5 Awkward Conversations You’ll Have at the Office Party

Awkward conversations at the office holiday party are inevitable. But at least now you have some tips on how to deal with them!

awkward conversations

Need some advice for the inevitable awkward conversations at the office party? Here are some top tips for you!

Scenario 1: You’re stuck making small-talk with the boss and can’t think of anything to say. Awkward!

You’ve spent the entire party trying to avoid anyone in a management position and then you find yourself at the bar or buffet with the boss. And there’s nobody else there to share the conversational burden.

“So, are you enjoying the party?” enquires to boss. “Yes, thanks” is your answer. Then the conversation goes dead.

You have to fill the vacuum. After all, you don’t want him/her to think you have absolutely nothing to say. This is your chance to make a great impression…(or not!).

Don’ts:

  • Stand there grinning – come on, you can do better than that!
  • Walk off – that’s more embarrassing than an awkward silence.
  • Tell a joke – humour is subjective.
  • Make demands – now is not the time to say “as we are finally having a chat, I wanted to ask about a promotion”.
  • Try too hard to impress – avoid self-promotion. You may appear arrogant rather than self-confident if you start boasting about your sales or whatever. Now is not the time or place.

Do’s:

  • Prepare – think of something neutral you could say in advance. For example, I really prefer this venue to last year and then talk about best/worst party venues. But don’t rehearse the conversation (it won’t feel natural). If you are at the buffet you could even talk about the food. In desperation, ask about holiday plans.
  • Ask questions – when you are nervous there is a temptation to talk too quickly and too much. Remember a conversation is a two-way exchange so try to get the boss to do more of the talking by asking questions. And remember to actively listen.
  • Watch your body language – this can say more than words. Make eye contact, smile and try to look engaged and interested even if your instinct is to run and hide in the toilet.

Scenario 2: A colleague is flirting with you and is becoming increasingly suggestive and getting inappropriately close but you really are not interested.

Handle this carefully. If you publicly humiliate someone they will probably feel embarrassed and could accuse you of reading the situation wrongly. And if you have overthought it, you will look like an idiot for suggesting they were coming on to you.

Don’ts:

  • Be dismissive – telling someone that you are just not interested, even if you are being polite rather than rude, is a rejection. Most people don’t handle rejection well.
  • Go along with it – if you are not interested, don’t take advantage.
  • Make a big deal of it – drawing attention to the situation is going to make it worse.

Do’s:

  • Change the subject – if you can, and then find an excuse to move away and stay away even if you have to say you need the toilet. You don’t want to be left alone with them again.
  • Reject them without rejecting them – talk about your partner to make it clear you are not available. However, don’t lie (for example, say you are married when you are not) or try to deflect their attention by telling them someone else fancies them. That could lead to even more trouble.

Scenario 3: Your colleagues are pressuring you to join in with their drunken banter. You really don’t want to get involved because in past years this type of behaviour has cost people their careers.

Peer pressure is very powerful particularly when it is in the public setting of an office party. Everyone is doing shots, playing ‘truth or dare’ or ‘snog, marry, avoid’ (or other variations such as snog, marry, kill).

If you don’t join in, you might find you are not invited to the pub in future. But if you do, you could damage your career.

Don’ts:

  • Criticise – it is not your place to tell others what to do or how to behave (unless it is your place – in which case, you’ll have to come up with a more acceptable activity. Anyone for karaoke?)
  • Go along with it – if you are not comfortable with the way the conversation is going or are being asked to do something that could compromise your career, just don’t join in – even if you are called a chicken/wimp/loser etc.

Do’s:

  • Say no – do not do anything you are not comfortable with just to fit in. You can be identified as a trouble maker/sexist bully/aggressive drunk etc., just by associating with people who behave in this way.
  • Deflect attention – even if it means offering to buy everyone a drink to avoid the situation.

Scenario 4: The office gossip or political Machiavelli is grilling you for information. You don’t want to reveal too much, but you don’t want to get on their wrong side either.

The last thing you need is a reputation as the office gossip. For one, it may ruin any level of trust you have built up with colleagues. For another, you may end up hurting someone.

Don’t

  • Blurt out everyone’s secrets – they will find out it was you.

Do’s:

  • Be non-committal – don’t agree that someone is ‘awful’ but don’t disagree either. Say as little as possible.
  • Feign ignorance – pretend you don’t know what they are talking about. They will soon get bored and find another victim.

Scenario 5: You are desperately trying to talk to people, but they all make excuses and walk away leaving you standing awkwardly by yourself.

This can be a problem if you work from home part-time, usually leave early when everyone goes to the pub on a Friday, are not in the same age group as your colleagues, or suffer from social anxiety.

If you are not part of the “in” crowd, a work party can be a living hell particularly if you are left standing all on your own and everyone you smile at or say ‘hi’ to looks away.

Don’t:

  • Give up – leaving won’t solve anything. You will still feel left out next time.
  • Force the conversation – you cannot just slide into a group and interrupt. It’s rude and you are leaving yourself open to a brutal rejection.

