Category Archives: Career Management

3 Ways To Amplify The Profile Of Your Procurement Team

Influence expert Julie Masters demonstrates how online employee advocacy can supercharge the amplification and cut-through of your procurement content.

By Africa Studio/ Shutterstock

While we’re all searching for the latest and greatest way to get our company and brand out there, you might be surprised to find one of the most effective and underutilised methods sitting right under your nose.

Employee advocacy, where employees share company content and stories about what they’re doing at the office and the projects they’re working on, is now seen by some as the holy grail of content marketing.

Compared to the traditional method of sending out communication on social channels via the ‘company account’, employee advocates are shown to have exponential reach and have far more trust in the marketplace than a company or brand ever could.

MSL Group has shown that brand messages shared through personal social media accounts are re-shared 24 times more than when that same content is posted by the brand itself.

The reach is also substantially more via an employee network. Recent studies show that if you were to add together the contacts of all the employees in your company, that network would be 600 times larger than the network of the company itself.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, those surveyed were also twice as likely to trust communication from an employee than the CEO themselves.

These factors make employee advocates a significantly more powerful amplifier than a single channel of communication from the company or brand could ever reach alone.

And it’s not always about gathering more ‘Likes’ or having a positive public persona.

Nearly 10 years ago, IBM managed to harness the power of employee advocacy to show how it could translate directly to the bottom line.

Back in 2008, and faced with one of the largest recessions they had seen, the marketing team at IBM launched the “Smarter Planet” campaign.

The campaign was designed to explain how a new generation of intelligent systems (the Internet of Things) and technologies could be put to use for profound impact and to encourage further thinking.

Rather than lean on an advertising agency to create the message via the traditional mediums, the team at IBM peopled these ads with the company’s own employees.

They went deep into the organisation to uncover the stories, expertise, knowledge, and insights that were held by specialists who already worked at IBM.

They shone a light on the people who worked with them – from master inventors down to systems engineers.

But they didn’t stop there.

IBM also asked their customers to partner with them, shining a light on the customers own technological challenges and aspirations live on camera.

The result was nothing short of extraordinary, with IBM’s own employees and customers amplifying the campaign exponentially, rocketing IBM’s share price by 64% that year (against a market average in their space of 14%) and generating $3 billion in additional revenue.

This is a great example of the power of employee advocacy, the power of storytelling and shining a light on the amazing work that was being done within IBM.

But having employees enthusiastic to talk to others about the work they do, let alone share it on social media, can be easier said than done. Current data indicates that only 3% of employees currently engage in advocacy for their own company.

Clearly employees aren’t rushing over themselves to advocate for their company and there a number of hurdles that need to be overcome to really gain traction and make it a success.

1. Set boundaries but stay flexible

While there are hundreds of stories online about employees being sacked or disciplined for an ill-advised post on social media, the good news is that many of those posts were inappropriate by most standards.

In a work environment where mistakes can have severe consequences, it’s understandable that employees can be nervous about posting content that is considered ‘appropriate’ for the company.

A social media policy that is clear enough to stay within company guidelines but flexible enough to allow personalities to shine through can be a good start to lifting employee engagement around company activities.

Having designated communication ambassadors within each team – those who have a passion and talent for social sharing – can also be a good strategy for sharing and generating quality content around company activity if it’s not suitable for all.

2. Stay curious and dig for gold

One reason employees may not actively post company content is that they think what they do isn’t interesting to others.

This is often a mistaken view, as what may seem familiar and uninteresting to some are just as likely to be fascinating to others who value an insight into the working life of a procurement pro.

This could be anything from case studies to project experiences to “a day in the life” examples – anything that gives insight into the unique experiences that the company undertakes and is involved with.

And don’t forget, social posts are just one piece of the mosaic being created online which shows a vibrant, active team that others will want to investigate and join.

3. Get buy-in to amplify results

The third reason people avoid sharing company content is that employees only prefer to share information about projects in which they’ve had personal ownership or ‘co-created’.

As we saw in the IBM example though, a well-crafted theme that threads an inspiring idea throughout the whole organisation can be enough to band together otherwise unrelated departments and activities.

Drawing on the underlying ‘why’ that inspires your procurement team to do what they do, or championing a cause that is close to the heart of your company can be enough to drive your team to want to share what they do with the outside world.

So what does that mean for your team?

It’s clear to see that employee advocates can be a powerful way to build the company message in the marketplace, provided there is support from the top that allows a more democratic form of communication.

It doesn’t always have to be about the wins either.

Using social media to amplify important company changes can be equally effective – if it might otherwise be missed through the traditional office channels or intranet.

If there is a whole team of procurement professionals and stakeholders enthusiastically spruiking the benefits of the change, your message is much more likely to have cut-through.

Similarly, if individual members of your procurement team make the effort to share stories about their challenges, successes and day-to-day work, this can also serve to build up an online profile of your organisation that will make your team visible and attractive to top talent as well.

