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‘We all need to be lifelong learners’: Judith Swales of Fonterra

‘We all need to be lifelong learners’: Judith Swales of Fonterra

Dairy co-operative encourages 22,000 staff across the globe to work on internal projects outside their normal roles

Fonterra’s ‘amp’, short for amplify, is an innovative new approach to working that is set to change the face of employment in the dairy co-operative

Fonterra’s ‘amp’, short for amplify, is an innovative new approach to working that is set to change the face of employment in the dairy co-operative

Fonterra employees will be able to spend up to a third of their time on projects outside their day jobs in what is believed to be a New Zealand-first initiative.

Fonterra’s ‘amp’, short for amplify, is an innovative new approach to working that is set to change the face of employment in the dairy co-operative.

Using a gig-economy type approach, employees will be empowered to work on internal projects outside their normal role, based on their individual skills or areas of interest.

“As well as supporting our peoples’ career development, amp will give Fonterra a competitive advantage by enabling us to harness the enormous breadth of skills across our workforce. It’s about amplifying the potential of our Co-op through the talent of our people,” says Judith Swales, chief operating officer, Velocity and Innovation, at Fonterra.

Our pilot showed amp not only lifts employee engagement, but also brings in innovative ideas from more diverse groups

Judith Swales, Fonterra

“With amp, our people have the chance to upskill and work on something completely different to their day jobs across areas where they either have a special interest or a particular skill,” says Swales, in a statement.

Fonterra’s amp uses a web-based app that enables employees to build a profile and match their experience and expertise to listings of internal projects.

Fonterra says similar programmes run internationally by companies such as Google and 3M have shown to increase engagement, enhance careers and lead to new innovations. 

3M’s programme, it says, resulted in top-selling products, including the Post-it note.

“As far as we know, Fonterra is the only organisation in New Zealand actively exploring this unique and innovative approach to driving employee satisfaction,” says Swales.

Starting off as a pilot, amp covered projects such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, virtual bakery stores in Asia and sustainability initiatives.

The programme is now available to 22,000 Fonterra employees across the globe.

“Results from our pilot showed that amp not only lifts employee engagement, but it also brings in innovative ideas from more diverse groups. It has helped people develop new career paths and has opened doors,” says Swales.

“It doesn’t matter where you work, how you work or what level you’re at – amp is about giving every employee the flexibility to expand their careers. It might be a few hours, days or weeks spent on a project outside of their current role, which helps to develop their skills and network.”

The initiative is part of Fonterra’s wider effort to build capabilities and prepare for the ever-evolving nature of work.

Last year, Fonterra won a Deloitte award for its other internal programme Disrupt, which allows employees to pitch new business ideas to the CEO.

“We’re investing in the growth of our people. Having the capability and appetite to continually grow will help every one of us be in the best position for the future. We all need to be lifelong learners,” says Swales.

Frances Valintine: ‘Stay curious, discover new skills’

Tech Futures Lab also explores a similar concept on lifelong learning, launching Digital Suitcase, an online programme for adults who are aware of emerging technologies, and want to know more about how these work.

Digital Suitcase is video-based, jargon free, and features highly knowledgeable hosts who will walk through students through new or difficult concepts. Topics include blockchain, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and augmented reality.

“Digital Suitcase is designed to build understanding and confidence. It simplifies the language and complexities of digital technologies and builds knowledge that can be directly applied at work or home,” says Frances Valintine, Tech Futures Lab founder.

Frances Valintine: 'Parents, employers and leaders need to learn and adopt new practices to remain connected to their job, their family and the fast changing world'
Frances Valintine: 'Parents, employers and leaders need to learn and adopt new practices to remain connected to their job, their family and the fast changing world'

Users can upskill, in their own time, at their own pace, in any location, starting at $4.95 per month.

Valintine says the best response to the challenge posed by technological advancement is to be curious, to be open-minded and to commit to the discovery of new skills.

“Parents, employers and leaders need to learn and adopt new practices to remain connected to their job, their family and the fast changing world,” she says.


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Tags innovationdiversitybig dataAIfuture of workFonterraCIO100shared economyFrances Valintinegig economylifelong learningcontinous learningcontinuous learningdigital transformationJudith Swalescuriousity

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