Category Archives: Career Management

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. 

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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.

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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…

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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?

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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.

Bursting The Leadership Bubble – You Have Got What It Takes

People often cultivate an air of mystique about the type of person it takes to be in a senior leadership role. Abby Vige bursts that bubble…

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Influencing up is about taking ownership of yourself and not waiting for things to be handed to you no matter how lowly or isolated your role is. There is always a way to move forward and add value.

I have summarised the key takeaways that I deployed early on my career, they serve as valuable reminders in any role that I am in.

1.Spot things in your team that could do with streamlining or improving #efficencyprogrammes

2. Don’t overlook the basics like creating tools and templates – this can be gold #bigdata #storytelling

3. Do your time, do the churn and take each opportunity as it comes #rollyoursleevesup

4. Get organised. We are all busy, you need to get efficient with your time #productivityhacks

5. Pick a senior that you can trust and test ideas with them, they can be your biggest ambassador #squadgoals

Mystery management

People are people no matter what their job title is or how senior they are, this seems so obvious! but many of us have cultivated an air of mystique about what type of person it must take to be in such a senior role. It’s worthwhile to take a moment to put them into slow motion in order to unpack what’s actually going on.

The slowmo replay

We all recognise this scenario, the most senior person in a organisation walks through an office in close proximity. You’ve never spoken to them, never been introduced to them, you are just one of oodles of people that they manage. In many instances they will most likely know your name but your day to day jobs don’t require any personal interaction. They waft through the office almost like an apparition. The air of leadership. The manager has landed.

How it’s interpreted

When I have mentored people coming up through the ranks, I have noticed that they often hold these people in such reverence. They make bold assumptions about the life they must have lead, the number of degrees they must hold and how super duper busy they must be. It’s often stated “…there’s no way I could do that job…” And so I ask them, what makes you think this? They say “well because they have such a high level job and so much responsibility, they must have so much technical knowledge and experience, their job must be insane”. While some of this is usually true, it does the manager a disservice. Is a titanic sized shipload of technical knowledge where the value lies? Are these the most valuable things they can teach us?

Bursting the bubble

When you slow the manager down, view and accept that they are a person just like the rest of us, the reverence bubble will pop. In the demystifying the senior manager we can begin to see what really matters, and what matters is knowing how they human and what they learned in order to get to where they are.

Human hacks

These are the questions we should be asking.

  • What things have happened in your life that have given the capability to be able to do this role that you’re in?
  • What have you learnt about yourself along the way?
  • What does stress feel like to you? How does it present, what brings it on and what do you do?
  • How do you manage competing time priorities?
  • What did you try that didn’t work? What did you try that did work?

The answers to these questions lay out a path that maps the journey of experience. A degree isn’t going to teach you instincts about your business, a degree can be important but it doesn’t teach you about resilience that is crafted and learned over time. The technical expertise is not what makes most senior managers, it’s the life skills.

Behind the veil

Senior managers need to challenge themselves to pull aside the curtain and be open to people about what they’ve done in their life to build the person that is the leader before them.

From this point, people can make an accurate assessment about what type of calibre it takes to be in a certain role and whether those skill sets suit their strengths, their values and their aspirations.

Get away from the technical and focus on the human.

4 Strategies For Managing Change The Right Way

If you think change is easy, you must be doing it wrong! These 4 strategies can help…

Why do we say change is hard when we make changes every day; we change clothes, what we eat, where we go. We change meetings, appointments, schedules constantly. So what is it about change that makes us put the brakes on anything and everything that requires us to act, work, interact, and think a little differently? In the digital era, change is everywhere. There’s new technology, new initiatives, new customers, new opportunities and new risks. And all of them require some sort of change whether it be to our priorities, our time, or how we go about doing our work. And yet, with a recent Harvard Business Review finding that 70 per cent of digital transformations do not realise their expected outcome, it’s clear that we have a challenge around a change in mindset, business model and approach.

Time to get out of our comfort zones; digital is all about transformation and innovation, which at it’s core requires varying degrees of change and adaptability. And yet so many of us are still uncomfortable with it. Even something as basic as shared work spaces was initially a confronting change to many that signalled the end of something that was comfortable and familiar.   The idea to many, is that change means that there is something that has not been done well or right, previously. But what if we changed our mindset and saw change as an opportunity to engage differently and learn new things? What if we saw it as the way to get things done, and the way to inspire us, help us learn, and help us achieve?  Fred Emery articulates this brilliantly “Instead of constantly adapting to change, why not change to be adaptive?”

Understanding this may be easy however making it happen is another thing altogether. So where to start? Here are four strategies that will help shift mindsets and perspectives for organisations and leaders who want to get this right.