Do:

  • Hang around in places where it’s easier to make conversation – the bar/the buffet/outside with the smokers. I know people who fake-vape just so they have an excuse to hang with the smokers who tend to be happy for company particularly if it’s freezing cold.
  • Prepare – try to find out who is going to the party, when they are arriving, etc. See if you can tag along with them – just be honest and say “I don’t really know anyone, can I walk there with you… it’s a bit awkward going on your own”.
  • Take support – if there is a +1 policy find the most fun friend you can and at least you can enjoy the free drink (assuming there is some)
  • Be helpful – offer to give people a lift. They will be more than happy to include you for a free ride home.

Contract Management: What Does ‘Good’ Look Like?

By necessity, Contract Management has moved on from the old days of paper copy and filing cabinets. But what does ‘good’ really look like?

contract management
Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

We recently published a piece about what ‘good’ strategic sourcing looks like. After all, if you are one of the many procurement organisations in the vast middle of the market, good is more likely to be your goal than total dominance.

In any area of a business, the difference between okay and ‘good’ may be the presence of a few extra steps, a little more attention to detail, or a bit more creative energy. This as is true for strategic sourcing as it is for contract management.

Contract management has evolved substantially since procurement started applying technology to expand its impact. It used to be that ‘good’ contract management meant your filing cabinet was complete, paper files were maintained in some sort of recognisable order and the drawers didn’t squeak too loudly when you opened them!

Legacy contract management was completely hard copy and based on the premise that procurement would be handled by a team co-located not just with each other, but with the stakeholders they supported. 

Today contract management has the potential to be one of the most critical and impactful activities conducted by procurement. This is partly due to the many changes the modern workforce has gone through. Companies and teams now span the globe, working in distributed offices or even from home. A filing cabinet full of dusty paper doesn’t stand a chance of being considered “good” today.

So what does ‘good’ contract management look like now?

‘Good’ contract management…

Has escaped the filing cabinet and gone completely online

Going beyond the filing cabinets of the past is essential given today’s new workforce trends. But the benefits of taking contracts online are far greater than just accessibility. Out of sight, out of mind as the old saying goes, and if there was one thing filing cabinets did almost without fail it was to ensure that contracts would be forgotten.

Now that contract management is conducted in the cloud, expiration and renewal dates can be set to alert the appropriate points of contact. The same is true for purchase volume thresholds associated with discounts or alternate terms. Contracts are regularly referenced and actively leveraged between signature and expiration, partly because they can speak for themselves, thanks to ‘good’ contract management technology.

Makes legal just as happy as procurement

While procurement and legal may not always see eye to eye or have the same priorities for contract management technology, it is absolutely essential that both teams fully adopt the chosen solution. The maximum value is achieved when red-lining, signature, storage and reporting all happen in one place, and for that to be a reality, legal has to support the solution.

This probably played the greatest role in contract management solutions growing beyond repositories. Quick access to standard language, a clause library and the ability to support eSignatures gives legal meaningful reasons to embrace contract management.

Is an active process that supports additional enterprise efforts

Procurement can achieve so many things through contracts, far more than just designating approved suppliers and specifying prices and service levels or delivery timelines. Companies can invest in, and benefit from, their small and diverse supplier programmes, ensuring that certifications and accreditations are both up to date and documented.

While strategic sourcing and contract management both have a process component and a technology component, the tie is much stronger with contracts. Given the needs of distributed accessibility and centralised data, contract management can not exist without effective technology, let alone aspire to be ‘good’. If all spend brought under management is covered by contracts, then all of procurement’s work should be conducted under, and informed by, contracts.

Supply chain risk can be monitored and mitigated, as can complex regulatory oversight and compliance. Better still, contracts can become a launching pad for innovation and collaboration projects with our most strategic supply partners. All of this is made possible when actively managed contracts create a safe, protected space for business to happen in.

If you would like to know about about Ivalua’s Contract Management Solution, please visit the Ivalua website.

5 Conversation Starters for your Festive Party

Ready for another round of parties this festive season? Here are some hot tips and conversation starters to get you through your next social engagements.

conversation starters
Photo from Pixabay on Pexels

The festive season can be a continual revolving door of social situation after social situation. When it comes to the work environment not only do you have to deal with your own office but often those within your customer or supply network as well.

Making small talk and being stuck in social situations is even harder when your energy is low and you’ve had enough of people. What makes it hard for us to engage in conversations and why should you care?

Fear of Being Rejected?

A University of Chicago study by Nick Epley has revealed the biggest reason people don’t want to engage in conversation or small talk is a fear of rejection. This causes the brain to assign a high degree of risk in the concept of talking to strangers or making small talk.

There has been a further study that has proven this assumption to be incorrect, where no initiator of small talk was rejected.

Myth Busted

Armed with cold hard scientific facts doesn’t make the situation any easier but at least you know that most people are willing and receptive to talking. Here are five conversation starters to get you taking that all important first step.

1. Check the attendees and do research

Look up who is attending and what projects that they have recently completed. This can work for internal office parties and for your customers or suppliers. Work related topics are the safest, but make sure you keep it light.

