Faster skills improvement, less time off the job, transparency, measurability and value from the offset–just some of the benefits Huthwaite International’s new learning model is promising to deliver. Huthwaite’s Robin Hoyle takes us behind the scenes and explains why it’s more than just a promise.
Many think that collaborative learning has had its day; failing, as it has, to achieve anything like the anticipated sustainable behaviour changes many business leaders had hoped.
Throughout its rise and fall Huthwaite’s learning innovation experts have stayed firmly on the sidelines, watching with interest. Validation is key for any new delivery method entering the Huthwaite portfolio and for them collaborative never quite cut the mustard. Until now.
After a year of development, 18 months of successful live trials, and an international award already under its belt, Huthwaite Collaborative is here. Fresh and new but building on the rigour of Huthwaite’s core approach, it’s giving those sales organisations with a genuine learning culture,a faster, more measurable, more sustainable route to achieving high performing sales and negotiating teams.
Where did collaborative come from, why did it fail
It’s an eternal problem.
, while continuing to meet targets and minimise downtime? Add on ever increasing workloads and operational pressures and it’s no surprise when leaders and their teams admit they simply can’t spare the time ‘off the job’ for training. Enter the collaborative learning model in 2014. A learning technology that would enable communication and shared working with no downtime was welcomed with a fanfare of enthusiasm from L&D and sales leaders alike. But the adulation was short lived. Data later suggested collaborative learning was not the panacea many hoped it would be. Rather than an uplift in the value delivered there had actually been a fall.
Robin and his Huthwaite colleagues believe there are a number of reasons for the demise of traditionally managed collaborative programmes:
- The technology had been oversold. Its introduction was based on the idea that somehow collaborative would do things for the organisation rather than enable the organisation to do things for itself. Perhaps, a naïve belief in the power of automation means that businesses think that once they have bought a technology platform, they need to do less than before when it comes to learning and development.
- The technology was badly designed. Digital learning resources can be expensive to create – especially if their creation is outsourced. Once made, they are rolled out as extensively as possible, regardless of whether they are fit for purpose or even relevant to the individuals required to use them. They also have a shelf life, a period beyond which they feel out of date and may have been overtaken by more recent developments.
- The purpose of the collaboration – and what it delivers – as clearly articulated. If we use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, we have a reason for using each platform. They provide different connections, in a different context for different parts of our life. However, in learning, the purpose of this connection is not always clear, and how this all contributes value to the business is often consigned to the ‘too-difficult’ box.
What needed to change for collaborative learning to work?
Despite these common challenges, Robin and the team weren’t ready to give up on the collaborative idea. They believed it had merit but that its success would depend on certain stipulations, that had previously been absent.
Robin explains, “To be an effective learning delivery mechanism collaborative must be delivered in conjunction with a strategic and robust selling skills methodology. That means having expert coaches throughout the process coupled with an understanding that not every sales culture lends itself to a collaborative intervention. One does not fit all.”
The Huthwaite team were convinced they could deliver a collaborative learning environment addressing these prior shortcomings, with a clear purpose, a clear role for sales managers and which would transparently demonstrate the value of the learning intervention – both to those involved and the wider enterprise. In short, they set about proving that rather than being written off collaborative learning had a big future.
So, what does effective collaborative learning look like for sales teams and how can Huthwaite Collaborative succeed, when others’ attempts have failed?
Robin shares what his team believe are the six fundamental and integrated components to a successful collaborative model.
- Have one role for sales managers and a different role for team members. Most collaborative or social learning – however facilitated by technology – is based on individuals working together to solve problems. The Huthwaite model doesn’t lend itself to a group trying to work out what the answers are. Instead, it’s a collaborative environment which has one role for sales managers and senior people and a different role for sellers. Sales managers and senior people play an important part in in supporting learners and in creating the environment in which it’s OK to be a learner.
- Many sales organisations profess to have a coaching culture. But from our own experience we know this isn’t always the case. Huthwaite wanted to create a new route for managers to support their team members. One that would combine coach, facilitator, mentor and assessor. We called this role ‘The Enabler’. There is a vast difference between being an exceptional seller and an average one, the Enabler must be able to judge what excellent looks like, what the building blocks of sales success are and be able to give supportive and constructive feedback.