1. Make it make sense

Context matters. Change cannot and should not happen in isolation. When a company or team undertake any initiative without the benefit of alignment to a functional or organisational strategy, it can create confusion or a disconnect between what is happening and the broader priorities. Alternatively, being able to clearly articulate how one enables the other creates clarity and purpose. Dan Pink’s amazing book Drive, explores the powerful motivating force of purpose in creating inspiring and engaging commitment. Everyone wants to know they are moving in the right direction, and that it’s a direction that matters.

2. Make it matter

Change becomes very personal when we are asked, or expected to do something that requires us to be different from what we are.  The question we all inevitably ask ourselves when we are presented with something that requires us to do something different is What’s in it for me?  If this question cannot be answered then probability suggests success is going to be unlikely. It’s not that as individuals we are singularly selfish, or wish to be difficult (although I am sure we all have our moments), it’s just that a change usually does seem like more effort. And effort involves energy and attention that can be too much in the plethora of some many other competing priorities we have in both our professional and personal lives. Being able to explain the benefits of what’s coming and what it might mean in a before versus after scenario can create a powerful force in the direction the change is needed. Too often leaders and organisations expect people to simply get it and don’t take the time to communicate and break this down meaningfully. Doing so can make all the difference.

3. Make it simple

Even if context is set and personalisation has been defined, it’s easy to get caught up in the confusion around the how. Best intentions are often abandoned because we are derailed by competing priorities, or simply because it seems really hard; as noted above, so much of change requires what we interpret to be exponential and often unnecessary effort. In their book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath explore the importance of providing a simple and clear path for those who want to implement a successful change. In the corporate world, we all know the conversation around SMART goals.  Our approach to change should not be any different. Set small milestones that are well defined and achievable. Celebrate the success upon achievement before moving on to the next one. And acknowledge that a setback is not a failure, or a reason to give up. In fact, in the digital dialogue, it’s simply an initiative of testing and learning. 

4. Make it the way things get done

Change should never be an afterthought. It should be ingrained into the organisational DNA.  Understanding that not everyone is going to be on board from day one is one thing. Working out what to do about it and create the impetus to move in the right direction is a challenging proposition but as many organisations and teams have shown before, it is possible. In the digital world, it is very easy to be distracted by the technology and its potential, losing sight that it is man + machine that realise the true potential of transformation. Understanding this and incorporating it into the ways of working will enable the cultural engagement that is required to become an organisation that is adaptive and agile at heart. Leverage the expertise and willingness of those have become a part of an initiative to build stories and share learnings from what worked and what didn’t. Then integrate the learning into the next program and the next, continuing to build until there is a shift of momentum towards the change, as opposed to resisting it. 

Is Category Management Still A Career Choice?

Far from the predictions of many, category management is alive and well, but it is changing. Elaine Porteous explores how…

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Contrary to some predictions in the last decade about the demise and imminent death of category management in procurement, it is alive and well, but evolving.  In truth, it is becoming more complicated as third-party spend in the 21st century does not easily fit into historical categories.  There is more overlap and intersection in I.T. services as it merges with telecommunications, marketing services now include internet and social media and packaging is concerned with sustainability.     

Category management’s aim is to segment its spending on third-party goods and services into groups depending on function and end use.  The difficulty in defining category groups has increased due to the overlap between commodities and the rapid innovation in technologies.  Category managers handle more than strategic sourcing. Their role includes creating a category plan, handling supplier relationships and providing continual oversight in the category. 

Specialise in your niche and own the category

It is generally understood that difficult and complex indirect categories pay more.  Indirect spend refers to goods or services that are not directly incorporated into a product or service delivered to a customer, e.g.  I.T., marketing, facilities and professional services.  Experienced category managers can earn £75 000 per annum.    

Why are some categories difficult?  Partly because stakeholders in these categories resist procurement efforts to influence their spend and are protective of their incumbent suppliers.  It can also be because procurement people may be seen to be lacking in the knowledge needed to lead the supplier selection and contracting process.  

Professional services can be a bit of a minefield. Marketing, management consulting, legal and insurance are commodities that have unclear and convoluted pricing structures which take time to understand fully.   

Managing indirect categories requires behavioural skills as well as deep technical knowledge of the category. Aspiring category managers need persuasive skills, empathy and the ability to listen as well as to be decisive when the need arises.  They also need to act as change agents and diplomats.

Don’t try and change the supplier of food catering services without engaging with the users or there may be a riot.   