As a bottom line – what IBM learnt in 2008, and what we still know now – is that the most impactful form of communication is human stories. Preferably told by real, passionate people with a clear intention to drive things forward.

Identify those people in your team – bring them on board – give them clear boundaries – and then cheer them from the sidelines for having the courage to contribute.

Now that’s a procurement team with influence.

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A Letter To The Board

Sorry to bother you, I know you’re all so much busier than me. It’s me, the chief procurement officer; the one who buys the custard creams.

By mpaniti/ Shutterstock

Dear C-suite,

Sorry to bother you, I know you’re all so much busier than me. It’s me, the chief procurement officer; the one who buys the custard creams.

Just wanted a word about this procurement lark that I’m beavering away at, while you all do much more important stuff like tweeting the latest thought leadership thought. It’s just that I’m feeling a bit, well, ignored by you all.

No, finance director, I haven’t come over all touchy-feely, though it would be good if you did; don’t you know empathy is one of the key skills of the future, even in the finance function? I have more hard facts than you can shake a stick at, if you’ll bear with me. Yes, that means you too, CEO.

I know procurement is hardly the bad boy of the C-suite, but let me tell you, that’s about to change. Think Olivia Newton-John at the end of Grease; that’s how much procurement is about to change. No less a person than Kai Nowosel, Accenture’s procurement chief, agrees with me. “I want to break the mould of traditional procurement,” he says. “Procurement is the tinder of innovation. I want to get into that model of being sexy instead of being a back-office function.”

See? But I’m not feeling the love. I know some of you are a bit vague about what I do; let’s face it, less than 10 per cent of global corporations have a board-level procurement director. So here’s your starter for ten: how much of the value of a company’s products or services is derived from its suppliers? Anyone? No? Almost two thirds, that’s how much. Write it down in your notebooks; 65 per cent, according to CAPS Research for the Institute for Supply Management.

And here’s another fun fact: world-class procurement organisations have 22 per cent lower labour costs, according to the Hackett Group. I heard that, marketing! Yes, of course I’m running a world-class procurement organisation. This company’s costs would be a darn sight higher without me.

That means you’ll miss me when I’m gone. No, public relations, it’s a figure of speech, I’m not actually going. Here’s an example of why procurement is important. The government has plans to name and shame anyone breaching the slavery law. So I’m the one standing between you and those headlines about our products being made by vulnerable illegal immigrants living in sheds, because you used some dodgy temp agency. Do you want to finesse that kind of PR disaster? Thought not.

But I could do so, so much more if only you’d put a bit of welly behind me; everyone seems to be getting a piece of our digital transformation except me. Fewer than 10 per cent of companies have deployed procurement solutions based on key technologies such as big data, the internet of things, serverless architecture or blockchain technology, according to Procurement Leaders (that’s an intelligence and networking company just for people like me).

It’s just not fair, especially when I could save up to $86 billion a year with a fully automated procurement function. Well, when I say “I”, I mean the Global 5000, but that’s 5,000 of my closest friends.

The thing is, digital is going to mean a bit of an upgrade in the old skills front. I’ll be honest, chairman, it’s going to be tough for that uncle of yours who works with me. But he did join the procurement department in 1973, didn’t he? I bet he’d rather work on his golf handicap than learn about embedding data science and analytics expertise.

So there might be some work to do for you, HR. Egeman Tumturk, global sourcing director at Bugaboo, said digital “requires a huge change in talent and the way we do our day-to-day activities, our jobs”, when he was interviewed by Procurement Leaders for its CPO Insights. He called it “a revolution”.

See, that’s really what’s happening here. We’re not talking about a bit of an upgrade, a few new smartphones and fling in a bit of software while we think about it. This is properly transformational; it’s not just about efficiency.

My job is about to morph from tactical biscuit-buying to strategic business innovation; that’s what management consultants Bain & Company says, anyway. “Artificial intelligence and robotic process automation are automating manual tasks and freeing up time for more strategic activities,” wrote Coleman Radell and David Schannon last autumn. “Digital technologies also provide a competitive edge by improving the speed and quality of procurement, reducing risk and enhancing innovation.”

Let’s face it, you need me to do this stuff, otherwise we’ll be overtaken by our competitors, who are already using advanced analytics to get value out of their historical data. It’s not really an option to leave me with an Excel spreadsheet and a glitter pen any longer.

Like me, Accenture’s Mr Nowosel sees the procurement role moving away from simply control and compliance, and into a core business function. It’s now about finding the right partners in the ecosystem, mitigating risk, protecting the brand and staying competitive. He says: “Getting competitive is more than having a great negotiated price. It is having the right solution for your customers at the right point.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself. We have a hyperconnected and increasingly transparent world out there and I’m the one with the bird’s eye view of it. If you invest in me and provide me with the right tools and people, I can develop an agile ecosystem that learns from its mistakes, protects our corporate reputation, cultivates a sustainable supply chain, delivers real-time data insights and predictive analytics, and saves you money – worth more than a few chocolate Hobnobs I expect…

Best wishes,

Chief procurement officer

This article, edited by Peter Archer, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times.  


