Keeping strong management in supply and demand

04 December 2014 -


In its mission to boost skills and leadership in the British workplace, UKCES has turned its attention to that increasingly vital business area of supply chains

Matt Packer

Following its call last week for greater collaborative efforts to boost staffers’ talents, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has turned to its next goal: honing management techniques in the critical business area of supply chains.

Today, the government agency has revealed that it is investing £875,000 in six pilot projects that aim to address supply chain-related leadership concerns across a series of industry sectors – from construction and civil engineering to legal services.

All six projects are housed in the organisation’s UK Futures Programme: a wide-ranging initiative that seeks to encourage employer-led solutions to longstanding or emerging skills issues. While last week’s Growth Through People report urged bosses to play a more active role in developing their workers’ skills, these projects ask firms to take greater responsibility for increasing management capabilities in supply chains, which are crucial to business processes and tie organisations together.

Over the course of the projects – which will compete with each other for further backing – UKCES hopes to learn how best to meet the challenges associated with:

i) Raising the capabilities of leaders and managers with the aim of aligning skills, job design and other workplace practices to support high-value business strategies;

ii) Boosting demand for management and leadership, and

iii) Increasing managers’ social capital, levels of interaction and opportunities to learn best-practice working from their peers.

Commenting on the new programme, Chartered Management Institute (CMI) director of strategy Petra Wilton said: “We’re delighted by the innovative approach that UKCES is adopting to explore new routes to building management capability through the supply chain. We look forward to working with the Commission to help share the learning and best practice that emerges more widely across the management community.”

The projects that have won funding are:

1. Action Sustainability

Will create a sustainability-themed online network for the facilities-management and infrastructure areas of the construction industry. The network will be based around a series of digital tools – such as e-learning modules, training videos and skills assessment packages – that will focus on building management and leadership skills.

2. Black Country Consortium Ltd

Via its Black Country Skills Factory project, this organisation will deliver a specialist Manufacturing Supply Chain Management schemes. This will comprise a series of ‘bite-sized modules’ offering SMEs the opportunity to build their operational management and leadership abilities. The resulting achievements will be recorded in a ‘skills passport’.

3. Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA)

Aims through a detailed research project to create a shared understanding of ‘what good looks like’ in management and leadership actions related to civil engineering. Collaborative discussions with leading organisations in the sector – plus regional seminars to gather input from supply chain members – will provide the material. Outcomes will be presented in a national Infrastructure Leaders event.

4. Legal Aid Practitioners Group (LAPG)

Will tackle the problem of insufficient management training in the legal sector by creating a flexible, affordable and modular management-training scheme – one that will lead to a recognised accreditation system compatible with business demands. Legal practitioners in private and non-profit organisations at SME level will provide input.

5. Robert Woodhead

To show how SMEs can best influence and develop their supply chains, Robert Woodhead has developed a construction industry-related Business Leadership and Management Support scheme called ‘Good to Gold’. This will drive a series of workshops and work-based qualifications designed to communicate best-practice management and leadership practices.

6. University of Chester

On a more scientific tack, this institution will take current thinking and research into best-practice leadership approaches and implement them in different organisations to gauge their effectiveness. Findings will be tested on live projects, then developed through a mini leadership convention. Results will be shared via academic papers and a mobile-friendly website, and careers fairs will demonstrate their relevance to Generation Z.

BAE Systems group managing director Nigel Whitehead – who is spearheading the UK Futures Programme as lead commissioner – said: “I am really excited about these six projects, which are truly innovative in their plans to work with many numerous, independent companies in their supply chains to ensure quality management and leadership skills throughout their industries.” Whitehead pointed out that 70% of BAE Systems’ turnover is expressed in its supply chain – something that enables him to recognise its critical role within other companies and their dependence upon it. “Ultimately,” he stressed, “BAE’s offering is only as strong as the weakest link in my supply chain.”

He added: “Giving employers the opportunity to develop their own solutions is so important, as we believe that the people who experience these skills deficiencies directly are best placed to develop solutions. Equally, by trialling seven different approaches at the same time, we are able to understand what does and doesn’t work in addressing these challenges. Collaborating with partners, and each other, to implement good management practices will produce more engaged and productive staff – and ensure that the UK’s industries can compete successfully in our global economy.”

For more thoughts on improving leadership abilities, sign up to this forthcoming CMI seminar Essential Management Skills.

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