Transcript #06 with Bjorn Vang Jensen, Global Head of Logistics at Electrolux Part 2 – Talent and Recruitment

Time stamp Speaker Answer
0:03 Radu Super. So moving on to the next segment: People.

 

A challenge is that supply chain typically is not seen as a sexy domain. It’s not technology, it’s not banking, it’s not other interesting stuff. So let’s proceed. What are your thoughts? Any ideas on this? How do you make a career in supply chain more attractive to people?

0:26 Bjorn It’s a good question, and one that we hear a lot. It’s not just supply chain. We have all these discussions around other functions in our own company as well. You hear it a lot.

 

I know what made it attractive to me back in the day when I started in supply chain. I would say it echoes back 30 years, when I first started in shipping school.

 

It was the idea of working internationally. It was the idea of working globally and potentially the idea of living anywhere in the globe with a skill that is extremely portable—provided you have the language to communicate—it’s an extremely portable skill.

 

Previously in July, my 17-year-old son did a one-month internship in Miami with 3PL. It was an amazing transformation to watch as I visit him every weekend, and he had moved from air freight to sea freight to pricing to operations. Somehow that company has managed to get him really excited about it. It was also quite cool to be able to have conversations with your son.

1:42 Radu He finally understands what you’re doing.
1:44 Bjorn Yeah, exactly. I of course would strenuously disagree that supply chain is not sexy, but I do understand that it’s not seen as sexy. It’s a male-dominated industry. In many companies, supply chain is seen as the poor cousin. It doesn’t include mine, but I know companies where it is. It’s sort of sales is in the front of the front room, supply chain is in the back of the back room. It gets even worse when you call it shipping because now people assume you’re either a truck driver or an onboard courier.

 

But if you can really build stories—everything is about telling stories, isn’t it? You can build stories in your recruitment process around working globally, working across time zones, traveling, enabling global trade—really, let’s be honest, supply chain built globalization, not the other way around, right?

 

We have stories to tell that we are terrible at telling. I had the same discussion at a big conference with a lot of shipping line CEOs in Copenhagen back in November, and they were saying the same thing. They were lamenting the fact that they can’t seem to tell the stories. Ironically, even though the world has gone more globalized, a lot of 3PLs and carriers have scaled back their education program and their use of expat positions as a way to build experience and background, and that’s a crying shame. But also I see some coming back to it now.

3:28 Radu And I think you’re spot-on with the comment. It is about the story-telling. And I was talking to another one of our clients—they’re very large and one of the market leaders in 3PL. One of the board members was saying that he was presenting at a university, and people didn’t really know about the company. Yeah, but the fundamental issue is that there’s not enough story-telling in.
3:55 Bjorn Yeah, you can’t stand up with a slide deck at a recruitment process and start showing people this is our revenue, this is how many containers we moved, and this is how many planes we’re operating everyday into which gateway—that’s not. But I see that at recruiting fairs—that people are literally like, “Just because we’re big, and we have pretty slides, you should come work for us in this industry we know you’re not really considering, and we’re obviously not making a very good job at changing your mind.”

 

You need those stories—whether that’s with videos, whether that’s with bringing people out who really have amazing stories. It’s not necessarily people like me, it can be people much further down the pole who have gotten through maybe living in a couple of countries and learning something and people who can tell the story.

4:44 Radu Yeah, I think the industry definitely needs more of that, and there is hope that we start to see that happening already.
4:50 Bjorn I’ll tell you what, ecommerce is actually making supply chain sexy. People go, “How did that package get here in like four hours?” Now, in some of the biggest players in ecommerce, like the Amazons are of course also topping the list of companies that people want to work for. So there’s a great possibility in selling that story.
5:14 Radu Even if you watch on YouTube, you see the videos with ecommerce distribution. They’re quite viewed. Hopefully soon.