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10 Phrases You Should Never Say At Work

What are the phrases you should avoid in the workplace? We reveal the top ten most irritating and annoying phrases that are guaranteed to wind up your colleagues…

Some are just totally meaningless pieces of jargon – thrown into the conversation to disguise the fact that you have don’t know what you talking about. Others are downright rude or deliberately confusing. While some of the things we say at work just make us look stupid.

So, what are the phrases to avoid? Well the top 10 most irritating and annoying phrases to say at work (things that are guaranteed to wind up your colleagues) are:

1. With all due respect

When someone says this, what do they actually mean?

Often, it is the exact opposite… this is just a passive/aggressive way of saying, “I know better than you”.  Respect you? Well, they obviously don’t.

So, it is probably no surprise that these four words really wind us up and have been voted the most aggravating in the workplace by around half of those surveyed by CV-Library. If you are ever tempted to use this phrase (even ironically), don’t.

2. Reach out

The problem with this phrase, is that it can have so many meanings. When you thank someone for “reaching out” to you, are you implying they are offering to help you or that they are asking for help? Telling someone else to do this (as in ‘go and reach out to accounts’) is patronising particularly if what you really want them to do is make contact in a highly professional manner.

While “I’ll get my people to reach out to you” is incredibly confusing. What does mean? That they will be in touch next week? Or is this just a polite way of saying “don’t call us and we won’t call you”?

3. At the end of the day and 4. It is what it is

So, the boss is stumped…and cannot think of a solution. So, they say “it is what it is” as a way of saying let’s just accept a bad situation. Worse, “at the end of the day” implies that what will be, will be. Put the two phrases together – At the end of the day, it is what it is – and you might as well throw your hands in the air and give up. Please: just say it like it is.

5. Think outside the box

What is wrong with telling someone to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions? Context. Generally, you are told to “think outside the box” when everyone else is stumped for ideas. So, you are being asked to do the impossible. Also, most organisations don’t actually welcome unconventional and original thinking.

6. Let’s regroup

This is another phrase that has too many meanings. Is this a polite way of telling a group that they are all useless and new people need to be brought into the meeting? Or that you need fresh ideas? Or just more time to think of new ideas? Confused? You will be.

7. Can I borrow you for a second? and 8. Have you got two minutes?

Another irritating habit is using a euphemism to impose on your time when you are already extremely busy. Let’s face facts: the interruption is never for two minutes let alone a second. The person who uses this phrase, knows you would refuse to give up your afternoon to help them. But when they pretend that all they need is just a small amount of your time, it is really hard to say “’no” without appearing difficult. Irritating, isn’t it? When you are tempted to use either of these phrases, think about that.

9. At this moment in time

This is a great way to obfuscate when you do not have a clue/haven’t completed the project/forgot to follow a lead/don’t want to commit to a yes or no.  etc. So, “Is the client going to make that purchase?”. Answer: “At this moment in time, they are considering it”. The truth? Anyone’s guess.

10. Get the ball rolling

This is a bit last century when sporting metaphors dominated the world of business gobbledegook. Remember: “pass the ball”, “left field”, and “knocking it out of the park”?  Not only is this dated, once again it is not good communication… tell it like it is.

Surprisingly, motoring metaphors such as “in the fast lane”, “shift up a gear”, “put the brakes on”…or that highly annoying “let’s park this to one side”, don’t feature in the top ten.

So next time you are tempted to slip into jargon remember it is highly irritating. Also, being direct gets better results. “People may take what you are saying the wrong way,” says Lee Biggins, founder and CEO of CV-Library. “If you’re hinting a circling back to the task later or asking for more hands on deck, this can come across as rude. Are they not good enough for this task?”

….AND THE 10 THINGS THAT YOU SHOULD NEVER SAY IF YOU WANT A PROMOTION

While jargon is annoying, in an interview for a step-up the career ladder, it is being too informal that is the problem.

What are you trying to convey? If you are a more mature candidate, perhaps you believe (wrongly) that saying words like “epic fail” makes you down with the kids. It doesn’t.

Or if you genuinely litter your conversations with “totes” perhaps you don’t realise that this is NOT the way to get a better job (even if it is a very informal setting). It is just not professional.

So don’t be tempted. These are the buzzwords employers are fed up with hearing:

  1. Literally 
  2. Like
  3. Just sayin’ 
  4. Banter
  5. Totes
  6. Amazeballs
  7. My bad
  8. Yolo 
  9. Me thinks
  10. Sorry not sorry

“Be mindful that if you’re after a promotion, your employer won’t appreciate you saying a buzzword like ‘my bad’ to excuse yourself for making a mistake,” advises Lee Biggins who warns that using colloquialisms makes you appear less intelligent, can confuse colleagues if they don’t know exactly what you mean and frustrates those you work with because there is a “lack of substance” behind what you’re saying.