2. How to deal with hierarchy

There have been a few occasions when fate has left me a few drinks in standing with the CEO. Don’t be silent susan. Management are human to, stick with safe topics like plans for the holidays. If you’re feeling really jazzy ask them what their biggest success or challenge was in the past year.

3. Common ground

If you’ve exhausted all your “go to’s” then try to think of some common situations where you may be able to relate to each other. Start simple with “are you more into podcasts, books or movies? What’s your favourite?”.

A Harvard University study has found that asking people about themselves can cause a change in the brain that naturally enhances their mood. The trick is to make it general enough that it doesn’t seem intrusive.

4. Do the twist

Flip the script a bit. We all get stuck with the usual silence fillers of “what are you doing for your break?”.

Tweak things slightly and ask “what are you most looking forward to over the holiday season?”. You’ll make the person think and it will provide opportunity for light, but genuine, conversation.

5. The naughty list

It’s good to keep in mind things that are a no go zone. If these things are executed exceptionally badly, they may prove to be career limiting moves.

  • Don’t get wasted. Monitor your drink intake and make sure you eat!
  • Don’t participate in gossip. You’ll get such a cringe when you next see the people in the sober (fluorescent) light of day
  • Don’t cross the personal communication line. It’s probably not a good look to leave voice notes over messenger or create an IG story of your new bestie.
  • Don’t discuss work in depth. It’s amazing what you can hear on public transport or out and about, let alone at an office party. If you are representing your company at a customer or supplier event then don’t be drawn in to talking about the competition or your organisation. You’re still logged on.

By applying the first five tips and avoiding the naughty list you’ll be sure to be on top form this festive season. No ragrets! Regerts! Oh, you know what we mean…

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

Guide to Writing a Supply Management Plan

Though it may seem like a daunting task initially, writing a solid supply management plan for your organisation will really set you up for success.

From Startup Stock Photos on Pexels

This is the second part in a series. Read the first on ‘Writing a Brief for the Procurement of Goods and Services’ here.

Supply management is one of the key components of a successful business regardless of its niche or service portfolio. Once you find a suitable supplier or B2B partner with the items or services you need to remain operational at peak capacity, you will want to ensure that a supply management plan is in effect.

However, drafting such a document takes effort and panache for small details due to legalities and mutual obligations that will require careful listing and formatting. According to Finances Online, 57 per cent of companies believe that adequate supply management gives them a competitive edge that enables further business development. 62 per cent report limited visibility in terms of being informed about their supply chain status at any given moment.

This creates an incentive for companies to create a supply management plan which can easily be retrofitted for different applications and allow them to stay informed about their inventory at all times. Let’s take a look at how you can benefit from supply management plan writing and the steps necessary for its successful drafting and approval by all parties included.

Basics and Benefits of Supply Management Plans

It’s worth noting what supply management planning is all about before we jump into writing guidelines and plan outlining. Supply Management Planning is a forward-thinking process that involves coordination aimed at optimising the delivery of goods or services from a supplier to a customer.

Its main focus is to balance the supply and demand through inventory planning, production scheduling, and delivery organisation. Writing a supply management plan for your business’ needs will allow you to streamline product delivery and quicken the general turnaround time of your contracts due to the standardisation of written documentation.

Relying on writing tools such as Grammarly (a dedicated proofreading tool), Studicus (a professional outsourcing platform), Evernote (a cloud-based text editing service), as well as Grab My Essay (a document writing platform) will help you get the documents shipped to clients and contractors with impeccable speed and quality. While these documents are not special and show up quite frequently in companies that rely on shipping or ordering of goods and services, their standardisation will bring about several benefits to your business, including the following:

  • Better stakeholder cooperation and networking
  • Improved supply management efficiency
  • Lowered risk of delays and bottlenecks
  • Increased profit margin and ROI

Supply Management Plan Writing Guidelines

Supply Management Plan Overview

The first thing worth noting is that a supply management plan isn’t bound by length or complexity – it all depends on your contract’s requirements. Supply management plans are typically assigned for a fixed duration of time, be it several weeks or years in advance, thus allowing two parties to manage the supply line between them. In that regard, the first page of your plan should focus on an introductory segment that will outline the supply management document in its entirety.

Elements such as the name of your recipient (company name, representative name, address, etc.) as well as products or services outline (product category, number of items, estimated value, etc.) should find their way into the plan overview. This will allow the reader to quickly scan the document and become acquainted with your requirements without going through several pages of the supply management plan.

Supply Procurement Policies Outline

Every organisation, be it focused on physical goods or cloud-based services, features certain procurement policies. It is pivotal for your business’ reputation and longevity of your contracts to outline any special requests or policies you have in advance for the sake of transparency.

In this segment, it’s good to include information pertaining to your storage capacities, safety regulations and procurement facilities you have access to. This will ensure that your recipient is aware of the environment in which their goods will be stored and to better prepare their shipments in case of special climate or infrastructure requirements on your part.

