Category Archives: Career Management

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?!

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?   

5 Steps to Building an Amazing Presentation

No matter what you’re doing, it’s hard to think you’ll avoid doing a presentation at one point or another. So how do you deliver thrill rather than dud?

awesome presentation
Photo by 祝 鹤槐 from Pexels

If the thought of delivering a presentation to your team, key stakeholders or even the C-suite leaves you in a cold sweat, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

Presenting might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean it’s something you will be able to avoid forever, particularly as your procurement career progresses. At some point you’ll be required to communicate the profession’s value-add or pitch ideas to decision-makers in your organisation. And that means it’s worth getting your skills up-to-speed so you are ready to step up to the plate in style when the time comes.

Fortunately, whether you are delivering a keynote to an audience of thousands or to two members of the senior leadership team, there’s a proven formula to getting it right every time.

One person who I always look to as a mentor in this space is Colin James, an expert speaker and facilitator who has spent the past 25 years working with senior executives around the world, helping them to master their presentation and storytelling skills.

In a recent conversation with Colin for Inside Influence podcast, we discussed the key steps to getting it right when you’re given that all-important hour to present to the CEO or CFO.

Step 1: Walk the (right) walk

The very first thing that you do on stage or in a meeting is vital – it sets the tone for the rest of the time you have. When you enter a room for your next meeting, ask yourself what the way you walked in says about you, your attitude and your intentions for that meeting.

When someone arrives with energy and urgency, sits upright in their seat and makes eye contact with others it signals something very different to a person who slops in and collapses in a chair.  The latter says “I don’t care, I’m exhausted, what am I doing here?” Incredibly, this is all being communicated without a single word being uttered.

What your physiology says about you in the first 30 seconds really counts. Colin’s main simple but effective tip (especially for people seeking to build their professional brand) is this: simply walk faster. Walk faster into the room; walk faster into that meeting or onto the stage – walk faster everywhere you go! The increase in pace will increase your energy – it will also increase the perceived urgency of your objectives.

Step 2: Start strong and finish strong

Any good presentation needs a clear concept (a title) that makes it immediately clear to the audience what your presentation is about – and what you’re trying to achieve. A misleading, ambiguous or dry title could lose your audience just as easily as a muddled or confused structure.

You can’t impress people that aren’t in the room – so first rule of thumb – get a title that’s going to peak the interest of your target market.

It’s also important to bookend your presentation with strong opening and closing statements. The reality is that information communicated at the beginning or the end of an educational episode is far more likely to be retained by your audience than the content in the middle.

The age-old advice on public speaking is useful here – “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them again. Then tell them what you’ve told them.”

Step 3: Divide (into chunks) and conquer

Colin recommended embedding three or four major themes – chunks – into the body of the presentation. These are the ideas, or principles, you want to get across to your audience.

Each chunk should have a principle, and each principle will support your overall concept. The connected detail, i.e. the stories you tell within each principle, should validate that principle and ultimately connect to your concept and title.

So as an example – what three things would your audience need to think, believe or do differently in order to take advantage of what you’re offering in this presentation?

Step 4: Tell a story

Once you have the principles in place – now it’s time to bring them to life through storytelling. Colin recommends that within each principle you need at least one story that illuminates the application of that principle in the world.

This can be a story from the past, an imagined scenario, or a potential event; so long as it is something that allows your audience to see your ideas applied in the real world. Telling a good story requires the following structure:

1. The event: The where, when, who, how and what.

2. The point: Your story needs to come to a clear point. If you’re pitching to decision-makers, this means you want someone to say yes to your idea. People are naturally influenced by social proof. If other people have done it or supported the idea or concept you are pitching – tell them! We don’t search for online reviews and testimonials for no reason – positive social proof makes us far more likely to take action.

3. The link: Your stories should be linked to the outcome you seek. In other words provide an actionable path to a desired outcome for our target audience.

Step 5: Take out 50 per cent

According to Colin, the most common mistake presenters make is to overpack their presentations with content. His advice? Design and plan your presentation for whatever time you have – then take out 50 per cent of the content.

It’s exactly the same concept as packing for a holiday. Most people going on an overseas trip over pack and then spend two weeks dragging around an enormous amount of excess stuff they neither use or wear. The same goes for presenting. Less is more.