The (Office) Walk Of Shame: Workers Who Quit Because They Are Too Embarrassed To Stay

It’s not all about the money. The real reasons why we quit range from bad bosses who make passes to wars over stolen food from the office fridge as well as shame – doing something so excruciatingly embarrassing we just have to resign.

By worradirek / Shutterstock

You might think that a chance to earn more money would be the number one reason why we quit our jobs. But you’d be wrong. Being offered more cash actually comes in at number three.

Topping the chart is the desire for a better work/life balance whether that is a job with more flexible hours or at least without the long hours most of us have to put in to get the job done.

Also making the top ten are long hours and long commute, which are basically other ways of saying the same thing: many of us are fed up with living to work and want to work in order to live.

We’ve had enough of bad bosses

The appalling behaviour of some managers is another reason why employees can’t wait to hand in their notice according to research commissioned by SPANA the working animal charity (yes, some animals work too!)

 “I thought the boss was useless” comes in at number five, “I fell out with the boss” at number nine and just making it into the top 20 at number nineteen “I had a physical altercation with the boss”. If things get violent, you know it’s time to leave (and perhaps sue?).

Despite #MeToo coming in at number sixteen for the number one most common reason for quitting is “My boss made a pass at me”.

Some of us get stroppy over petty squabbles

However, some reasons for handing in your notice are quite frankly ridiculous. Leaving because the free tea and coffee was taken away, because a colleague stole your food from the work fridge or you are not allowed to change the radio station or don’t like your desk position (all in the top 40) are a bit drastic…. There is no guarantee your next workplace will be any better.

That is why you should spend time really researching your new workplace – not just the job, but also who you will be working with including the boss, the office environment – (it might be a dingy basement not the plush interview office – and important work/life factors such as the commute to work.

Putting two fingers up to your employer

Half of us are so fed up, we just hand in our notice without having another job to go to.

Still, you can’t beat that “I quit” feeling… with half saying they felt a massive sense of relief after doing so. That probably includes those who did something so embarrassing (possibly at a work party or with the photocopier) that they just had to leave and never go back. In that case it is entirely understandable that you would not want to hang around while you find a new job.

But we’re not up to admitting why

You can see why someone would not want to admit that they had done something so shameful that they could not bear to return to work.

However, these quitters are not the only ones who shy away from the truth. One in four British workers have lied to their bosses when it comes to the real reason for quitting their jobs according to global recruitment specialist, Michael Page.

We may be leaving because we are not paid enough – or not feeling like we are valued – but we haven’t got the guts to fess up. Ironically, in this candidate-short market, saying you are leaving for a bigger salary could lead to a counter offer from your existing employer, so it might be worth making your point (after all, you are leaving anyway!)

The survey also found that one in ten just do not feel like they fit in – particularly LGBT workers, those from an ethnic minority background, workers with long-term health conditions and younger workers (aged 18 to 34.)

Top 20 reasons for quitting a job

1. Wanted to improve work/life balance

2. It was too stressful

3. Was offered more money

4. I didn’t like the company culture

5. Thought the boss was useless

6. Felt I wasn’t learning anything new

7. The hours were too long

8. The commute was too long

9. Fell out with boss

10. I hadn’t been given a pay rise in ages

11. The perks weren’t good enough

12. I felt I’d hit a glass ceiling

13. The atmosphere was dull

14. Fell out with colleagues

15. Hated my desk position

16. Boss made a pass at me

17. My ‘work best friend’ quit and it wasn’t the same without them

18. Had a physical altercation with colleague

19. Had a physical altercation with boss

20. Did something so embarrassing I was forced to move company

 

Procurement Across Borders – Looking Into The Cultural Mirror

A useful tool for developing cultural intelligence is the Cultural Mirror, which plots culture across nine dimensions…

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As part of our ongoing article series on Cultural intelligence (CQ) we are discussing each of the four individual components of CQ and how they can be applied to effectively work across cultures. In earlier articles we discussed what Cultural Intelligence is and CQ Drive, which is the motivation that individuals have in approaching and interacting with different cultures. Now we move onto the next component which is CQ Knowledge.

CQ Knowledge refers to your own personal knowledge and understanding of other cultures. Differences and similarities between cultures can be assessed in terms of core values, beliefs, norms and behaviour.

A useful tool for developing CQ Knowledge is the Cultural Mirror, which plots a culture on nine dimensions. These dimensions are based on the work of anthropologist Geert Hofstede, Fons Trompenaars and Asma Abdullah that I amalgamated. The Nine Dimensions of Culture provides us with a continuum of values and by exploring each of these and where a culture sits on the continuum, we are able to gain insight into the culture itself and how it operates. It is critical to firstly appreciate where you sit on the cultural mirror yourself.

Here is the Cultural mirror and the Nine dimensions:

We will look at the first three dimensions in this article and understand what they are, how they are applicable and provide some tips on how to navigate these cultural differences.