- Create a genuine Learning Journey. Since the phrase ‘Blended Learning’ became a little hackneyed and started to fall out of favour, many organisations have created a so-called learning journey. However, our approach was to build a genuine learning journey – detailing what happens in detail at each stage and spending more than twice as much travelling time after the classroom component than before it. This is where the rubber hits the road and it’s where the biggest barriers to the success of the sales learning intervention will be.
- Don’t forget the classroom. We equip people with high performance behaviours which are used by skilled and successful sellers. However, the classroom remains important in helping participants practice those skills in a safe space and gain encouragement and expert feedback. This experiential element is important. We know how difficult it is to get people away from the day job.Time is tight and to make the most of that time commitment means doing things in the classroom that we simply can’t do elsewhere. With the input of their Enablers, participants are ready to benefit from the intensive classroom experience before they walk through the door, not have them sat being told things that could have been included in an e-learning module.
- Reinforce, Implement, Embed. Unlike most programmes, in which the classroom is seen as an end point, in the true collaborative experience this is where the work really starts. It is here that the Enablers come into their own, supporting action plans, holding their charges to account for implementing their nascent skillset. Mostly though it is facilitated reflection which delivers the high-performance behaviour change. Enabler and participant will agree targets, as they are completed they are checked off. Each target should be clearly linked to an existing Key Performance Indicator (KPI) and each task will have a noticeable, positive impact on one of those KPIs.
- Properly measuring success. As mentioned earlier, a key challenge for any sales leader is in demonstrating the value of any learning investment. Because we tie the transition from skills to behaviours – so specifically to real live selling – each task generates evidence of impact. The Enablers are invested in the performance of their people. The participants are engaged in a collective endeavour. Each individual aspires to be successful. Because the behaviours which we have introduced, explained, trained, coached and enabled are based on what successful sellers do, Huthwaite Collaborative gives them the best chance of achieving high performance through behaviour change.
How to know if this newcollaborative model is right for your team?
“Huthwaite Collaborative is a new evolution but it’s not a panacea. For this new evolution in collaborative learning to be effective, it has to be implemented within the right sales organisation, possessing a culture and ethos that fits with the open, supportive and collaborative ethos of the training methodology itself,” explains Robin.
How do you know if your sales organisation has the right foundations in place? “It’s not so hard,” Robin continues, “There are some quite simple questions to ask.”He splits them into three main areas; attitudes towards technology, team dynamics and culture, and finally, attitudes towards skills and developments.
Attitudes to technology:
- Can your team members can find information, people and learning opportunities easily on their organisation’s network?
- Does your organisation use technology in a smart way?
- Do your teams frequently use social media to communicate with their colleagues about work issues?
- Does your organisation have online forums where anyone can post questions and gain answers from experts?
Team dynamics and culture:
- Are your team members highly competitive? Do they strive to be the best in their team/region or department?
- Do staff regularly receive coaching?
- Do people speak their mind?
- Do people like to share what they know?
- Does your organisation like their people to stand out?
- Are mistakes seen as learning experiences?
- Do individual teams know what they are doing?
Attitudes to skills and development:
- Are line managers recognised and rewarded for coaching their team members?
- Does your organisation expect its people to keep their skills up to date?
- Does everyone have a personal development plan agreed with their manager?
- Are training programmes followed up by managers who expect trainees to show how they have used what they have learned?
- Do skilled and experienced colleagues share what they know?
- Is there a desire to show that money invested in improving capability has delivered value?
The combination of collaborative learning, teamed with a world class sales methodology and an expert coach represent a genuine step change in collaborative learning. Commercially focused, it is a learning delivery model that enables a faster improvement in skills over a larger population. And it is this integrated approach that offers sales leaders the chance to upskill their teams, while overcoming the key hurdles associated with delivering new methodologies. Providing, of course, they are ready for it.
What are we now?
Trials over, Huthwaite Collaborative is already proving its worth. Learners are more engaged and motivated, new selling skills are put to practice ‘on the job’ immediately and the value of classroom (or so called ‘downtime’) is massively enhanced. In June 2018 Huthwaite and one of our early Collaborative clients ITN Productions won ‘Sales Process of the Year’ at the highly coveted international Promote awards in Stockholm.
