Daily Archives: December 10, 2009

Immigrants in the US Workplace

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is from Dick Locke, Sourcing Innovation’s resident expert on International Sourcing and Procurement. (His previous guest posts are still archived.)

The US Census Bureau recently announced that one out of six people in the US workforce is foreign born. In four states it’s more than one in four and in one state it’s more than one in three.

Here’s an excerpt from the NYTimes article Census Finds Rise in Foreign Workers:

Nearly one in six American workers is foreign-born, the highest proportion since the 1920s, according to a census analysis released Monday.

Because of government barriers to immigration, the share of foreign-born workers dipped from a 20th-century high of 21 percent in 1910 to barely 5 percent in 1970, but has been rising since then, to the current 16 percent.

In 2007, immigrants accounted for more than one in four workers in California (35 percent), New York (27 percent), New Jersey (26 percent) and Nevada (25 percent).

Do you like this? Does it make you nervous? Here’s an observation from someone in the training business. (That would be me.) A while back I had two extremely large computer companies as clients at the same time. Even though the companies were in the same field and about the same size (and had been sequentially managed by Gene Richter) there were big differences between the two.

I usually ask if any of the seminar attendees were born in a different country than where the seminars take place. I enlist those people to help in discussions of cross-cultural issues. One of the companies had a high proportion of immigrants or other temporary foreign residents in its US procurement staff. In the other, non-natives were extremely rare and those who were born elsewhere seemed almost embarrassed about it. The seminars at the company with a lot of immigrants was much higher in enthusiasm, spirit and level of discussion that the other. At one of the “all American” company’s seminars, when I suggested getting to an unfamiliar country a day early and touring a museum or some other cultural location prior to engaging in business discussions, a person chided me saying “We don’t do that at (company name).” Exactly, and it showed.

I suggest US companies make an effort to recruit people from other cultures. The ideas they bring will broaden horizons.

Dick Locke, Global Procurement Group.

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Kalypso’s Best Practices in Collaborative Innovation

According to a recent Kalypso white paper on Best Practices in Collaborative Innovation: How Manufacturers and Retailers Can Profit from Collaborative Innovation, there is an urgency for collaborative innovation as 95% of companies surveyed felt that collaborative innovation was very important to achieving their business objectives. One respondent even went so far as to say:

If you’re not collaborating, you won’t be around in 20 years. You’ll be gone.

With the global economic crisis driving a changing consumer focus on value, the need to streamline supply chains, and the need for consumer safety, companies are under increasing pressure to simultaneously deliver cost reductions and innovation at a faster pace. However, this is getting harder and harder to do in a vacuum. Hence the need for collaborative innovation.

This is a good thing. When successfulm collaborative innovation between manufacturers and retailers comes with a number of benefits which include:

  • differentiation, which makes them more indispensable to the retailer,
  • improved focus on consumers across departments and categories, and
  • brilliant retail execution

         for manufacturers;

  • provision of a differentiated shopping experience,
  • more “shoppable” stores,
  • total shopper solutions,
  • improved focus on destination categories, and
  • new opportunities for product and brand differentiation

         for retailers; and

  • shared sales and profit growth,
  • better ideas and improved decision making from shared shopper and consumer insights,
  • more innovative offerings, and
  • reduced rework, improved speed to market, and improved execution

         for both parties.

But how do you get there? As Mike Oswalt of Fluor, a global leader in international sourcing and procurement, has astutely noted in the past, collaboration is hard to define. No one can quite put their finger on what it is, or how you get there. Outside of a recent Industry Week article I covered when we discussed the requirements for collaborative innovation, there aren’t many roadmaps. That’s why it was nice to see this white paper discuss four best practices of collaborative innovation which included a planning framework to help you get there.

The best practices of collaborative innovation addressed were:

  1. Develop a Strategy
    The strategy should be focussed on a win-win approach based on categories or brands that are best suited for collaborative planning and that represent the best opportunities.
  2. Collaborative Business Planning
    The goal of joint business planning is to align the goals and objectives of both parties around the brands and categories identified as the best opportunities. The iterative process consists of the following steps:
    • Define the Landscape
    • Develop a Growth & Innovation Strategy
    • Co-Develop the Joint Business Plan
    • Jointly Execute with Brilliance
    • Measure, Improve, & Renew
  3. Get Your House in Order
    Internal obstacles — such as management challenges, organizational challenges, and business process challenges — are often the largest roadblocks to executing upon collaborative innovation. Company leadership of both parties must provide support, incentives, and resources and the focus has to be communicated throughout both organizations.
  4. Build a Trusted Relationship
    This type of relationship can create a “barrier to entry” for competition as well as provide a competitive advantage as trusted relationships result in greater information sharing, which is a cornerstone of innovation.

Not a bad set of recommendations at all. The report also concludes with some questions to ask in a self-assessment to help you determine if you’re ready for collaborative innovation. You might want to check them out.

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