So why is all of this important? Most presentations don’t fail because of a lack of good, valuable or important information. Or due to a lack of skill, intent or commitment from the person delivering. Most instead fail because the structure of that information isn’t compelling enough to hold our attention.

Like any exchange of energy – there is a formula we can replicate to get the right results. Once we break that formula down to its most simplistic components – and start consistently applying those rules to our own presentations – the impact takes care of itself.

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration into what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes or Julie’s website.

Providing Feedback Across Cultures

Providing feedback can be tricky at the best of times. However, throw in cross-cultural considerations and you’re talking a completely different game.

cultural feedback
Photo by Adam Jang on Unsplash

As we continue our Cultural Intelligence series, I thought it would be useful to discuss some of the different ways of providing performance feedback that is culturally aligned.

For a start, giving feedback, both positive and constructive is an important aspect of professional development. Most managers appreciate that it is a necessary requirement of their roles although in my experience, many find it difficult and uncomfortable to do it well. It becomes even more tenuous when doing so across cultures.

A client who is a senior leader, recently related an incident where giving performance feedback across cultures backfired. The client, who was in Japan, but not Japanese, was giving feedback to one of his direct reports there. The purpose of the conversation was to improve the performance of the person and their team.

However, the outcome of the feedback session was that the employee felt inferior and inadequate in their role and offered to resign. This was definitely not the intention of the senior leader. As a result, he then had to invest significant time to re-engage the employee, boost confidence and reconsider his delivery style.  

Paved with Good Intention

This is an example of how a good intention can be derailed through a lack of cultural understanding. When working across cultures, it can be useful to have a repertoire of different approaches to feedback so that the intended intentions are achieved.

I want to acknowledge one of my early mentors, Dr Asma Abdullah, who introduced me to these different models of feedback. They are somewhat tongue in-cheek but do provide some alternative ways of thinking about how to give feedback. They are:

The Hamburger

This is a long established, traditional style that most multi-nationals use. It’s where you start with a positive comment (the bun) followed by the negative (the meat) and then conclude with a positive comment (the other part of the bun). So, it’s a (+-+) framework.

This effectively buffers the negative comments with positives ones. Cultures in which this approach would be appropriate are the USA, Australia, UK and Canada.

The Open Sandwich

This style is somewhat more direct, providing constructive comments (the meat) followed by some positive ones (the bread). So, it’s more of a (-+) framework. Cultures where this style is best utilised are the European countries – France, Spain, Italy, Germany -and Nordic countries.

The Meat Only

This is a more direct approach than the open sandwich style, where only the constructive comments are given. There is no buffering and hence it’s a (-) framework. This style would only work in cultures where very direct communication is valued and appreciated such as in The Netherlands, South Africa, Finland and Israel.

The Vegetarian

This style is a rather gentle and indirect way to give feedback. Instead of being direct with the constructive comments (meat), it is hinted at  or subtly made through the use of a story, analogy, metaphor, suggestion or an example of what is expected.  It’s more of a (++) framework.

This approach would be best used in high context cultures such as India, Pakistan, China, Korea, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Consider Your Feedback Repertoire

Giving feedback in a way that achieves an objective and brings about positive shifts and encouragement is greatly assisted when it is done in adherence to the cultural context of the situation. Take some time to assess and consider which style or styles you use. How effective are they in your own cultural context? Would they also be effective in a different cultural setting?

What other styles do you think you may need to add to your own repertoire? Why don’t you try the different models and see what feedback you get!

5 Ways to Stand out From The Crowd

New Year, New You. New Job? Don’t wait until 2020 to start your search or you might struggle to stand out from the crowd.

stand out from the crowd
From Pixabay on Pexels

More than half of us are planning to change jobs in 2020. So, don’t wait until January to start your job search – there will be far too much competition. Instead follow these steps to get ahead on a new you for the New Year.

Looking for a new job takes time. In fact, an average of 40 days from submitting a CV to being offered a new role.

Factor in searching for a suitable job before you even send off your application and then the wait while you work out your notice (generally at least one month) and it could be a nearly Easter by the time you move jobs.

So why not start preparing for your search now?

The Market – The Crowd

It could pay off. More than half of the 16,000 UK employees surveyed by Totaljobs and Universum say they are planning on moving jobs in the new year, so January will see a huge surge in the number of candidates on the market.