 

Now back to yourself, you’ve proudly working, I mean I’ve known you for a while, and I know you are very proud to work for Electrolux and you mean it. What are some of the values that this company stands for that make you proud to come to work?

5:43 Bjorn Inclusion, diversity, absolute devotion to giving people opportunities to develop and also make mistakes.

 

We are grounded in Sweden, and Swedish philosophy around social values—sustainability is a religion for us, and it’s not a buzzword. When we don’t greenwash stuff, we really are walking the talk, and that counts a lot for me, that counts a lot for the people who work with us. So with sustainability, it’s not just about carbon footprint sustainability, but also about corporate social responsibility, it’s about sustainable hiring practices, training practices. It’s also a soft Scandinavian value that really defined us.

 

But that doesn’t mean that we all have to be Scandinavian. The one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in the 13 years I worked here is, I claim that I speak Swedish—I know a lot of Swedes who wouldn’t totally agree—but somehow I manage to make myself understood. That came super handy 13 years ago when I started traveling to our head office in Stockholm because it was all Swedish. Every meeting was in Swedish, everyone who was anyone was Swedish, give or take two or three people. Today, 13 years later, there are 60+—I believe 62 nationalities—working in that same office. And I can’t remember the last time I conducted a meeting in Swedish in Stockholm. My Swedish colleagues are very grateful for it.

 

That also speaks volumes in the company’s values in terms of giving people opportunity. We’re not a big expat company. We don’t have thousands and thousands of expatriates, and we nearly always have local management and regional management that are from the regions and the countries where they come from. But we do believe in giving the people opportunities to travel around and live in different countries. If they are prepared to do so, of course, on their own, we will help them, but we don’t ship thousands and thousands of expats around.

8:14 Radu Ok, and moving on to a question regarding Skills—and lacking, skills that are lacking in supply chain right now. Do you find a certain specific skill that is very difficult to find?
8:29 Bjorn If I were on the supply side, I would say skilled key account management and skilled operators are very hard to find, in my experience. It’s a really a mixed bunch of people that you interact with. On our own side, I think once again, it sounds like a broken record, but expertise in ecommerce, right? On the operational side. Yeah, at seas side, I think is paradoxically not that difficult because you’ve got really well insurance platforms. But the ecommerce operations is—it’s going to be a skill that’s going to be very high demand. Network design, last mile delivery design—people with those backgrounds don’t grow on trees, and I’m glad I’m not the one who has to go out and try to find them.
9:35 Radu Companies are coming to us a lot around, “OK, can we help them find ecommerce?” It’s a common problem that you’ve just shared. It’s just a reality. Companies need to think: “How do we train?” Because you can’t find them—
9:54 Bjorn Do you train them in-house, and now you just turn them into the most valuable property around in terms of skilled employees, right? But then you know that old saying, “What if we trained our people and they leave?” And the CEO says, “What if we don’t train them, and they stay?” I think you have no choice.
10:13 Radu I love the way Richard Branson—I think—he said that “Train your people well enough that they can leave, treat them well enough that they won’t.”
10:24 Bjorn Correct, absolutely.

 

10:28 Radu Super. And then, nowadays, there’s a lot of hyphen talk. Chief Supply Chain Officer, OK, maybe that is a bit of a flashy title, but there is a reality that this type of scopes need to be more and more prevalent. More importantly to me and to our audience as well, what do you think is the right mindset that as a Chief Supply Chain Officer of a company you should have?
10:53 Bjorn I think we talked about it before. Obviously, I am not a Chief Supply Chain Officer and never will be one at least not in Electrolux, we don’t have one, and I don’t think we’ll have one.

 

If I were a Chief Supply Chain Officer, and I wasn’t spending every waking moment of the day thinking about digitalization, I think I would do the company favor by retiring. You have to live and breathe digitalization, ecommerce.

