Technology is disrupting organisations and corporate cultures, but some employers are also using it to bring about their own disruption. At the RISE conference in Hong Kong, two longstanding corporate giants explained why their reinvention makes them magnets for tech talent.
Fast-paced technological change is pushing Hong Kong-based global trading company Li & Fung to overhaul its business. The company’s 2017 results showed its third consecutive year of profit decline and CEO Spencer Fung, whose great-grandfather founded the company in 1906, is taking steps to reinvent the business. “Our aim is to create the supply chain of the future,”’ he said.
The 111-year old organisation employs about 22,000 people and was founded on values of entrepreneurship, family and humility. That won’t change no matter what happens in the external operating environment, Fung said, but just about everything else in the company will change, including the culture and pace of work at a company that has been one of Hong Kong’s biggest employers for decades.
Fung is not expecting an easy task. The change in mindset required to meet technological advances is huge, he says, including for himself: “I started by first convincing myself that the world had changed.” People are creatures of habit, he said, and they are uncomfortable with the pace and speed of the change that now confronts them, but the need for a fundamental shift in the way the company operates is essential.
Technology has already completely digitised the business’s customers and to meet their needs, the organisation must digitise all aspects of its operations at breakneck speed. He is focusing on the company’s suppliers. “Changing the mindset of the entire industry is the biggest challenge I have today,” he said.
The supply chain for apparel, a huge part of the company’s business, is a key focus. “We’re taking things that used to take six months and doing it in hours,” said Fung. The company is moving to digitised sampling, which will allow it to sell clothes before they have been manufactured and make them only after the orders come in, a sea change from the previous tradition of making up samples over a period of months.
At Logitech, a 35-year-old business known mainly for its computer mice and keyboards, technology is changing both the company’s products and its culture. As the growth of the PC market has stalled, Logitech is reinventing itself as a cloud-based business. This change has involved a deep-rooted search for a new corporate culture.
“As our head of HR would say, your culture is first an archaeological dig – it’s figuring out what’s already there, and then finding out what you want to be,” said Bracken Darrell, Logitech’s president and CEO.
But the stalwarts have a few advantages up their sleeves. Both Li & Fung and Logitech say they can compete as employers by their breadth of experience and operations. While Google and other young technology giants can offer talent great learning opportunities, Li & Fung has its values, its newfound openness to tech-driven innovation and the breadth of is operations. At Logitech, the organisation runs multiple projects to encourage innovation that can offer an experience similar to a start-up but without the usual risks, said Darrell.
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