Detail the Quality Assurance Systems

No matter how good your relation with a certain supplier may be, you should still rely on objective QA systems when it comes to supply risk management. The plan you write and send out as a procurement document should include a breakdown of your QA systems, as well as any regulations it covers based on health and safety hazard standards.

This is especially important when shipping medical equipment, chemical compounds and other hazardous materials that can cause severe human danger if mismanaged or stored inadequately. Most importantly, outline your specific guidelines in case of procurement contamination or product failure on the shipment’s arrival into your facilities to cover all grounds.

List International/State Laws

Chances are that you will sometimes work with international suppliers and companies that don’t share your governmental or legal jurisdiction. When that happens, you should ensure that international and state laws pertaining to your industry are listed on the supply management plan with follow up links or documents.

If you work with suppliers which don’t speak your language, you can refer to platforms such as Is Accurate, which is a translation review website, in order to ensure that your writing is understandable due to its importance. It’s also good practice to requisition legal documents and shipping approvals from the supplier for your own border and customs checks and their timely processing.

Outline your Supply Selection

You should follow up on your initial product or service procurement outline from the opening segment of the supply management plan with a detailed breakdown of your requisition. One of the easiest ways to do so is to create a simple table with clearly outlined product categories, product names, procurement numbers, as well as any special requests you may have, such as limited-time-only procurements.

This will allow your supplier to process the order quickly and to clearly understand which items you will require for the duration of your contract. Make sure to include a quick contact information line in this section to allow for follow-ups in case of unclear requirements or a lack of products on your supplier’s side.

Detail the Distribution Timeline

Lastly, supply management plans should come with a detailed breakdown of the distribution timeline pertaining to the previously outlined order. Do you require the items to be shipped to numerous different retail fronts across the country – if so, in what order and quantity? Will you handle a part or the entirety of the shipping procedure and only require the supplier to prepare your items for pickup?

Do you require any safety or manpower assistance with handling the supply going forward or do you have sufficient capacities to do both? These items should be added to the distribution section alongside a rudimentary contract timeline that will allow the supplier to quickly scan through their obligations toward your business.

Not as Daunting as it Seems

Writing a supply management plan for your company may seem like a daunting task at first. However, it is a pivotal step toward creating a reliable and professional supply management network.

Find ways to implement the above-discussed supply management plan guidelines in your own business practice and contractual obligations. Their inclusion in your supply documentation will help your business’ ongoing growth and stability on the market going forward.

Avoiding a Cultural Festive Faux-Pas

How can you avoid making a cultural faux-pas when it comes to this holiday season and others throughout the year?

cultural diversity

With the end of year and festive season rapidly approaching I am always mindful of the significance of religious holidays to different cultures.

Continuing our discussion around cultural intelligence and working across cultures, I thought it might be apt to discuss acknowledging religious holidays in the workplace and how best to navigate this topic in a respectful and inclusive way.

Agile and Aware Approach

Religion is a key component of how people and societies make sense of their existence and provide meaning to their lives. Religion can also act as a moral and ethical guide for behaviour and is a defining element of many cultures. It is only natural then that some of the practices and beliefs people have as part of their religion intersect with the workplace.

As many workplaces exist within a cultural setting dominated by one particular group, it is increasingly necessary for businesses and leaders to adopt an agile and aware approach so they can be inclusive and supportive of their staff.

A situation I encountered with an organisation in Australia a few years ago demonstrates how contentious and uncomfortable it can be when awareness around the importance of religious holidays is not in place. The organiser of an event to be held in Melbourne for an Asia-Pacific team could not understand the response he received when the event dates were released. Members of the team in Asia Pacific were upset and distressed at the timing of the event and there was a lot of push back.

As it happened, the event was scheduled to take place during the Chinese New Year celebrations. These are, of course, a significant time in a number of Asian countries.

We discussed this issue further in light of the reaction. I mentioned that it would be the same as scheduling this event during the Christmas/New year period in Australia. He then realised his error and made changes to the event dates to avoid causing further offense.

Acknowledging Diversity in the Workplace

This example highlights the importance of using Cultural Intelligence (CQ). If we apply it in terms of the components of CQ- Drive, Knowledge, Strategy and Action, we have a complete and practical guide to unpacking and evaluating the best way to manage situations like this in the workplace.

So if we take into consideration the theoretical steps that can be taken when acknowledging religious holidays in the workplace, what are some of the tangible actions we can take to navigate this type of challenge in the workplace?

Be Ahead of the game

Use a diversity calendar that notes the important dates from many religions. This way you are able to be aware of timing and scheduling for meetings, busy periods, etc. There are numerous available on the internet.

Be Inclusive

Find the shared values within religious holidays that can be used to unite and connect people regardless of individual religions.

Be Flexible

Allow staff time off during important celebrations. Be aware of when they occur during the year so major conflicts can be avoided.

Be Aware and Respectful

When organising parties ensure that non-alcoholic beverages and religious dietary requirements are considered.

Be Mindful

As with all of the above, be aware that there will be cultural diversity in your workplace. Take time to understand the overall impact and bring everyone on board with your activities.