Dimension One: Relationships – Task

In some cultures around the world the focus in the early stages of interactions is on building the relationship. In these cultures, getting to know the people and establishing trust is much more important than simply achieving the task. Examples of countries on the relationship end of the continuum are Saudi Arabia and Brazil. In other cultures the initial priority is on getting the task done. This is not to say that the relationship is not important, however the focus is primarily on getting the task done before building the relationship. Examples of countries that are on this end of the continuum would be Australia, Germany and Finland. In both situations, the outcome is to get the task done but the approaches are different.

Tips for those coming from a relationship oriented culture working with a task oriented culture:

  • Be focused and clear on outcomes
  • Give clear instructions about the task

Tips for those coming from a task oriented culture working with a relationship oriented culture:

  • Spend time initially building the relationship
  • Invest in small talk to make people feel more comfortable

Dimension Two: Harmony – Control

This is the view of how humans deal with the environment, nature and with people around us. People from harmony based cultures believe we need to live in harmony with nature and have an external locus of control. They believe in concepts such as yin and yang, fate, destiny and karma. Countries which are more on the harmony end of the continuum include Pakistan and China. Conversely, people from control based cultures believe that you are the master of your own destiny. You are in control of your life and you need to control the environment. Countries more towardes the control  continuum  are the USA and Switzerland.

Tips for those coming from a Harmony based culture working with a Control Culture:

  • Be aware that rigorous debate maybe encouraged
  • Be conscious of delivering on timelines

Tips for those coming from a Control based culture working with a Harmony Culture:

  • Be mindful that open conflict is likely to be avoided
  • Learn how to disagree in a polite manner

Dimension Three: Shame – Guilt

 In shame orientated cultures, avoiding a ‘loss of face’ is important. Thus, what others think of you and how they judge you is a strong motivator. Examples of countries which are more on the shame end of the continuum are India and Japan. Conversely, in guilt based cultures, it is more about up to the individual to judge themselves on their conduct. Guilt based cultures include Italy and Argentina.

Tips for those coming from a shame based culture working with those from a Guilt Culture:

  • Allow time for experimentation and brainstorming of ideas
  • Appreciate that candour may be present and encouraged in discussions

Tips for those coming from a Guilt based culture working with a Shame Culture:

  • Encourage participation through group based tasks to remove attention from individuals which may cause “loss of face”.
  • Do not expect public or rigorous debate

For the three dimensions we have discussed, please consider where your cultural preferences are and how that influences your interactions with others from different cultures?

How To Cope When You’re Working For Someone Half Your Age

Increasingly employers are looking to fill their ranks with ‘digital natives’, which usually translates to people younger than you. But how do you work for someone half your age?

By Petr Malyshev/ Shutterstock

Millennials (Gen Y) and Post-Millennials (Gen Z) now make up 40 per cent of the workforce.  So, if you are over 36 years of age you should probably get used to the idea you will one day be working for someone young enough to be your son or daughter.  How you deal with that reality can make a big difference to how happy you are at work and your chances of career progression.

Increasingly employers are looking to fill their ranks with ‘digital natives’ which usually translates to people younger than you. At the same time older workers are staying in their jobs for longer or rejoining the workforce after ‘retirement.’  And while every workforce has always been a mix of the old and the young and everyone in between, for many workplaces how that mix is distributed throughout the organisation has been changing.

In a traditional organisational hierarchy a significant part of the reason you were promoted was because of your length of service. This meant that older people tended to be more senior and young people tended to be lower in the chain of command.  Today this structure still very much persists in government organisations such as the Public Service, Law Enforcement,  the military, Health and Education.  But sheer weight of numbers (of younger workers) and a trend towards less structured workplaces has meant that May-December working relationships between a Boss and their direrct reports is more and more likely particularly in industries where social media capability is a requirement.

Naturally psychologists have a term for this. It’s called ‘status incongruence’ and it means a situation where a person’s status is not what you would expect, in this case, because of their age. 

While the phenomena has been discussed by sociologists since the 1950s, it’s only recently that studies on the impacts for organisations have started to appear. One such study was recently performed by researchers from Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas in Dallas.  One of the lead researchers, associate professor Orlando Richard told The New York Times the research showed “older workers are not as responsive to [a] younger boss, because they feel he or she shouldn’t be in that position,” and, “[they] are less committed to the company. They’re not as engaged in the job. If they’re close to retirement, they may not leave, but they may not work as hard.”

The study also found that organisations with older workers reporting to younger workers needed to adapt their leadership style to take account of that.  Transformational Leadership is popular among the types of firms likely to experience status incongruence.  But the research suggests this style of leadership in particular is likely to be less successful. 

Transformational leadership requires a leader to work with teams to identify needed change, create a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and execute the change in tandem with committed members of a group.  In order for this to work, the members of the team have to believe in the credentials and ability of the leader.  While that is not impossible where the leader is significantly younger than a team member, it is something that needs to be taken into account in how a leader works with the team.  They will have to work harder to establish their credentials, so that workers can see past their relative youth and develop faith in the leader’s abilities.

