Schouten Global supports leadership track at Huishan

02 November 2015

Huishan Dairy Products, one of China’s largest producers of dairy products, has hired Schouten Global to support it with the design and deployment of a leadership development programme.

End of October the Chinese president Xi Jinping hosted an Official State Visit from the Netherlands, welcoming among others King Willem Alexander and Queen Máxima, as well as a delegation consisting of government officials and senior representatives from the private sector. For participating Dutch organisations the trade mission turned out successful, said a spokesperson for the body, with an estimated €500 million in deals struck between Chinese and Dutch organisations.

Huishan Dairy Products

Among one of the deals was a contract between Schouten Global and Huishan Dairy Products*. Under the watchful eye of Dutch Secretary Bert Koenders, vice-SecretarySharon Dijksma and vice-Secretary Martin van Rijn, executives of both parties signed the agreement on October 25th in Beijing, kicking off the start of a yearlong partnership in the field of management development and human resources. The contract consists of two main pillars. Firstly, Schouten Global will develop a programme for first line managers and middle managers of the Chinese dairy giant, with the goal to improve leadership skills. “Chinese managers are relatively young; they have great responsibilities as their businesses often grow fast. Many of them have had no formal training in leadership and management. We are accelerating their development, allowing for better results in their current role, but more importantly make them ready for next steps,” comments Camiel Gielkens, director of Schouten Global’s business unit in China.

The second pillar aims at embedding the management development programme within the organisation, through among others the professionalisation of the internal L&D function. Trainers from Schouten Global will train Huishan experts on a range of didactic, personal and functional skills, equipping them with the capacities and tools to optimise training sessions and resources within the firm.

For Huishan, the deal with the Dutch soft skills specialist builds on a warming trade relation with international enterprises. Earlier this year, the Chinese dairy giant announced a joint venture with Dutch FrieslandCampina to develop a new brand of baby milk, while in 2013 the Chinese teamed up with Switzerland-based consumer goods giant Hero to develop an infant formula milk powder.

Schouten Global - China

From Schouten Global’s perspective, the tie up adds another large Chinese corporate to its growing list of Asian clients, which includes the likes of Baidu (a search engine dubbed the Chinese Google), China Merchants Bank, Huawei and Air China. The programme will be executed by Schouten China, the firm’s Chinese operations with offices in Beijing and Shanghai, and supported by global experts. Globally, Schouten Global has more than 700 trainers, coaches and consultants in 50 countries.

* Founded in 1951, Huishan is the largest dairy producer in Northeast China. The company has three infant milk powder production bases with the design capacity to produce more than 160,000 metric tons per year.


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.