To put it into context, that could be half your workplace actively scouring job sites and that means an awful lot of competition for the best roles.

“If you also factor in Christmas bank holidays then the optimum time to start applying for jobs is mid-November,” says Nick Kirk, UK MD of recruiters Michael Page who warns: “Securing a new job can be a lengthy process, with applicants and employers needing to be sure the right person is being offered the right role.”

Where Competition is Highest

The professionals who are least satisfied in their current position and most likely to want to move jobs work in logistics, media and e-commerce so anyone working in these sectors is likely to see tough competition from colleagues who are also looking for a new role.

In contrast, auditing and accounting and legal and law professionals are the least likely to leave their jobs, because those usually have higher salaries and a lot of opportunities to up-skill. For example, an accountant could become a CPA just by passing an exam and completing the licensing process.

However, much depends on your employer. If you have any concerns about the future of your organisation you will not be alone – so start your job search sooner rather than later.

Preparation is Key to Success

Although around half of us are expecting to look for a new role, only one in ten expect to be successful.

So how can you boost your chances? Nick Kirk has the following advice:

1. Be clear about your reasons for leaving

Are you sure you want to leave your job, or are you feeling pressured to start afresh in the new year? Establish the reasons why you want to leave your current job and, if you can, speak to your manager about your concerns. Once you’ve had these frank conversations and are certain that moving on is the right decision, you will be able to make smart decisions about your next role.

Often it is not the money that’s a problem – in fact, two thirds of British workers would stay in a job they enjoyed rather than move for more money.

For those intent on shifting jobs, the biggest drivers are career progression (30 per cent), professional training and development (32 per cent) and the feeling that their current roles and responsibilities are unlikely to grow (25 per cent). These can be relatively easy to address.

For example, your manager may not be aware that you want a promotion or more training and may find these requests easier to accommodate than a pay rise – after all, if you demand a substantial salary hike everyone will want one, whereas a career development plan is tailored to the individual and it can also benefit the organisation in terms of improved productivity.

2. Think about where you want to work next

Candidates and employers are now placing more value on workplace environment and ensuring the right team culture when hiring.  It’s crucial to be sure that you know what kind of role, company, and working environment you are looking for in your next position before you start your job hunt. If you find an environment and culture that matches well with your personal values, you are more likely to be happier at work.

One of the key requirements is flexibility – often employees are prepared to sacrifice salary for the option of working a condensed week (cramming 5 days into 4), the option to work at home one day a week or an early start/early finish.

3. Keep an open mind

Adopt a positive and flexible attitude to your job search. Listen to what opportunities are in the market and remain open-minded to different companies and locations.

In keeping your mind open, you may be presented with opportunities which may be worth changing location or industry for – a real new year overhaul!

Also by narrowing your requirements, you are limiting your choice which means you could be languishing in a job you hate for too long. Today we have less of a career ladder (organisational structures are flatter) so it may be hard to move for a promotion, but that does not mean you cannot find a more rewarding role with a sideways shift.

4. Update your LinkedIn profile and CV

Your LinkedIn profile and CV are your gateway to a future position. Most employers will cross reference the information before deciding on whether to progress your application, so ensure both are sharp and accurate to avoid your application being discarded at the first hurdle.

Also make sure that all your job applications are tailored to each role.

So start with a tailored personal statement to your prospective new employer, highlight your key skills, use a spell checker and whatever you do, don’t lie.

Employers are struggling to find the right candidates, so increasingly accept that they will have to find a good fit rather than the perfect fit so you don’t need to tick every box.

5. Prepare for your interview

This may be a busy time of year, but an interview is the time to make a great first impression on a potential employer. Do your homework on the company – look at its latest news, work or any award wins. Have an understanding of where you can fit into the organisation and its culture. Anticipate possible questions and rehearse your answers too, as this will help you to deliver seamlessly on the day.

Good luck!

Adventure, Exploration and Gold – Why Supply Chain is the Career of the Future

Time to step out of your silo, get your body and brain ready for the future, and find your inner gold. Catch up with Career Boot Camp to get yourself on the track for the summit.

supply chain career
Photo by Simon Migaj from Pexels

The supply chain profession attracts some of the best minds and biggest thinkers around. Are they drawn to the chance to travel the globe, have diverse experiences and learn lessons from a myriad of people? Are they energised by the idea of finding a role that gives them a broader perspective and makes them a more well-rounded person?