Recognise and Educate

Use the opportunities of religious celebrations and holidays to highlight the benefits of diversity. Allow people to appreciate cultures beyond their own and perhaps encourage an education session on the particular event.

Through the use of CQ we are able to better understand both people and culture whilst also creating a space where diversity and inclusion is valued, and the benefits realised. As globalisation and its impacts continue to change the way we work, it is vital that we take conscious steps to be more inclusive and accommodating in our approach to different cultures.

Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and happy festive season and a wonderful year ahead in 2020!

5 Holiday Party No-No’s

Looking forward to the holiday party season? No? You’re not alone. But even if you don’t enjoy them, there are some things you just can’t do.

holiday party no-no's
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Only 1 in 4 of us actually look forward to our workplace holiday party. It’s not just the cost or the dread of being stuck with the office bore –  there’s also the risk of doing something so embarrassing it’s career suicide.

So, what are the five things you should never, ever do?

1. Not Turning Up

It may be tempting to give the office party a miss. Yes, you may have to chip in for drinks, pay for a babysitter and spend your hard-earned cash on a taxi home. It’s a lot of money for an event you really don’t want to attend.

However, not going singles you out as an employee who is either: not committed to their company, antisocial, a miserable scrooge or someone who thinks they are above attending a ‘boring’ work event. None of these are things you want to be known for.

So go. You don’t have to drink excessively or stay too late, but you should attend.

TIP: Say you really want to come but you have to be at a meeting at 8am/the babysitter has to go at 10pm/you need to be at your spouse’s work event too (or a similar excuse). And for the few hours you are there make sure you look like you are having a good time.

2. Getting Drunk

Even if you work in a culture that doesn’t seem to have heard of #MeToo or where everyone is encouraged to do shots and dance on the tables, be aware of your behavior. If you want to get smashed, do it on your own time.

A work event, should be viewed as just that. Work. So, behave accordingly. If you make a joke that is in poor taste or engage in banter that can be seen as offensive, these can all be disciplinary matters leading to dismissal.

With smart phones and social media, you may not even be aware that your rude comment about the boss is being posted online or your sexually suggestive dancing with an embarrassed and unwilling colleague is trending. It’s hard to dispute evidence like that.

TIP: If you fear you will drink excessively or don’t want to drink alcohol, say you have left the car at the station and don’t want to drink-and-drive. Or set yourself a strict two drink limit. Your holiday party may only last a few hours – don’t let it ruin the rest of your working life.

Did you know? When it comes to the most embarrassing moments at work nearly 1 in 6 admit to getting “too” drunk at the work holiday party. Don’t let that be you.

3. Revealing too much – TMIs and PDAs

You’ve had a few drinks and are feeling a bit nervous – and that means you end up babbling. But in a bid to make your conversation more interesting you share too much information (TMI) on the gruesome details of your recent illness. Or a mile by mile account of your training schedule for your next triathlon.

Or your long-list of online dating disasters including all the intimate details, or every little thing your little ones have ever done with the photos to prove it.

Remember you need to have boundaries and know when to stop. Just because you are at a party, it doesn’t mean you should overshare. Nobody is interested, and if they are, it’s probably because you’re saying something you shouldn’t.

Anything you say can and probably will be used against you. Just because you have a hazy memory of the party, does not mean everyone else will. So revealing that you once snogged someone on a work trip might come back to haunt you.

The same applies to kissing your partner in front of your colleagues (keep your hands to yourself…until you get home). There is a time and place for everything and the work party is not one of them.

And if you are tempted to have a public display of affection (PDA) with a colleague, bear in mind that this can cause friction within your work team. And, as worst, it can even leave you open to claims of sexual harassment.

TIP: Drinking less can help you to realise when you need to shut up or your behaviour is getting out of line. If you are taking your other half along, ask them to interrupt you if you reveal too much and/or everyone appears bored.

4. Talking about Politics or Any Other Divisive Topic

There is nothing worse than someone asking you who you are voting for, if you are pro or against Brexit, or your opinion on any other political topic. So do not introduce this into any conversation.

If you are talking to someone more senior and they want to talk politics, it can be very awkward and you may feel you have to agree with them to avoid them thinking badly of you. Whatever you do, don’t get into an argument.

TIP: Change the subject, offer to buy a round, go to the toilet, or say you have to ring and check on the babysitter. Anything to avoid touching on politics unless you are absolutely sure you all agree on the subject.

5. Engaging in Office Politics

The other type of politics you need to avoid are office politics.

You may see the office holiday party as the perfect opportunity to get chatting to the boss about a promotion while he is in a good mood. Or see it as a chance to network with the right people.

The only problem is that they will see right through you. And you may be the 20th person to try the same thing at the same party.

So, introduce yourself (if they don’t know who you are) and if you want to get the conversation going stick to subjects that interest them.

TIP: It’s relatively easy to find out what people do in their spare time (just look on social media). So, if you want to start a conversation with someone senior talk about their hobby or other interest or find common ground.

Perhaps you went to the same uni, have volunteered with the same organisation or are both vegan and are avoiding the buffet. Make it about them, not about you. The aim is to leave a positive lasting impression.