It’s not for everyone but with the right components in the right environment, professionals sceptical about collaborative might just want to think again.
Authored and contributed by: https://huthwaiteinternational.com/
Accurate forecasting is vital for supply chains in the COVID-19 era and beyond
By Andrew Butt, co-founder and CEO of Enable, a modern, cloud-based software solution for B2B rebate management.
All companies have to know how to prepare for an uncertain future – from shifts in the market and consumer behavior to the possibility of reduced revenue or increased overhead, it’s often necessary to adapt to changing circumstances as quickly as possible. This is particularly true when companies are attempting to navigate the economic consequences of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. If a company doesn’t have robust forecasting tools, it will continually be forced to respond to new developments and crises in a reactive instead of proactive way.
Forecasting is especially important for the management of rebate contracts, which are typically negotiated on the basis of last year’s performance and expected growth. This presents a significant problem for companies that aren’t capable of accurately predicting supply and demand or how other shifts in economic conditions will affect their business. This problem is even more serious in the COVID-19 era, which has thrown existing projections about consumer spending patterns and the state of the economy into disarray.
COVID-19 has been a stark reminder that rigorous forecasting is vital for negotiating rebates, facilitating alignment between manufacturers and distributors, and planning for the future in many other ways. However, despite the existence of increasingly powerful and accessible digital forecasting resources, many companies are still relying on antiquated methods to anticipate and prepare for the future.
The forecasting status quo isn’t working for many companies
Consumer behavior drives supply chains – when distributors submit an order to manufacturers, they do so based upon predictions about what volume of products and materials they need to satisfy demand. This is why it’s striking that, according to survey data from EY, only 20 percent of consumer products companies are “confident they can rapidly align their supply chain activity with changes in demand.”
At a time when 94 percent of Fortune 1,000 companies are experiencing supply chain disruptions due to the economic consequences of COVID-19, the ability to identify which adjustments are necessary to avoid costly inefficiencies and missed opportunities is paramount. However, too many companies are trying to make predictions with a limited set of tools. They’re using simple linear extrapolations which don’t take into account seasonality and other fluctuations (much less the effects of a crisis like COVID-19); many of their forecasting efforts are manual, which means they’re subject to human error (they also use up valuable human capital); and they’re not updated with the latest industry data or other relevant information.
But all these problems are solvable. Companies have never had more access to digital platforms that can help them collect and analyze the data necessary to generate detailed forecasts and align their production and distribution processes with the market.
Why forecasting is necessary for rebate negotiations
When a merchant or other distributor purchases products from a supplier, it’s important to determine which goods will be required in which locations and quantities. Rebates are retrospective payments that help buyers and sellers align their transactions with each others’ objectives – i.e., if a buyer purchases the seller’s target quantity, the seller can provide additional rebate as a bonus. This incentivizes continued trading with a partner and ensures that neither party is wasting resources.
While this may sound like a simple concept, rebate negotiation and management can actually be quite complex. For example, some rebates are based on year-to-year revenue growth, in which certain forms of purchases are eligible and others aren’t. Other rebates are contingent on an array of other elements, such as product-specific incentives and the maintenance of certain margins, promotions, etc. In these cases, forecasting is essential to account for many different variables over time, which will allow buyers and sellers to sign agreements underpinned by accurate pricing calculations.
When rebate forecasting is systematized and data-driven, the chances of a dispute are much lower. And if a dispute does arise, there’s an audit trail that allows companies to resolve it more quickly and fairly. The ability to predict which rebate structures and pricing make the most sense doesn’t just strengthen relationships between suppliers and distributors – it increases margins and cash flow, allows companies to allocate human capital more productively, and ultimately leads to stronger and more sustainable growth.
Accurate forecasting in the COVID-19 era
As economies around the world saw massive contractions amid COVID-19, supply and demand across many industries and sectors swung wildly. An analysis from the U.S. Federal Reserve pointed out that the “massive lockdown of the economy represents a large negative demand shock” while “supply chains in a number of industries have been affected not only internationally, with international trade in general greatly reduced, but also domestically, resulting in price increases for many goods and services.”