Or maybe it’s the chance to enact real change, set bold personal goals and aim high?

It is, in fact, all of the above. Don’t just take our word for it – these are the thoughts and experiences of the fantastic trainers from Career Boot Camp 2019. Here are just a few of the insights from this podcast series:

Change Your Career Trajectory to Aim Higher

The strange thing our trainers all had in common this year was that they weren’t initially directly involved in supply chain, or didn’t set out for a career in it. But, far from falling into it, three made active choices to change their careers to supply chain.

Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director MIT Sustainable Supply Chain, started out with a degree in Environmental Management Planning and then gained a PhD, but wishes that she had found a supply chain earlier in her career. This view was echoed by Supply Chain Executive, Steve Day, who, after starting out in Engineering and Telecoms, found that his supply chain career was some to “feel energised about”.

And Ron Castro, Vice President, IBM Supply Chain, didn’t gain qualifications in supply chain, but has found that supply chain has opened doors for him around the world, giving opportunities he may never have had otherwise.

Cultivating the Common Habits

All five of our trainers picked up on some key habits from their careers and experience that they have cultivated to reach their own summits. Could you do anything differently in your career in the future?

  1. Be curious – don’t tell yourself you can’t do something. Replace limiting thoughts and see what’s possible.
  2. Don’t believe that you only need training in one area – broaden your perspective, and then bring this perspective into new roles to enhance your expertise.
  3. Be a more holistic thinker – get a rounded experience, have a passion and set ambitious personal goals that allow you to aim high.
  4. Take the chance when it’s presented – it might seem like random chance or something out of the blue, but you won’t know unless you try it.
  5. Keep current but also talk about broader topics than just your area – it will show a broader knowledge that could change the trajectory of your career.

Learn from the Past, Look to the Future

Dr. Karen Darke MBE believes that we should learn from the past, but not to let it define us. Your behaviour and emotions in the moment can actually shape your future, through the power of your mind.

The way you think and feel can impact your own reality. Study of the mind was also part of Professor Moran Cerf’s podcast as he discussed why the human brain might still surpass AI and machine learning. The brain is still one of the most power muscles we have and we should still be training it, just like our other muscles when we, for example, go out for a bike ride!

Whatever trajectory your career is on right now, know you have the power to change this. By applying yourself, training hard (your body and your mind) and setting your sights on what you want to happen, you can be the master of your own destiny now and in the future.

It’s not too late to catch up on all the Career Boot Camp podcasts and access all this great thought leadership. Sign up here now!

A New Skillset for Procurement Leaders

Procurement leaders of tomorrow will need to combine highly refined soft skills, a broad business understanding and digital literacy to elevate their function and put it at the centre of business change in the years to come.

Photo by Chevanon Photography from Pexels

Procurement has never had a better opportunity to be the value adding function that it has always aspired to be.

The exponential technological advancements of the last decade have lowered entry barriers across markets. Procurement functions that successfully invest in and work with these new innovators will give their businesses a competitive advantage. Technology has also vastly improved the handling of large data sets.

Sitting at the intersection between the supply chain and the business, procurement is awash with data, and technology means it can spend less time on data acquisition and analytics and more time on deriving strategic insights from that data. Crucially, that helps the business to make more effective decisions, faster.

In recent years, we have also seen a spike in companies outsourcing key elements of their business. This has led to an increased number of strategic suppliers that need to be efficiently managed in order to ensure consistent high quality of product and service.

These two factors combined generate the perfect environment for procurement to move from its traditional role of “price negotiator” and “process policeman”, to strategic partner of choice, leading business transformation.

However, to do that, it will need a new skillset.

The ‘Right’ Skills

Efficio’s recent 2019 study, “The Human Factor: Strategic procurement and the leaders of tomorrow”, asked 500 senior procurement and operations leaders across the globe what their current top priorities were. The top answer, with 29 per cent of votes, was access to the right skills.

It received 60 per cent more votes than the next top priority, maximising efficiencies in the supply chain. Moreover, nearly half of respondents (44 per cent) put access to the right skills in their top three.