Whatever you do, do not bad mouth anyone. Who knows who could overhear?!

Four Reasons Why Value Is the New Procurement Normal

We’re all talking about delivering value these days in procurement, aren’t we? But with so many definitions around, how do we maximise its impact?

value
Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

We’re all talking about delivering value these days in procurement, aren’t we?  Value is now the new normal.  And everyone has their own take on what delivering value for the business really means.  There’s no single definition.

So Procurious were delighted when our November Roundtable sponsor Ivalua asked us to use value as our theme. Here are some of the great insights that speakers shared with attending CPOs on the day.

Stakeholder Value – an idea whose time has come?

In August, Business Roundtable CEOs made the announcement that value is about more than just shareholders. It’s this idea that we should be focusing on going forward.

And they were clear that value, rather than maximising return to shareholders, is now “the essential role corporations can play in improving our society when CEOs are truly committed to meeting the needs of all stakeholders.” 

But what does this mean in practice for procurement? And how can we demonstrate stakeholder value? Stuart Woollard has been at the forefront of pioneering work in this field for many years, assessing the measurement of factors beyond cost. 

Stuart had a warning for the CPOs too that, “being purpose driven is not enough”. He urged a move away from a focus solely on output metrics, and encouraged them to take a balanced multi-faceted approach. 

Stuart and his organisation, The Maturity Institute, has a tool that they’ve been using to achieve this balance for many years. But just because there’s a method of measuring value doesn’t mean this shift will be easy.

Finally, Stuart reminded the CPOs that, “Without support from the CEO and your Board, you may not achieve the shift to value that you need”, bringing home the point that buy-in is needed across the leadership team and beyond, in order to ensure success.

The value in your supply chain comes from people

If changing to a value-based model will require a mindset change at the top is there anything CPOs and their teams can do right now?

Nadia Youds, from UK retailer John Lewis & Partners, told our CPOs that an approach targeting employees is a great way to deliver value back to the business. “Job design in our supply chain is as much about the business relationships procurement has put in place as it is about the suppliers themselves.”

Nadia is clear about the connection between the buying organisation and the way employees in the supply chain are treated, and the work they’re expected to deliver. 

Although Nadia and her team have developed an assessment process that moves away from the standard suppler audit, she was keen to stress that the process needs to move away from compliance as a ‘tick box exercise’.

Using an approach that focuses on people and jobs, particularly in the manufacturing industry, can help suppliers develop and retain their workforce. This will lead to them ultimately being more competitive in the market.

Winning the war for talent – could value be the key?

Many CPOs are facing huge challenges in talent recruitment and retention. Procurement is still keen to learn from the best. And so a chance to see what the Tech industry does to source and retain the right people was an eagerly anticipated agenda item. Andrew MacAskill, from Career Jump and Finlay James was the person for the job (as it were!).

“We’ve still got a long way to go to attract the brightest minds in the industry,” Andrew mused. He reminded CPOs we can learn a lot from the Tech industry where “talent has become the customer”.

One tactic Andrew urged CPOs to consider is to build their own online personal brand. Many of his candidates select roles based on a leader, not a brand. “They’re asking themselves the question – do I trust this person to take my career forward?”

The issue of whether the talent wants to work for us led Andrew to suggest a reverse interview process:

  1. Sell your vision to the candidate – why should they want to work for you;
  2. Conduct a balanced interview – make sure the process and discussion is equal between recruiter and candidate;
  3. Open up the floor – give the candidate the chance to sell themselves to you.

Andrew shared that testing for the candidate’s attitude, cognitive aptitude and habits is the norm in tech recruitment processes. He urged CPOs to consider this when they’re recruiting team members to help them deliver their vision for value.

Value remains the same throughout history

Looking back through history shows that data gives procurement a head start when it comes to delivering value. Ivalua’s Stephen Carter has studied the impact from medieval times right up to the present day.

“There’s a lot we can learn from history about how we can exceed our stakeholder expectations” explained Stephen, “and a good overview of your data can provide the key.”

Even in the late 17th Century, procurement used data to provide insight into what their stakeholders needed. Looking at past spending trends, conditions and requirements, military campaigns were won due to the foresight of procurement in providing equipment not in the client’s original scope of requirements.

From history to the modern day, the value that procurement can deliver comes from insights that organisational data provides. It’s clear that whether our focus is strategic or operational, within our team or in our supply chains, delivering value is fully embedded as the new procurement normal. 

And as we set ourselves a new target to deliver value, there are no better words than those of the final speaker on the day, adventurer George Bullard.

“Research your goal, make sure you are prepared and fix a time to start.” Words to live and work by.

In 2020, we will be holding CPO Roundtable events in London and Edinburgh. If you are interested in attending one of these events, please contact Laura Hine by clicking here.

It’s So Quiet in the Office – Where is Everyone?

It’s the time of year where the office gets really quiet. So how are you going to use this quiet time productively?

quiet office
Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

We’ve all now started the long wind down towards Christmas. People are tired and losing focus and everyone is trying to spend as little time in the office as possible. But this is the perfect time to think about you want to achieve in 2020. I know my first priority is to get out the calendar and pencil in my proposed vacation days!   