It is also something that the organization has to bear in mind when selecting a younger person to lead a team. If that person is not capable of convincing the team that they have the credentials to be there then status incongruence is likely to result in a team which significantly underperforms its ability.

For their part, older workers should focus on not being guilty of reverse ageism.  They need to recognise that age, like gender and race does not define a person’s ability.  They should especially resist the urge to give the leader tips on how they would do the job.  They should strongly resist the urge to say “having done this for years …” and leading with ‘in my day’ is not a good plan no matter who your boss is, but it is definitely a land-mine with a younger leader. 

Instead they should use their experience to help their younger boss in a non-threatening way.  Making yourself and your experience valuable is likely to be a pathway to doing better in any company but this is likely to be especially the case in an organisation that values skills over age.

The 6 Stages Of Your Procurement Job Interview

How to you prepare for (and ace!) your procurement or supply chain job interview?

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There is no shortage of general advice available online on how to prepare for and behave in an interview situation, and it’s free. That’s all very helpful, but what about preparing for an interview in supply chain or in a procurement role, how is it different?

1. Before the interview

The basics are the same whatever the role, preparation is vital.  Do research the following:

  • The background of the company, its culture and the industry it is in.  The more information you gather before the interview, the better prepared you will be to answer leading questions during the interview. Be fully prepared to answer the questions “How much do you know about our company?” or “Why do you want to work here?” 
  • The interviewer (or hiring manager).  Who is he or she?  What is their work background and experience?  This will help you find some common ground. 
  • Know your TCO, RFI, P2P, SRM and the rest of the acronyms. Interviewers may use these in conversation. It may unsettle you if you don’t know what they mean.   
  • Make sure you really understand the skills that are required and how much experience is expected. If you don’t quite fit their view of a dream candidate, motivate how you will grow into the role quickly. Think about the types of questions that you can expect and prepare your answers in advance. 

2. At the interview

Job interview formats go in and out of fashion:  you can be asked to do a video or panel interview or even one that includes end-users or stakeholders.  Whatever the format, you need to demonstrate your suitability for the role on offer and how your skills and background will provide tangible benefits for them.  

3. Functional skills

You will probably be asked about your experience and skills in relevant supply chain technology and related tools, e.g. SAP, Oracle, Ariba or other e-sourcing software. You may be asked about direct and indirect categories that you have worked in (make sure you understand the difference) and about your particular expertise in certain commodities or services.  In both these areas be careful not to embellish or over-represent your knowledge or achievements as your interviewer may know a lot more than you do. If you claim that you saved your organization £5 million in spend last year you will need to be able to substantiate it.  Currently, employers are looking for people with specific experience in complex procurement categories. In these types of role they expect candidates to be already familiar with the external marketplace and key suppliers. 

Questions sometimes start with “Tell me about a time when…”, where the interviewer will work through the STAR technique:  

  • The SITUATION 
  • The TASK or problem that arose
  • The ACTION you took
  • What was the RESULT

Prepare multiple examples in advance and rehearse them well so that they tell a story. Be ready for “tell me more”.  Make sure that you demonstrate that you have good critical and analytical thinking skills, are a good communicator, have time management skills, and are flexible, i.e. show that your expertise is transferable to them. 

4. Behavioural skills

Behavioural interview questions are very common in supply chain and are designed to elicit specific and detailed responses about inter-personal and conflict situations which you have been exposed to. How did you handle the issue, what actions did you take and what was the outcome?  Your answers will show that you understand effective ways to deal with suppliers and internal clients.  Listen carefully to any clues the interviewer gives you on what’s important to them so that you can respond by giving your own examples. You need to be able to articulate how you would be able to bring about change and implement improvements seamlessly, where required.

5. Do you have any questions?

An interviewee will almost always be asked this. Understanding how to communicate your interest is very important so have your questions ready.  This is not the time to discuss the remuneration package or benefits that may be offered. Genuine questions about how the company manages its procurement function and how the different elements of their supply chain operate will be welcomed.  If the interviewer is interested in you they will demonstrate it by asking a variation of the following, ‘why our company, why this position and why you?’  This often is your most critical response during the interview process.

6. Where it can go wrong:

Feedback from senior managers and top recruiters says that where candidates fail most is in:

  • Not being fully prepared and having to refer to their CV for details
  • Did not know enough about the company and its operations
  • Did not have the right attitude/did not demonstrate any energy for or interest in the role offered.
  • Could not provide examples or explain how they are suitably qualified
  • And arrived late for the interview!

Displaying a positive attitude and expressing a sense of enthusiasm for the company and the role is an excellent starting point for landing that job. Cultural fit and good inter-personal skills may be the clincher; processes and applications can be taught over time to fulfil gaps in experience. 

Related articles

Is Employee Turnover Killing Your Profits?

