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Supplier engagement is key to the future of work

Businesses are collaborating now more than ever and in September Ricoh UK opened its doors for its first Supplier Engagement event to do just that. There were over 30 key suppliers/Partners in attendance who were joined by Ricoh’s CEO, members of the Board and our Supplier Engagement Team to discuss the Future of Work.

Already having great Supplier relationship management in place, we looked specifically at Supplier Engagement. What is the difference between Supplier Engagement and Supplier Management? Think of it much like the differences between ‘wanting to’ (i.e. positive) and ‘having to’ (negative). Both will get results but ‘wanting to’ will always achieve far more than ‘having to’ – and will feel like a better experience as well. Supplier Engagement is driven through creating a mutual positive desire to flourish for both suppliers and customer, a will to go above and beyond minimum requirements and – in doing so – creating additional shared value for all parties.

For the first event we looked at the “new ways of working”. As we found through discussion, this can be translated to mean many different things. For some businesses, they looked at it to mean the flexible working pattern and movement of employees, for others it was about the look and feel of their offices or the technology that’s being used. In fact, it covers all of these and many other aspects. Work has changed dramatically from a largely “factory working” style which is fixed and repetitive to a more “iWorker” style which has to allow for flexibility and movement. It’s moving away from the idea of work being traditional hierarchy office setups with solely paper-based processes and a large building footprint to sustain this. Encouraging a portable office for all which minimises travel (and therefore reduced costs and carbon footprint), using more electronic-based processes and allowing flexible and remote collaboration. For people such as myself, it’s this change in work style and thought that has allowed a progression in my career that previously would not have been an option. Showing how Ricoh has taken these steps and the huge benefits that followed from lower sick days, increased engagement by 20%, flexibility to attract the best talent, better work-life balance to tangible cost benefits such as moving four buildings into one and saving on 33% paper reduction.

I very much noticed a focus on how we change the mindset of those involved, to embrace new ways of working and develop a trust within their teams to allow it to happen successfully. Would leadership courses at line manager level help ensure we’re bringing all the teams along with us as changes are being made to the culture of the workforce? With people at the heart of everything that’s being done, it’s vital to ensure no-one is left behind.

The impression that I took away from the conversation is that people believe the change needs to come from the top. You need a Board and Senior Management that embrace this style of work and have the trust within their teams to roll it out. We also need to ensure that we allow for open conversation at all levels which means removing the typical hierarchy that makes a CEO unapproachable.

With the number of start-ups we’re seeing everywhere, it’s raising the question of how do large corporates become agile? Agility to positively change is becoming a critical requirement for all businesses. It is this lack of agility that has hindered some companies with deploying the new ways of working culture. What opportunities are we giving ourselves to learn from these newer businesses?

For me, technology is one of the most exciting areas of discussion and one of the scariest. With Generation Z starting to join us in the workforce now, this discussion will only increase as they are the most technologically saturated generation our world has ever seen. Predictions show Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Augmented Reality and Automation as being in the top five trends for growth, however cybersecurity was also in there and this was not a surprising concern to many in the room. I noticed the discussions around cybersecurity to be one of uncertainty, which GDPR doesn’t seem to be helping with.

Despite a mix of thoughts and opinions during this time, the one area that all agreed on is that new ways of working is the future of work. Each company attending the event talked about the stage of the journey that they are currently at but all are working towards the same end goal. Engagement of employees is a huge factor and with reporting showing the increase of engagement when new ways of working is put into place, it’s an essential aspect part of business.

Moving away from the old model where businesses were protective of their strategies and information, we’re now seeing a real desire for collaboration and sharing. Where open discussions can benefit all those involved, our Supplier Engagement event was the first of many times to bring this group together.

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