People & Skills  

Re-skilling industry to survive in the 'austere' era

Some suggest organisations no-longer have the required internal capabilities to service customers adequately; Mike Heslop explains why he believes this is having a negative effect on service provision and how this is placing the reputation and long-term future of businesses at risk
 A re-skilled workforce can help revolutionise industry

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In light of the current economic environment, Mike Heslop – owner of Centrex Services,also highlights why he believes this is now opening up opportunities to re-skill workforces, explaining why this is an essential course of action if businesses are to develop the necessary internal capabilities required to improve service provision and thrive in the environment he terms the ‘austere era’.

Service with no smile

Customers today expect quality and value — and more. They are smarter, better informed, and insist on solutions that are tailor made for them. If one organisation cannot provide what the customer needs, it is very likely that they’ll turn to another that will.

Unfortunately in my experience UK businesses, are struggling to meet customers’ changing service requirements. Provision is slower and there are often disagreeable approaches from competing partners within the supply chain.

Far from a strong, interlinked structure, a supply chain is more commonly a disjointed collection of processes, people and products. Too often, one part of the chain operates to the detriment of others. This can leave the customer mired in complexity, or quick-fix answers that don’t hold up over time.

The problems and issues companies face are also often multifaceted, complex in nature, and require rapidly developed, integrated solutions. However organisations no-longer have the required internal capabilities to service customers adequately; often leaving them disappointed.

A recent study revealed that almost half of organisations believe a lack of internal staff capability is the single largest barrier to ensuring there is an effective supply of skills and leadership throughout the organisation. 

This is having an impact on service provision, which may have serious implications on the reputation and on-going growth of businesses.

Discarding the throw away culture

Many industries have suffered because of the throw away culture of the last economic boom period. This saw people discarding items such as TVs, microwaves and business equipment when they broke rather than repairing them.

The previous throw-away culture also meant the skills to repair electronic items were not in high demand, and began to diminish. As a result, the environment did not call for highly skilled engineers and technicians’ and so many industries began de-skilling their workforces.

This shift has exposed a critical flaw. Many years of de-skilling has resulted in people entering the workforce lacking the necessary skills. However the landscape has changed. The current economic environment and financial pressures mean businesses can no longer afford to replace hardware when it fails.

This new mood of austerity is the beginning of an ‘austere era’ and it’s causing businesses and individuals to reject the throw away culture of the last decade. As businesses look to reduce costs, companies are now repairing their hardware rather than replacing it. This has increased the need for a highly skilled workforce with the tools to repair the wide variety of machines serviced.

The issue the industry now faces is the disparity between the lack of internal capabilities’ and the changing customer focus towards high quality repair and service provision, which is leaving some businesses struggling to cope. Organisations must now re-skill workforces to develop deeper and more complex skill sets to satisfy ever changing customer service needs.

Re-skilling the future

Thereare a number of ways industry can look to re-skill its workforce. In today’s competitive business environment, companies must utilise their existing workforce to the fullest extent possible by leveraging the knowledge base within the organisation through learning and skills enhancement programmes.

Businesses could also consider investment in training programmes and professional courses as an extension of existing skill sets and job functions. This can ensure that workers have the correct level of experience and technical competence which can aid service provision immeasurably.

There must also be more emphasis on ensuring that the next generation has in place the tools, skills and knowledge to be successful. Investment in youth training programmes and apprenticeship schemes in particular, is key to replenishing the skills lost during the throw-away era.

Standing out in the austere era

We must remove the current mentality of service failure, and implement a culture of service for success. But this will not take place overnight.

However, by modernising our approach to our workforce we can develop highly skilled employees with the ability to improve all areas of the organisation.

A re-skilled workforce with a sound knowledge of lean principles can help revolutionise the industry – removing the disparity between current organisational skill sets, and those required for competitiveness and growth.

For many businesses this step change will commence a lengthy march towards outstanding customer service provision. But every destination has a beginning, and I truly believe it’s a journey worth taking.

About Centrex Services

Centrex Services enables companies to easily manage their services supply chains by simplifying the complexities of hardware maintenance.  Using its Leansource methodology, Centrex Services has redesigned every element of the supply chain from call handling to stock management, field service, logistics, repair and close.

With over 100 staff, Centrex Services’ own UK network of parts locations and experienced technical workforce provide installation and maintenance services across a range of service level agreements (from four-hour to next day) to a wide range of retail and technology companies.  These services are underpinned by Centrex’s national information and call centre in Newcastle and repair and distribution facilities in Milton Keynes and Ashington.

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