It’s a good idea to get the bottom of why employee turnover happens and how to limit it.

By KeyStock/ Shutterstock

Employee turnover costs US businesses more than one Trillion (1,000 Billion) US dollars a year.  That represents about 10 per cent of all US corporate profits, so it is nothing to be sneezed at.  It is therefore probably a good idea to get the bottom of why it happens and how to limit it.

According to the latest statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average US business turned over 44 per cent of its employees in 2018 and in some industries it was significantly higher.  It was 87 per cent in the Arts and entertainment and 75 per cent in accommodation and food services. At just under 15 per cent, Federal government agencies experience the lowest turnover.

Gallup research suggests each employee loss costs the business 150 per cent of their salary.  Deloitte Consulting partner Josh Bersin says his research shows that, depending on the position,  it could be as high as 200 per cent by the time you account for hiring, on boarding, training, ramp time to peak productivity, the loss of engagement from others due to high turnover, higher business error rates, and general culture impacts.

Besides those obvious cost cascades there are some less obvious, but no less important costs.  The significant direct costs put real time pressure on an organisation to hire a replacement and get them trained, settled and productive quickly.  The pressured hiring process can often lead to the new hire not being a good fit for the job and leaving (or being let go) within a year, thus compounding the costs.

The Harvard Business Review says that as much as 80 per cent of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions.  Similarly Leadership IQ’s Global Management Survey reported that 46 per cent of new employees turn out to be a bad hire within 18 months and only 19 per cent will turn out to be an unequivocal success.  When it came to teasing out the factors behind the failure they found  a lack of technical skills explains only 11 per cent of new hire failures, whereas coach-ability (the ability to accept feedback from bosses) accounted for 26 per cent of failures. 

Employee turnover is very real and very costly, so doing anything at all about it, no matter how small the impact, is likely to be a good investment.  The research suggests that there are some especially important factors that are key to retaining employees (that you want to retain).

Obviously the first rule is don’t rush.  It is important to ease a potential new hire into a job.  Ensure they have a good sense of who they will be working with and what the expectations are well before they are signed on.  This means going beyond the standard probation period clause and pro-actively ensuring compatibility with your culture and team preferably before they start.  Throwing a new hire in the deep end and hoping for the best is likely to be a bad idea.

Pay is also obviously a factor but the research shows that if the only thing you do is throw money at them, you are unlikely to be able to stop a valued employee leaving. While being paid too little for the role will definitely motivate churn, overpaying will not make up for an unhappy workplace.  A workplace survey by Equifax for example found that 44 per cent of workers who leave within a year take a pay cut. They want to get out so bad, the pay is not enough to keep them there. 

Pay does have an effect but it is relatively small. According to Glassdoor surveys, every 10 per cent increase in pay only reduces the likelihood of an employee leaving by 1.5 per cent.  So if you double their pay they are still 85 percent likely to leave. 

On the other hand opportunities for advancement and training are significant factors in employee retention.  Humans like to feel they are getting somewhere. Research repeated shows that role stagnation leads to turnover.  Glassdoor have even put a number on this, saying that every 10 months at an unchanged role increases the likelihood of an employee leaving by 1 per cent. 

According to exit surveys conducted by Gallup, more than half of all exiting managers say that in the 3 months before they left, no one in the organisation spoke to them about how they were feeling about their job or their future with the organisation.  If no-one is talking about your future with the company, it’s easy to come to the conclusion you don’t have one.

Gallup recommend proactive engagement about an employee’s opportunities for growth are key to retaining valuable employees.  They suggest you know the employee’s long term personal goals, allow them opportunities in roles bigger than their past experience and help them to acquire new skills to advance their careers.  In short, treat them as you yourself would like to be treated.  Let’s call that the Golden Rule for Employee Retention.  You could so a lot worse than applying it in your business.


Procurement Across Borders: Advancing Your Drive To Be A Global Player

Tom Verghese provides a list of tips which can be useful in advancing your CQ Drive…

By vectorfusionart / Shutterstock

In my last article I discussed the three associated factors affecting CQ Drive, which are intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation and self-efficacy. Each of these components play an important role in understanding your own drive in terms of Cultural Intelligence and how it can be enhanced.

To refresh here are each of the components of CQ Drive.

  • Intrinsic drive is what motivates some people to have interactions with other cultures.  People with intrinsic drive have a deep, personal interest in different cultures and want to understand or experience the different foods, languages and cultural practices of others.
  • Extrinsic drive describes those people that may want to gain experience interacting across cultures to improve their credentials or gain a promotion in their organisation. People with extrinsic drive are motivated by the way in which having interactions with other cultures can benefit them.
  • Self efficacy refers to having the confidence to handle intercultural situations should they arise, especially when you are not in a position to know the best course of action. Often this entails navigating the cues you are receiving and interpreting them to the best of your ability.