Organisations clearly recognise the need for a new skillset, but what are the right skills? In our view these can be categorised into three pillars: soft skills, broad business understanding and digital literacy.

Procurement Leaders – Influencing & Leading

The study showed 78 per cent of procurement executives believe soft skills are either essential or very important for the procurement leader of tomorrow. By drilling deeper into the results, we can find some interesting insights about how these executives see procurement in the future.

The single most desired soft skill quoted was the ability to influence and lead. This is indicative of a procurement function that is setting the agenda and leading stakeholders to make more effective decisions. Interactions that procurement has with stakeholders will be just as important, if not more so, than those it has with suppliers.

By understanding the business requirements and having a deeper knowledge of supplier capabilities, procurement will not only drive cost savings but also influence the business to select solutions and partners that best align with a company’s strategy.

The second most sought after soft skill is the ability to challenge conventional thinking. As well as challenging the way the business thinks, it needs to re-evaluate and challenge the way it has operated itself for so many years, with the goal of defining what it can do differently in order to move from a function that most organisations try to bypass.

It needs to become more customer centric and challenge itself and the business to move from a savings focussed, to a value-adding function.

Involving Your Suppliers

Thirdly, respondents recognised a need for innovation, creativity and problem-solving skills in the future. This hints at an expectation that procurement activities will go beyond traditional one-size-fits-all RFX approaches to every problem.

It will instead work in a more project-based manner with an agile approach that more effectively meets business needs. An example of this could be involving suppliers in the solutioning, to help define those requirements in the first place.

Although soft skills are generally not part of the current procurement training curriculum, they can still be learnt and developed. But critically, these don’t need to be learnt solely from being in procurement roles.

By positioning procurement on the career path of high-flying and ambitious individuals, it can benefit from people who have honed these skills in other functions but can apply them in a procurement context.

A Broad Business Understanding

To be truly accepted at the top table, procurement needs to communicate in the language of its peers in the business. Specifically, that means avoiding defaulting to a narrow focus on savings and process and rather seeking to define itself by what is important to its business.

That is not to say savings related activity is not important, but it needs to be put into context of the wider objectives of the organisation.

For example, a strategic lever for a business might be to grow revenue in a sector by bringing an innovation to market. Procurement should recognise in this case that it can best provide support by approaching the supply market with an investor mindset, trawling the globe for new start-ups to invest in and collaborate with in product development.

Going to those start-ups with an onerous RFX to fill out will unlikely result in any strong partnerships because those start-ups don’t have the capacity or knowledge to put themselves through such an approach.

Digital Literacy

Finally, the future of procurement will need to have a strong technology element to become a more effective function. Whether procurement leaders go for an end-to-end solution or a best of breed approach by building an ecosystem of tools best suited to their organisation, understanding at a basic level how technology is built, and how it integrates with other tools, is essential in being able to make good long-term investment decisions.

Historically, procurement leaders have never needed to be digitally literate in this way, however this will need to change as businesses become ever more reliant on technology and need to make long-term decisions on what to purchase.

It is therefore incumbent on the procurement leaders of tomorrow to educate themselves on the digital terms they use, latest trends and not to just limit themselves to the procurement sphere in the search for that knowledge.

Looking at other functions and sectors to understand how new technologies are being applied can help develop digital procurement strategies and roadmaps that are a step ahead of the competition.

Hone these Skills to Thrive

To become a more effective function and to elevate itself in the business, procurement is going to need people with a different skillset from today. A strong focus on soft skills is essential, but so too is an understanding of business more broadly than procurement’s traditional priorities of savings and process.

Being able to successfully digitalise the function will require people who understand not only how to use technology, but who are also able to make long term investment decisions. Procurement functions that recruit, train for and retain these skills are likely to find themselves at the centre of business change in future.    

Download our research report, “The Human Factor: Strategic procurement and the leaders of tomorrow”, here.

From Mountains to Medals – Find Your Inner Gold

How can you accelerate your supply chain career? By finding your inner gold, of course, on Day 5 of Career Boot Camp 2019.

CBC 2019 - Day 5 - Gold

Dr Karen Darke MBE is our coach on Day Five of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to listen to her podcast now.

Ability is a state of mind, not a state of body. 