It’s extremely difficult to negotiate and manage rebates amid this economic uncertainty, which makes it much likelier that anticipated rebate thresholds (and the attendant pricing tiers) won’t be met. This could lead to a lack of motivation from buyers, which would result in lost profits all around. For some product categories, however, the recovery will be surprisingly fast, which means sales will quickly outpace their thresholds and pricing tiers (thereby eliminating the incentive to make rebate deals in the first place).
To address these issues, suppliers and distributors should renegotiate their rebate agreements after considering several potential scenarios for the next few months (and for 2021 more broadly). This is where technology comes in – digital rebate management platforms don’t just provide the ability to compare multiple forecasts, but they also make the process of renegotiation (and adherence to the terms of a new deal) more streamlined.
COVID-19 has demonstrated how important it is for supply chains to become as data-driven and flexible as possible, and forecasting is an integral part of that process. We’ll never know exactly what the future holds, but we can come closer to predicting it than ever before.
EU Commission sets out new intellectual property action plan affecting SEPs, patent pooling and EU design protection
The EU Commission published a new intellectual property action plan. The action plan, touted as “an intellectual property action plan to support the EU’s recovery and resilience” outlines possible future moves, noting that intangible assets are “the cornerstone of today’s economy”, with IPR-intensive industries generating 29.2% (63 million) of all jobs in the EU during the period 2014-2016, and contributing 45% of the total economic activity (GDP) in the EU worth €6 trillion.
The action plan also notes that the quality of patents granted in Europe is among the highest in the world, and that European innovators are frontrunners in green technologies, and leaders in specific digital technologies, such as connectivity technologies. That being said, the action plan notes that while smart intellectual property (IP) strategies can act as a catalyst for growth, European innovators and creators often fail to grasp the benefits of IP.
The action plan indicates that the Commission is willing to take stronger measures to protect European IP, to increase IP protection amongst European SMEs and to help European companies capitalise on their inventions and creations.
Ambitiously, the action plan also notes that the EU aspires “to be a norm-setter, not a norm-taker” and is keen to seek ambitious IP chapters with high standards of protection in the context of Free Trade Agreements, to help promote a global level playing field.
Some of the key takeaways are noted below.
Unified Patent (UP)
The implementation of the Unified Patent is seen as a priority in the action plan, indicating that it will reduce fragmentation and complexity, and will reduce costs for participants, as well as bridging “the gap between the cost of patent protection in Europe when compared with the US, Japan and other countries”. The action plan also indicates that it will “foster investment in R&D and facilitate the transfer of knowledge across the Single Market”.
With the introduction of 5G and beyond, the number of standard essential patents (SEPs), as well as the number of SEP holders and implementers, is increasing (for instance, there are over 95,000 unique patents and patent applications supporting 5G). The action plan notes that many of the new players are not familiar with SEP licensing, but will need to enter into SEP arrangements, and that this is particularly challenging for smaller businesses.
One area that has garnered a lot of press attention recently relating to the licensing of SEPs, and in particular to businesses that are perhaps not as familiar with SEP licensing, is that of the automotive sector. The action plan acknowledges this and notes that “although currently the biggest disputes seem to occur in the automotive sector, they may extend further as SEP licensing is relevant also in the health, energy, smart manufacturing, digital and electronics ecosystems.”
To this end, the Commission is considering reforms to further “clarify and improve” the framework governing the declaration, licensing and enforcement of SEPs. This includes potentially creating an independent system of third-party essentiality checks, and follows off the back of a pilot study for essentiality assessments of Standards Essential Patents and a landscape study of potentially essential patents disclosed to ETSI also published alongside the action plan.
Modernising EU design protection
The Commission has indicated that it wants to “modernise” EU design protection “to better reflect the important role design-intensive industries play in the EU economy”. At present, the Commission is asking for stakeholder feedback on the options for future reform. Recent results of an EU evaluation show that the current legislation works well overall and is still broadly fit for purpose. However, the evaluation has also revealed a number of shortcomings, including the fact that design protection is not yet fully “adapted to the digital age” and lacks clarity and robustness in terms of eligible subject matter, scope of rights conferred and their limitations. The Commission also considers that it further involves partly outdated or overly complicated procedures, inappropriate fee levels and fee structure, lack of coherence of the procedural rules at Union and national level, and an incomplete single market for spare parts.