A great example of CQ Drive that I noticed recently was the way in which Jacinda Ardern  has been handling the terrible tragedy that occurred in Christchurch, New Zealand. She has exemplified all the elements of high CQ Drive. From my observation, her key drivers have been to understand the perspectives of the communities, particularly the Muslim community and to make decisions that are in the best interest of the people of New Zealand.

She has shown great respect to the Muslim community and their culture by choosing to wear a hijab and spend time empathising with the victims’ families. In parliament she quoted an Islamic greeting to begin the session and has already enacted new laws restricting gun ownership in an effort to ensure that the community at large is safe. In taking these actions she has united the people of New Zealand, overcome a difficult cross-cultural issue and shown great leadership. Jacinda has demonstrated high CQ Drive at the intrinsic, extrinsic and self- efficacy levels through her actions and gained support and respect for her leadership and humanity in doing so. It is very encouraging to see this behaviour in a world leader and provides us with a great example of how we can do better at a personal level in this space.

Here is a short list of tips which can be useful in advancing your own CQ Drive.

  1) Take some unconscious bias tests –Click here

  2) Seek feedback from peers about your interactions across cultures.

  3) Reflect on what guides and influences your behaviours and attitudes toward culturally diverse groups

  4) Welcome opportunities to mentor others as a ‘cultural broker’ and to be mentored yourself.

  5) Seek an interest that you have and leverage on it. Connect with culturally diverse peers who may have an interest in the same topic. You may seek to reach out via social media.

  6) Be prepared to make mistakes and to learn from them.

Being clear about ‘why’ you are choosing to interact with others from different cultural backgrounds helps ease the inevitable tensions or misunderstanding that arise. It provides you with a higher level of self-awareness which is essential in all cross-cultural interactions.

How Networking Can Help You Find The Best Suppliers

How can procurement professionals use social networking to find competitive suppliers?

By Rawpixel.com/ Shutterstock

As procurement professionals continue to look for more efficient ways to grow and optimise their supply network to meet demands, the supply market analysis (sourcing) process should be streamlined through online networks, such as Procurious, and offline networks including industry conferences, mixers and memberships.

I recently conducted a research study to investigate how social networking, both online and offline, influences the relationship between supply market analysis and cost reduction. Through online survey responses from existing and former procurement professionals, data was collected to establish the foundation of this concept. Pursuant to a seven-point Likert scale, a total of 51,485 survey participants were asked a series of questions in the context of three areas: supply market analysis, social networking, and cost reduction.

In general, it was discovered that procurement professionals do use social networking to find competitive suppliers. However, the study also revealed that social networking, in and of itself, is not a universal solution for identifying competitive suppliers. Rather, it is another option for finding suppliers that ultimately impact cost reduction. When considering the competitiveness of the supply market, roughly 77 per cent of procurement professionals indicated that their supply market was highly competitive. This suggested that most professionals have the option to switch to alternative suppliers. Social networking revealed that when looked at as a linear combination of network range, network size, and network strength, it amplifies the relationship between supply market analysis and cost reduction. Furthermore, there is an opportunity for professionals to enhance the way they source by concentrating on certain dimensions of social networking.

The post hoc analysis uncovered two key insights regarding the dimensions of a procurement professional’s social network:

1. There is a lack of significance related to network size

2. Network range and network strength foster more social networking value.

Procurement professionals can accomplish this by cultivating closer relationships with their social contacts, and by increasing the communication frequency with their contacts. By doing so, they can effectively organise their social network to source suppliers who ultimately provide improved reduction in costs. When procurement professionals reflected on cost reductions achieved from purchasing decisions, they agreed that they experienced a cost reduction. Approximately, 44 per cent of professionals conveyed that they experienced cost reductions considerably higher than expected based on their actions. This suggested that purchasing decisions can have an impact on cost reduction.

The constructs of supply market analysis, social networking, and cost reduction were adopted from existing research to substantiate the framework of the study. Supply market analysis was measured according to a supply market profile, which considered the competitiveness of the supply market, the number of capable suppliers in the supply market, and the switching costs of the supply market. Social networking was measured through three dimensions of social networking: network size, network range, and network strength. Network strength considered the interaction frequency, relationship duration, and emotional intensity of a connection. Network range contemplated the diversity of contacts in a social network. Network size assessed the total group of links that a person has with another one’s total of information channels. Cost reduction was measured through cost performance, in terms of broad retrospective results. For example, higher than average cost reductions were achieved and cost reductions were considerably higher than expected.

This study revealed opportunities to expand sourcing strategies without limiting the sourcing approach. Social networking can be integrated as part of a hybrid sourcing approach of traditional sourcing schemes to improve cost. When compared to traditional strategic sourcing tactics, understanding the role of social networking can be a viable way to link innovation with the sourcing process. The linkage thus relates to improved cost performance as confirmed by the data collected from procurement professionals.

The content of this article was taken from Adam Cockrell’s dissertation – Supply Market Analysis: The moderating effect of social networking on cost reduction – DePaul University.