We all have incredible power within us to change our thoughts, our emotions, and our energy field. We can all learn to be our own alchemist, to transform unwanted emotions or experiences into gold, be creators of our reality, change our performance, our wellbeing, our world.

That’s the powerful message you will hear from today’s podcast guest Dr. Karen Darke MBE. Karen could be described as a modern-day alchemist: an adventurer, athlete, speaker and author all rolled into one. Karen’s purpose is all about inspiring and impacting, about turning challenge into opportunity – finding your ‘inner gold’.

Karen started out as a geologist in the Bolivian Andes researching and searching for gold. But a life-changing accident that left her paralysed led her away from being a ‘rock-doctor’ to a quest to achieve Paralympic gold.

Finding Your Prime in 79

Karen is fascinated by the importance gold has had on her life.  Her gold medal in the sport of hand-cycling in Rio 2016 was the 79th medal for Britain, and 79 being the elemental number for Gold led to Karen creating ‘Quest 79: Find Your Inner Gold’.  

The project has seen Karen cycle 7 continents and 9 rides, raising £79K for Spinal Injuries and encouraging people to step out of their comfort zones and discover their passion, purpose or ability: their ‘inner gold’.

Karen views life as an adventure, and embraces all its experiences as opportunities to learn and grow. She has faced some extreme lows on her own roller coaster, and knows how trauma and life events can lead to fear and pain.  

As a part of her journey, Karen has generated some highs on her roller coaster, exploring and extending the limits of possibility physically, mentally, and emotionally. She has skied across icecaps, kayaked at extreme latitudes of the planet, and hand-cycled the world’s biggest mountain ranges and longest rivers.

She has also extensively explored and studied what goes on inside, from the power of the mind and thoughts to enable performance, to the impact of high frequency emotions to transform and heal. Her career as an athlete and adventurer, combined with her unique studies of mind, wellbeing, and healing make Karen a specialist in transformation.

Finding Your Own Gold

Karen recommends starting with a few simple steps.

  • When difficult or unwanted things happen, hold back from reacting and instead ask “What can I learn from this? How can this make me stronger? How can I use this experience to help myself or others?” Know you are going to learn something useful.
  • Be the observer of your own thoughts, and practice stopping or changing the unhelpful ones. Transform limiting thoughts into curious, expansive thoughts: for example, change “I’ll never manage this” into “This is interesting as I’ve never done anything like this before…I wonder what will happen next.”
  • Develop your self-awareness and take a gardening approach, digging out the unhelpful weeds! (Your mind is the garden, your thoughts are the seeds, you can plant flowers, or you can grow weeds).  This way helps you to stop getting caught up in ‘stories’ and being a victim of circumstances, to become the creator of your reality.

Karen has distilled valuable learning and lessons through her years of experience and study so that she can share them with others. Subscribe or contact Karen at www.karendarke.com/contact to receive information about forthcoming webinars, courses and learning experiences.

Exploring New Places in Your Supply Chain Career

If you thought a career in supply chain meant you’d be working in the same place with the same people for many years to come, think again!

supply chain career

Ron Castro, Vice President IBM Supply Chain is our coach on Day Four of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to his podcast now.

If you thought a career in supply chain meant you’d be working in the same place with the same people for many years to come, think again! 

Ron Castro, Vice President, IBM Supply Chain’s CV sounds more like a global expedition of discovery than a traditional professional career.  Australia, China, Brazil and the US – Ron’s career has taken him to roles in all four corners of the globe.  He even managed to fit in a stint in France along the way.

Work Across the Business

So how did Ron achieve his impressive globe-trotting career?  He attributes his success to an unquenchable thirst to explore and work in every aspect of the business.  “Rotating across the supply chain and your organisation can help to connect the dots,” advises Ron.  Becoming a subject matter expert in all aspects of the work, he believes,  makes it easier to develop a holistic approach.

Ron hasn’t limited his experience to just the world of work.  His involvement in learning and development to support supply chain professionals across the industry, plus a board position on a non-profit organisation, show his thirst for new ideas and different perspectives extends outside working hours.

Ron recommends that supply chain professionals “be involved across initiatives”.  He’s found that this approach helped him to see things from a different perspective – one of the skills that is essential at a time when the world is constantly changing and moving forward.