Seriously though, what do you need to do to get where you want to be by the end of next year? It may be expanding or updating your current skills, actual re-training for a new role or adding to your formal education. 

Whatever it is, start planning it now.

Update Your CV   

Even if you are content in your current role, updating your CV is not a waste of time. Mergers and acquisitions often result in reduced office headcount, strategy changes may mean that your project is canned or your department is closed. No job is really secure.

Spending a couple of hours over the holidays on your CV will pay off later, even if you are only looking for an internal promotion.

What to take out:

1. Check for obsolete words and phrases. Remember Windows Vista and  Word Perfect and MS-DOS? Neither do new employers! Clear out any references to old technologies which date your skills.

2. Your high school results are irrelevant for anyone over 21. Many companies are claiming that they do not consider university education important either, but we are not there yet. Include your tertiary qualifications (provided you did successfully complete them). If you graduated in the 80’s it doesn’t matter, you don’t have to give dates. If you dropped out, don’t mention it.   

3. Any early work experience or entry-level jobs from more than 10 years ago are of no interest. Ageism is alive and well in recruitment, take steps to make your CV age-neutral as far as possible. If a role needs you to show 10 years’ experience, only do that. 

What to put in:

  • Design your CV for the role that you are seeking.  Highlight projects that directly relate to the skills in the job listing you’re targeting. Respond to what exactly is asked for. 
  • One concise page is better than two with padding. Recruiters and hiring managers have short attention spans. Too much information is a turn-off.
  • Update your list of skills. Add new bullet points for technical skills acquired since the last CV update, especially focus on those in short supply. Highlight your achievements in team-leading and collaboration, especially if you aspire to a management role. 
  • Add in any reference sites where published work can be found including informative articles and blogs. 

Your Online Media Presence  

Despite the downsides of having a personal presence online, it is still a benefit to have a professional profile there.  You can’t hide from social media so pick a favourite and use it wisely.

LinkedIn is the most useful tool for business professionals.  With more than 20 million companies listed on LinkedIn and 14 million open jobs, it’s no surprise to find out that 90 per cent of recruiters regularly use it.

There are plenty of places where you can express your personal opinions on politics, religion or details of your pets, etc.  LinkedIn is not one of them. When updating an online profile, make sure that the content aligns exactly with your CV.  Astute hiring managers will pick up any anomalies. 

Sad to say, but recruiters also scour Facebook and Twitter looking for “background”, so review your content there too, even if you are not actively job hunting. The safest place on-line is having your own website (where you have full control of the content). 

Getting an Interview  

If you are actively looking for a change, think about your cover letter.  This is your opportunity to showcase and what you can offer, in your own words.  It can also highlight what you want which saves wasted time on both sides. A good cover letter will get you the interview. 

Jim says “I got rid of any reference older than 10 years, but what got me lots of interviews was the T-form cover letter. I put a two-column table in my one-page Word doc cover letter where their main job requirements are placed in the left column and how I have met or exceeded them on the right side. This provides a fast screen for the HR or recruiter and in most cases, I ended up with a face to face interview after the initial phone screening.”

Fortunately, the need for procurement skills will not decline, but the requirements are definitely changing.  Employers are looking for those with new skills such as understanding how to manage big data in the cloud, how you can contribute to sustainability and the triple bottom line. Will you be ready?   

Going Global While Being Ethical? Smart Contract Management Can Help

The risks associated with ethical sourcing have never been higher. How can you go global without compromising your ethics?

ethical sourcing
Photo by Pascal Bernardon on Unsplash

For enterprises with complex, global supply chains, the risks and challenges associated with ethical sourcing have never been higher. Over the past decade, supply disruption has gone from being an exceptional event to at least an annual – if not quarterly or monthly – occurrence. Most organisations are simply not prepared, even though they may have checked the box with fairly narrow supplier risk management assessments. 

One reason for the increased risk? Contract visibility. The ability for companies to instantly locate, retrieve, analyse and track contracts across the enterprise, continues to be suboptimal at many large companies. When these contracts are sitting as unstructured data in a repository that’s difficult to search — or even worse in someone’s desk — bad things happen.

For example, one technology consulting firm missed $1.5 million in revenue recognition when a manually-tracked contract expired, but work was still performed against it. Discounts and rebates are overlooked, and unwanted renewals happen on autopilot. Poor contract management can also lead to reputation and brand damage when companies unknowingly use unethical suppliers.

So what can we do? Gaining visibility into commercial engagements can help.

Blockchain-based contract management is changing the game

As organisations become more and more concerned about supply chain risk, the need for better visibility is more critical than ever before. Enterprise contract management software provides that visibility by tracking what a firm’s worldwide obligations, entitlements and business relationships truly are.

This software gives organisations a firm grasp on their supply chain, key suppliers, the composition of the products they’re purchasing and the locales in which they’re operating.