Updating the SPC system
While the Commission notes that, following an evaluation, the Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) framework finds that the EU SPC Regulations “appear to effectively support research on new active ingredient, and thus remain largely fit for purpose”, it believes the EU SPC regime could be strengthened to reduce red tape, improve legal certainty and reduce costs for business. One option being touted is to introduce a centralised (‘unified’) grant procedure, under which a single application would be subjected to a single examination that, if positive, would result in the granting of national SPCs for each of the Member States designated in the application. The creation of a unitary SPC, complementing the future unitary patent, is listed as another option.
Patent pooling in times of crisis
The EU Commission notes how the pandemic has highlighted the importance of effective IP rules and tools to boost innovation and secure fast deployment of critical innovations and technologies, both in Europe and across the globe, but that it sees a need to improve the tools in place to cope with crisis situations. To this end, the action plan includes proposals to introduce possible mechanisms for rapid voluntary IP pooling and better coordination if compulsory licensing is to be used.
Increasing access for SMEs to IP protection and the introduction of an “IP voucher”
The action plan notes that only 9% of EU SMEs have registered IP rights. It aims to help SMEs better manage their IP and improve their competitiveness by giving EU SMEs easier access to information and advice on IP. Through the EU’s public funding programmes and further rolled-out at a national level, EU SMEs will get financial aid to finance so-called IP scans (comprehensive, initial, strategic and professional advice on the added value of IP for the individual SME’s business), as well as certain costs related to IP filings.
This will happen through the implementation of an “IP voucher”, which is made available in co-operation with the EUIPO, providing co-funding of up to €1,500 for:
- IP Scans: up to 75% of the cost and/or
- registration of trade marks and design rights in the EU and its Member States: up to 50% of the application fees.
SMEs will be able to apply as of mid-January for the IP voucher, through a dedicated website. We understand that the voucher will be provided on a “first come first served” basis.
The action plan also indicates the EU Commission’s intention to make it easier for SMEs to leverage their IP when trying to get access to finance, and that this may be done for example through the use of IP valuations.
EU toolbox against counterfeiting
The EU commission notes that counterfeiting is still a major problem for European businesses and proposes that an “EU toolbox” is set up to set out a co-ordinated European approach on counterfeiting. The goal of this EU toolbox should be to specify principles for how rights holders, intermediaries and law enforcement authorities should act, co-operate and share data.
AI and blockchain technologies
The action plan notes that in the current digital revolution, there needs to be a reflection on how and what is to be protected – perhaps a nod to the recent litigation we have seen regarding whether an AI can be considered as an inventor. The action plan in particular notes that questions need to be answered as to whether, and what protection should be given to, products created with the help of AI technologies. A distinction is made between inventions and creations generated with the help of AI and the ones solely created by AI. The action plan notes that the EU Commission’s view is that AI systems should not be treated as authors or inventors, which is the approach taken by the EPO, but that harmonisation gaps and room for improvement remain and the EU Commission has indicated that it intends to engage in stakeholder discussions in this respect.
There is much to take in from the action plan, and we will closely monitor developments in all of the above areas to see what will be implemented and when.
Tech talent visa sees 48% increase in applications over one year as global founders look to the UK
- Demand for Global Talent Visa applications has increased over two consecutive years since 2018 – up 45% and 48% respectively
- Demand is expected to increase from 2021as, from January, the Tech Nation Visa will be opening up applications to exceptional tech talent from the EU hoping to work in the UK
- 52% of those endorsed for the Tech Nation Global Talent Visa are employees, while 28% of those endorsed are tech founders
- App & software development, AI & machine learning,and fintech are the most common sectors for visa holders. Most endorsed applications come from India, the US and Nigeria
- 41% of Global Talent Visa applicantschose to reside outside of London to work in the UK’s strong regional tech hubs
Today, Tech Nation, the growth platform for tech companies and leaders, launches a new report, which reveals changes in the international talent landscape and growing interest in the Global Talent Visa.
The Tech Nation Global Talent Visa
As the race for global tech talent heats up, many countries have been making their pitch to attract the best and brightest tech talent to grow their tech industries and create jobs. The Global Talent Visa, for which Tech Nation is the official endorsing body for Digital Technology, plays a key role in enabling international tech talent to contribute to the UK economy and to the growth of high priority sectors such as AI and Cyber.