Don’t be Afraid to Fail

Ron is concerned that “people play it safe and have a fear of failure.”  His career success had been built on taking risks and using trusted early warning systems to course correct if his ideas start moving off track. 

In Ron’s view, far too many supply chain professionals aim to low and achieve unambitious targets.  “Better to shoot for the stars and hit the moon,” Ron stresses.

Your Exploration Road Map

So how can you chart your expedition to supply chain career success?  Ron has seven tips that you can try:

  1. Be bold – set yourself an ambitious target today
  2. Make time for the important things rather than letting urgent things dominate your day – being able to achieve important things will define your career
  3. Take care of your mind and your body – perhaps take up mountain biking like Ron
  4. Be balanced and be a holistic thinker – seek out opportunities to gain insight that can help you join the dots
  5. Build a strong network – connect with as many people as you can inside and outside your work
  6. Skills become obsolete – learning is lifelong not just for when you are at school
  7. Have passion and love what you do – if not find yourself something another role.

Why not start your expedition today by setting yourself an ambitious career goal?  Follow Ron’s chart for success to see where next for your supply chain career journey.

Step Out of Your Silo to Propel Your Supply Chain Career

Are you ready to step out of your silo to share skills and expertise freely with other areas? 

CBC Day 3 escape your silo

Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director MIT Sustainable Supply Chain is our coach on Day Three of Career Boot Camp 2019Sign up here to here her podcast now.

Dr. Alexis Bateman, Director of Sustainable Supply Chain at MIT, believes that a career in supply chain has the potential to be varied and exciting.  “I’ve been able to bring new insights and fresh thinking [to my role] and in some ways I wish I’d found supply chain earlier in my career,” she says. And she is clear that an open approach to ideas and people could be the key to an upward career trajectory.

Many people and Many Views

The variety that’s embedded in a career in supply chain comes, in part, from the departments of the organisation with which the function needs to interact. Alexis loves the way that this collaboration exposes her to many different points of view. “I’ve been fortunate to be able to interact with so many people,” she says. “Almost everyone has something to teach me.”

Alexis describes her sustainability and supply chain role at MIT as one of working with people from different disciplines who have a variety of conceptual experiences. She believes that working across organisations can really help us to think more broadly about issues and projects.

The opportunity to work in a team with many perspectives is something that Alexis sees as being a key part of a supply chain professional’s role. From engineers, technicians, analysts, and strategists, every discipline and perspective can be part of a supply chain team. Close collaboration and problem solving, she says, is just what’s required when you’re working to improve sustainability.

When she’s leading teams at MIT, Alexis’ role is to make sure these roles are aligned, and voices are heard equally. In her experience, “all voices are there for a reason and unique perspectives can push a project forward or enable the team to think of something really innovative.”

Get Out of Your Silo

“A silo view of the organisation and consequently the topics covered in learning and development is the wrong way to progress a supply chain career,” warns Alexis. She advocates against a heads-down, staying in your comfort zone approach. In her experience, where someone broadens out their perspective to think about how they can apply their expertise and knowledge, a range of opportunities to progress will appear.

Alexis urges people to think more broadly about what they do next. “In supply chain, expertise can really be moulded to different positions,” she reports. And the good news is that, in her experience, having an open mind can be a chance to advance your career.

Thinking about your supply chain career trajectory is something that Alexis would encourage all supply chain professionals to do. Supply chain looks at the organisation from many different perspectives: sustainability, logistics, procurement, last mile, and this means that are many roles where different expertise is required.

“There’s so much upward mobility in supply chain,” she says, “from Chief Supply Chain Officer all the way to the CEO.” Alexis is optimistic about the opportunities that are out there for supply chain professionals who love variety and are prepared to broaden their experience and their skills.

Making Variety Part of What you Do

So how can you seek escape the silo and understand the world and the variety of opportunities out there? Alexis has these tips that you can use to embed the search for different into your routine:

  1. Read a lot – try to fit lots of reading into your life;
  2. Read daily – set a slot aside each day when you make time to read;
  3. Read about different subjects – it doesn’t always have to be about supply chain;
  4. Listen to podcasts – they’re a great way to absorb new information particularly when you’re on the move.

Why not embrace variety into your life by becoming a reader and podcast listener? Follow Alexis’ tips to unlock the potential for success in your supply chain career that could take you right to the top.