes we should learn from. The world has only evolved as quickly as it has because people have learnt from each other. They’ve built on what works, improved on it and developed it, but they’ve also analysed the mistakes of those before them. This is true in war, in sport, in politics, in construction, in science and technology, and of course, in business.

Rather than taking huge risks in our own business, we can look at what other businesses have tried. If the results are good, we can implement similar ideas into our own business and make small continuous improvements. If the results are bad, we can work out what went wrong and make the necessary adjustments to avoid similar outcomes.

Even if your business is going well, you will benefit greatly from the experience of others. After all, if you’ve never fallen foul of the common pitfalls yourself, you’ll find it harder to see them coming. Isn’t it better to learn how to avoid them, than to have to overcome them?

This is one of the reasons that many companies utilise external consultants. Consultants and Practitioners who have analysed and fixed the mistakes of other businesses. Consultants who have experience in identifying exactly where the risks are and where improvements need to be made. Consultants who have first-hand experience of what works and what doesn’t.

Through LI Europe, you can tap into the experience of our consultants who will help you avoid common mistakes and ensure you maximise results. You can also benefit from the experience of your peers through our monthly Ambassador’s Academy (TAA).

Ambassador’s is a support network where you can share your challenges with like-minded operational professionals who have probably faced similar challenges in their careers too. They are happy to share their experiences, suggestions and advice, letting you learn from their valuable insights and avoid some potential pitfalls.

Why not find out for yourself how our Ambassador’s Academy can benefit you. Contact us for a free taster session to see what mistakes you can learn from.

Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, LI Europe Ltd

Despite Brexit uncertainty, UK unemployment is at its lowest level since 1975, and the latest CIPD poll shows that ‘British businesses are still hiring and competing fiercely for talent’. The survey states that over 40% of businesses are finding it more difficult to fill roles than in previous years.

With these figures in mind, what are you doing to secure talent for now and the future?

Many businesses don’t have the luxury of being able to offer improved pay and attractive benefits packages to attract new blood. Even those that can offer higher financial rewards will often find that such hygiene factors are not motivators, so will only work as a short-term fix at best. Employees now are looking for more than just a competitive salary. They want to work for companies that invest in their training and development too.

Apprenticeship schemes can be an effective method of attracting and developing future talent. The introduction of the apprenticeship levy means this could also be a very cost-effective route for some manufacturing businesses.

However, apprenticeships are a longer-term investment and can’t be relied on as the sole method for growing an effective workforce. You need the benefit of experience too.

Don’t underestimate the impact of upskilling your current workforce. Offering the right development provides a win-win solution. Employees gain new skills and improved job variety while delivering hands-on activity for the business.

Upskilling your existing employees will not only help you address immediate skills shortages, it will also benefit the long-term future of your business. Your workforce will feel more motivated, more valued and more invested in the success of the business. Employee engagement has a direct impact on productivity – the more engaged your employees are, the more productive they will be. And, because you are investing in your employees, you’ll be more likely to retain your best people.

There are so many different levels of upskilling, knowing where to start can be a minefield, but you don’t have to do it alone. We can assist you in upskilling operators, managers and Continuous Improvement Leads.

Using tools such as our OPEN audit and a skills matrix will enable you to identify where the gaps are in your business and put a strategy in place to address those gaps.

We can also provide training and certification for all levels of Lean and Six Sigma, not only teaching the methodologies but also embedding them into your business.

We work with you to develop continuous improvement strategies that fit with your overall business strategy. Having the right processes in place is only half the story – you need the right people too; our goal is to help you achieve both.

Learn more about how to maximise your existing workforce and build an effective team.