Companies that are transforming successfully in the digital world understand that technology is important, but it’s really about people. Employees must be empowered with the right skills. Not every millennial is tech-savvy, and many baby boomers remain flexible and eager to learn.
Thanks to machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), more and more tasks in all lines of business are being automated. To differentiate themselves from machines, people will need skills to solve problems that arise when bots can’t answer the standard questions. People will need more training than ever.
“In the manufacturing world today, investments in innovation and technology are happening on the retail side of the house,” says Naveen Kandasami, global IT executive director, business partnership & CRM strategy at Sealed Air, the innovative packaging solution company that invented Bubble Wrap. “People are transacting on a more personal level because they have become accustomed to doing it with applications like Uber. Consumers expect seamless transactions, and if expectations are not met, it leads to frustration.”
What that means for commerce is a need for outcome-based selling. Customers want more flexibility and different models. Sealed Air doesn’t just sell products; it sells value: Sealed Air sees itself as a knowledge-based provider backed by scientists, engineers, and industry experts delivering tailored solutions for their customers, running on state-of-the-art technology like a cloud-based commerce platform.
“We don’t just sell packaging—we provide knowledge based solutions which includes product, services and consulting. Customer demands are increasing and the business models are changing. Sealed Air is transforming commercially with innovative technology that is enabling go to market strategies and driving customer experience,” says Naveen.
Recruiting the right people
Value-based selling is becoming prevalent in all industries and all regions, but finding the right staff can be challenging.
“People who come to Hornbach aren’t just buying plants. They want to create a garden,” says Amelie Widlak, head of recruiting at Hornbach, a European DIY and garden superstore chain. “Traditionally, do it yourself meant exactly that. People were used to buying products and putting everything together on their own. Our ideal scenario today is to help the customer visualize their project, create a list of materials, and watch tutorials online to get an understanding of what needs to be done to put in a new bathroom. But they will still need help in the store.”
Like Sealed Air, Hornbach is successful because they provide a set of services around their products. Their challenge is attracting better salespeople in a market with a high turnover.
In the past it was OK to put a carpenter in a sales role. Today, salespeople have to be trained to ask the right questions to make sure the customer’s project turns out as envisioned. Salespeople must communicate better and be comfortable in a multichannel environment. They also need competitive insight, so they can clearly articulate the overall value of the investment when customers compare prices at other DIY stores. Hornbach is working with local government training programs to help reduce the skills gap and create a broader talent pool.
The DIY industry requires high-volume seasonal recruiting. The process of attracting and hiring talent at the right time for a specific job requries a career site that caters to the needs of candidates, recuriters, and hiring managers. The site must be available on all devices, present on social media, easy to navigate, and all parties must have full transparency into their own part of the process.
“The push to digitally transform our recruiting process came from the candidates. We see them as unique consumers. We want them to understand they won’t just be selling light bulbs, that we offer real career choices. Our career site should communicate to candidates that Hornbach is an employer of choice,” says Amelie. “Providing an individualized, user-friendly end to end experience with a cloud-based recruiting solution helps us find the best candidates for each job. Only engaged salespeople are able to inspire customers.”
RACI charts for people and robots
All industries are experiencing a huge shift in the type of human capacity and skills needed for doing business. Tutorials, chat bots, and other technologies are streamlining processes and eliminating the need for certain headcount.
Industry experts like Naveen see this as an opportunity to repurpose people for other tasks, but people are still in their comfort zones. In past industrial eras, the masses “reinvented” themselves by transitioning from low-skilled work in agriculture to industry to services. But how can people reinvent themselves to compete with artificial intelligence?
“The last industrial revolution was marked by the rise of machines. This industrial revolution will be marked by bots and people,” says Naveen. “In retail, most sales processes will be automated. We’ll be selling through Siri. RACI charts will be adjusted to include robots. In the future we will need humans to manage change, not for standard operational tasks that can be automated.”
While we may not know what skills will be relevant 30 years from now, the ability to ask the right questions and to solve problems are skills that are surely needed today. Though technology can help companies automate processes and get better at recruiting, training and maintaining the right skill set, at least when it comes to retail, we still need human beings and leadership to deploy new models and new technology.
This article first appeared on SAP Business Trends.
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