Technologies like AI, Machine Learning and Blockchain are proving key for enterprises to mitigate risk in the future. This contract management space is a hot sector and continues to experience rapid growth. According to MGI, the market itself is worth $20 billion. This is reflective of large enterprises’ desire to digitally transform their commercial foundation. This helps them save money, reduce risk and improve compliance.

For example, customers like Mercedes-Benz Cars have already taken advantage of this technology. They have done so by utilising smart contracts on the Icertis Blockchain Framework to create an immutable distributed ledger of transactions.

This helps to ensure global sourcing and contracting practices adhere to Mercedes-Benz Cars’ strict requirements for sustainable, ethical and secure sourcing.

The future of ethical globalisation

I recently attended The Big Ideas Summit, a great event for procurement professionals that brings together the top figures in the industry to discuss the current business landscape and bring unique, innovative ideas to the table.

Right now, we’re in the early stages of technologies like blockchain and just starting to see major impacts. Three years from now we’ll have conclusive data on how blockchain has helped increase visibility into, and compliance among, supply chains.

Already, these blockchain and distributed ledger technologies are significantly changing the way organisations do business with vendors, partners, and customers, impacting the way companies approach, execute and enforce business contracts.

Although most organisations associate blockchain technology with the financial services industry, it has potential use within the manufacturing, government, healthcare and education sectors as well. This includes how those industries execute and enforce contracts.

For example,the Icertis Contract Management (ICM) platform is already used to manage 6.5 million contracts at companies like 3M, Airbus, Daimler, Microsoft, Sanofi and Wipro in more than 40 languages across 90 countries. The AI-powered platform allows customers to increase contract velocity and agility, proactively manage entitlements and obligations, as well as surface commercial insights and intelligence.

One day, blockchains that utilise distributed ledger technology may even allow for contracts that are self-verifying, self-executing and autonomous. Companies can exchange terms, events, and information throughout the lifecycle of a contract without relying on brokers or middlemen.

This streamlined approach to supply chain management will help reduce costs and solve the hardest contract management problems on the most easy to use platform, thereby improving the bottom line.

To learn more about Icertis’ contract management software, visit the Icertis website.

The Introverts Guide to Office Parties

‘Tis the season for office parties. And also the season for introverts everywhere to agonise over whether they really want to attend…

christmas parties
Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

There is nothing worse than the festive time of year for an introvert. All the dreaded required and implied invitations come in. It’s also the time of year when energy is lowest, you’re just amped to get out of the office for a well earned break. Not rub shoulders and trade awkward bants with office colleagues that you already see waaaay too much of.

You’re in a Social Pickle

Follow these tips to manage any social situation where you find yourself held hostage.

Parties – do your homework

Don’t ignore it, you’re going to have to face the facts that this dreaded situation is upon you. Find out who is organising the party and ask them how it’s going. You’ll likely get a barrage of problems and issues, act as a safe venting space and you’ll gain their trust. They’ll give you a preview of the rundown of how things are going to go. You can use your new found friendship to conveniently place yourself away from the scheduled office conga line.

Maths is your friend

Arrive early to leave early. Attendance and face time at an office party is about being seen, you don’t have to be there the whole time to get a tick in the box for attendance. It can also double as a great excuse to leave “yeah look I’ve been here 14 hours already helping susan prep the sausage rolls, so I really need to get home to let kid/dog/goldfish out for some air…”

Find a role

Use your new office BFF aka the party organiser to your advantage. Find out if there is anything you can strategically do to “help” to remain largely unseen with limited interaction. Hand out props to people going into the photobooth, help the band get their gear in, clear tables or fill up the toothpicks.

Size matters

The number of people at the party could have an impact on how much the dialled is turned up on your introvert richter scale. Review the RSVP list and check who is going versus who is invited. As you’re scanning the list think of any relevant projects they’ve been involved in and store away some one liners like “how did you find your experience on [x project]?”

Where’s your energy?

The labels of extrovert and introvert were created in the 1920s by the psychologist Carl Jung. In a nutshell he states that the difference comes down to whether people recharge by being around people or being alone.

In a party situation if you can quieten the external stimulus enough you may begin to see where your mind is. If it’s racing in a million different areas worrying about a million different things then you need to focus on just one thing, even if that one thing is twirling the straw in your glass.

Back-up Strategies

If the top tips don’t work then do some prep and follow these tried and true failsafes.

  • Seek Refuge. Find a safe team and stick with them.
  • Infiltrate. Call in back-up, invite some people loosely related to your team and form your own rival crew. Even better if they also hate office parties to! Think of the biggest project your team worked on during the year, are there any stakeholders that you could invite?
  • Decline, don’t go. If you really hate office parties that much then try to decline and offer an alternative like a team lunch out. At least you can limit your interaction to a small group of people.

The Best Kept Secret

The ultimate survival strategy comes down to one thing: own it.

There is no harm in being straight up with people. In fact it can be a really good conversation starter and you’ll probably be surprised how many people are exactly in the same boat.

Own your label and own your needs. Take that fresh air or break in the bathroom to recharge. The hungry extroverts have been filling their bellies with all the social antics and office banter. It’s ok to refuel by yourself on your own terms.

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.