 

Not just digitalization in terms of “Let’s use digitalization for communication.” It’s really about how do you, the whole spectrum of digital tools that are available and the whole spectrum of your digital footprint as a company. And then there’s a question later on social media as well and how you use that. Trust me, there are uses in supply chain as well.

 

Digitalization is going to transform your company, and you’re going to lead it—that transformation. So you better be sure that you’re equipped to lead that transformation, that you make it your business to never stop learning, never stop inquiring, and never stop reaching outside your own company to gain new impulses and impressions.

 

You don’t have to be a Chief Supply Chain Officer to do that. I do that. All my peers in other similar companies, we all do that. That’s the mindset right now. If your mindset is not razor sharp straight on to digitalization, then you are going to have a problem.

12:40 Radu Yeah, absolutely.

 

When you hire your global leadership team, what are the some of the qualities that you are looking for?

12:45 Bjorn It’s always about fit. It’s always about cultural fit.

 

To begin with, you have to have the background. If you’re going to be hired as an electrical engineer, you better have an electrical engineering degree. If you’re going to be hired in leadership and logistics, you better have the requisite experience. I think that’s—I use that phrase a lot—price of entry. OK, tick that box, we’ve done that, the qualifications are there, now it’s going to be all about fit.

 

Fit doesn’t mean that you need to be a robot. I hate to think that we would all be the same, but you have to be prepared to live and embody and project the values of the company that you work for including ours. And that’s huge. I mean every recruitment I’ve ever been involved in—and for that matter when I myself was recruited—it starts with that. It’s really what you’re trying to figure out. Is there cultural fit here? By cultural I don’t mean ethnicity or nationality. Is there cultural fit in terms of “Do we think this person already embodies and lives and can demonstrate that he/she has lived and thought these values?” Now we’re in business, right?

 

So background is a given. You better have all the qualifications, you need to have the job experience, but we want to know “Are you going to fit in here?” Right? That doesn’t mean you can’t be raw, doesn’t mean you can’t have edges, that you can’t be prickly. Sometimes you can, but you got to be able to fit in, because otherwise the system will eat you up and spit you out. And I don’t think that’s any different from any other company. Just that companies have different cultures, but there’s always going to be about the fit. Once we’ve passed the hurdle of qualifications.

14:40 Radu All the time, it’s all about the soft skills. The hard skills, typically that’s a given. Let’s talk about people that lead teams within your team. How’s the leadership? How can you tell if a person is fit for a leadership role? What are some of the cues?
15:02 Bjorn Well if it’s an internal recruitment, and you have a rich source of data on that person, you can speak to their previous managers, you can look at the work they’ve done before, you can speak with their colleagues. If it’s a leadership role, I’m much more interested in talking to the people who worked for that person than I am in that person telling me how she did all these amazing things. It’s a little bit like reference checking. You do it all the time. You do it for a living. That’s if it’s internal. But even if it’s external recruitment, of course sure during the interview process, you’re going to have to say, “Tell me three wonderful things you did… what do you think about soft skills and people and culture, where does that rank with you?” But, ultimately you’re going to go and find some people who preferably worked for these people and ask them what they think.
16:03 Radu Even in our business in executive search, always the candidate will provide referees, but of course nobody will give referees that will talk badly about them.
16:12 Bjorn Much easier to go and find on your own references.
16:16 Radu We make it a case to—and of course luckily we’re well-connected enough to get unofficial references.
16:26 Bjorn I actually had the opportunity to recruit yesterday—to help a friend of mine who has my job in a company that’s even larger than ours to do exactly that. He called me up and said, “I’m hiring a person, and I’m looking at this girl. She seems to be ticking all the boxes. Do you know her or do you know anyone who might have known her?”

 

And I said, it happened I did, I helped him out, and I don’t know it went. It’s not my problem but I think leveraging of your network these days is enormously important.

16:52 Radu Back to the—it’s important to have visibility on the supply chain also.
16:58 Bjorn Human visibility trumps everything else.

 

End of Part 2

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