The visa has seen applications increase significantly over the past two years, with 45% and 48% increases respectively. Since November 2018, the Tech Nation Global Talent Visa has received 1,975 applications and endorsed 920 visas from over 50 countries worldwide. Demand is expected to increase in 2021 with the EU coming into the route.
52% of those endorsed for the Tech Nation Global Talent Visa since 2014 are employees at some of the UK’s leading tech firms, helping to fill existing talent gaps, while 28% are tech founders bringing ideas, talent and capital into the UK’s fast growing tech sector. In 2020, the visa enabled 421 founders to set up business in the UK, up from 400 in 2019.
This global talent is distributed right across the UK. 41% of endorsed applicants for the visa are based outside of London, working in the UK’s strong regional tech hubs. App & software development, AI & machine learning, and fintech are the most popular sector destinations for visa holders, reflecting growth in those tech sub-sectors. India, the US, and Nigeria are the top three countries from which exceptional talent has come into the UK with the Tech Nation visa.
A surge in demand and interest
Labour markets around the world and in the UK have undergone profound shifts in 2020. The data released today shows that there has been a 200% increase in the volume of users in the UK searching online for terms explicitly related to ‘UK tech visas’ between April and September 20201. This surge in interest to work in the UK’s digital tech sector is reflected globally too, with a 100% increase in users internationally searching for these terms in countries like the US and India.
Digital tech roles remain in high demand in the UK. Cyber skills are becoming increasingly important within the UK, particularly in regions such as Wales and the East and West Midlands where there has been a huge increase in demand between 2017 and 2019 (351%, 140%, and 86% respectively). Demand for AI skills has increased by 111% from 2017 to 2019, with Northern Ireland and Wales seeing the greatest increases in demand – 418% and 200% respectively.
Minister for Digital and Culture Caroline Dinenage said: “It’s no surprise the UK’s world-beating technology sector appeals to international talent. Our dynamic companies reflect the UK’s long-standing reputation for innovation and are renowned on the global stage. We are open to the brightest and the best talent, and this visa scheme makes it easier for companies across the country to recruit the talent they need to grow.”
Stephen Kelly, Chair of Tech Nation, comments: “The UK is a global talent magnet for Tech founders. The UK provides rich opportunities for entrepreneurs to set up, flourish and scale a business. The Global Talent Visa is crucial to making this process easy and accessible. Tech Nation’s Visa Report shows that, despite the pandemic, international interest to work in the UK tech sector has never been higher. Attracting tomorrow’s tech leaders to the UK is crucial to the continued growth of the sector, the UK’s place in the world, and driving the nation through recovery to growth in the digital age.”
Trecilla Lobo, SVP, People at BenevolentAI and Tech Nation Board Director, said: “The UK tech ecosystem continues to contribute to the creation of jobs and to innovative products and services. The Tech Nation Visa enables the UK tech sector to maintain its competitive advantage by attracting the best talent in specialist skills in tech, research and AI and a more globally diverse perspective to help us innovate and create amazing products and services. As an immigrant to the UK in my late teens, the UK visa scheme has enabled me to bring my experience, expertise and contribute to the people agenda for tech scale-ups in the UK, and helped me build a successful career in tech. I am really excited that the Tech Nation Visa will open opportunities and streamline the visa process for future global tech talent.”
Hao Zheng, Co-founder & CEO at RoboK, based in Cambridge and Newcastle, said: “I decided to work in UK tech because of the well-established ecosystem, world-class research and innovation and the high-level of experience that is extremely valuable for startup technology companies.”
Congcong Wang, Head of Operations at TusPark, based in Cambridge, said: “The UK is a world leading innovation hub, particularly in the fields of AI and Healthcare. Its environment fosters young talent, breeds disruptive innovation and creates amazing companies. Also, the culture of the UK is nurturing and tolerant for innovation, as it is considered a “safe place” for those inspired to take on the more risky route of entrepreneurship.”
Sumit Janmejai, Data-Driven Cybersecurity Professional at Capgemini, based in London said: “Having studied in the UK and worked with UK professionals, I could appreciate the fact that the UK is fast becoming the center of innovation, research and development in the Tech Industry. Besides that, the country offers an excellent life, welcoming culture, and a safe environment. It was an easy choice.”
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