Information Technology

Sourcing and contracting I.T services is different from any other category. Without extensive experience or formal training, this category is going to be an uphill struggle. The advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), SaaS and blockchain will require constant study and awareness of how to apply new types of applications. Where the I.T. function is mission critical to the company operations, e.g. in banks and insurance companies, procurement and sourcing professionals need to be totally immersed in the category and its commodities which can include: software licences, hardware, peripherals, servers, data and telephony, 3D printing, warranties and maintenance.  Category managers are increasingly being hired from internal and external I.T. departments.

The organisational culture and landscape on the indirect side has many nuances that do not exist on the direct side. The procurement executive will therefore need to traverse the waters of indirect spend with unique strategies to ensure success.

Marketing services

This category requires focus, stamina and a long line in patience. The relationship between marketing and procurement works best when they meet to discuss and agree on sourcing and contracting strategy and when procurement takes over the pesky administrative details.   Traditionally advertising agencies have been the major recipients of marketing spend, some providing a one-stop service, maybe with no contract or service level agreement (SLA).  This is changing; the use of printed matter is diminishing, digital agencies are taking over so there is healthy competition for the overall spend.

See also  Is Marketing Procurement’s Blind Spot?

Legal services

Even though the legal services area is complex and services are expensive, it is possible to build credibility with the in-house legal team by finding out

  1. and understanding what their needs and issues are
  2. which areas have the potential for savings
  3. where better value can be achieved from external legal firms. 

The low-end, routine or commoditized legal services are the easiest to address. By learning the language of solicitors and attorneys you can express your sourcing ideas in words they can understand. Managing supplier relationships with law firms need to be focused on minimising bad behaviours and rewarding and incentivising those who provide accurate, transparent pricing and deliver excellent service and good advice.

Human Resources

HR has a wide remit in many large organizations with the main focus being on people management. Most HR professionals would agree that they don’t have an in-depth understanding of their suppliers’ cost drivers such as profit, overheads, risk and how these impact on return on investment (ROI).  They are beginning to realise the benefits of having their procurement counterparts with them around the negotiating table.  Procurement’s selling proposition to HR is to demonstrate its ability to deliver value by being a source of market intelligence and a guide to best practice. 

Depending on the industry sector you work in, some categories can take on greater or lesser importance. In fast-moving-consumer-goods, packaging, logistics and transport are vital to the success of all food, drink and healthcare companies. In insurance and banking, reliable technology is the key.  

Tips to help you succeed in difficult categories

  • Research the market by benchmarking the pricing of services to  establish the competitiveness of current suppliers
  • Develop a database for each type of service by evaluating current suppliers, their pricing structures and capabilities
  • Re-negotiate and improve the contractual terms and conditions, pricing models and rates on current agreements and/or go to market with a well-thought outsourcing strategy.  
  • Establish what deliverables and technical skills are needed for each type of service so that you can determine which suppliers can provide them
  • Identify incentives to improve relationships with your incumbent suppliers and aim to consolidate your base

There is a growing awareness of corporate social responsibility across most categories. Sustainability is becoming more than a consideration in categories that have the potential to have a detrimental impact on society and the environment. Job descriptions for category managers are already including responsibility for sustainability strategies. 

See also  Where Are All The Great Procurement Jobs?

How To Hire Someone With A Growth Mindset

Some people are on a journey of continuous improvement and, as a result, are more likely to achieve their goals. Here’s how you identify those with a growth mindset.

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The growth mindset theory was brought to prominence by Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychology professor, and in simple terms it suggests that “we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems”.

Rather than labeling people as smart or not, musical or not, good at math or not, talented or not, and so on, Dweck argues that with effort we can learn how to improve in every area.

After failing a biology exam, a student with a fixed mindset will muse that they aren’t good at biology, they aren’t a good student and they are a failure. The only logical conclusion from here is therefore to quit and the resultant emotion is likely to be self pity. This student is a hostage to their own perceived limitations. They have become the grade from their exam. They are a failure.

Conversely, a student with a growth mindset will conclude from the failure that they didn’t study enough or didn’t use the right study methods. They do not label themselves as a failure. Rather, they see the exam as a failed effort, learn from it and adapt, thus becoming stronger.

It’s not easy being the smartest person in the room your entire life and then one day failing. This is the critical juncture. Am I a failure? Or did I encounter a scenario where I didn’t work hard enough or well enough? Do I need to change my approach?

The first conclusion – I’m a failure – is disastrous because we believe that our ability is capped and it leads to despair. The second conclusion – I can improve – leads to hope.

The world is not necessarily divided into people with fixed and growth mindsets. Even the most frequent adopters of a growth mindset can find themselves in a fixed mindset sometimes. But some people consistently approach life’s challenges with a growth mindset.

Such people are on a journey of continuous improvement and, as a result, are more likely to achieve their goals. In fact, they are likely to move the goalposts altogether. They won’t give up as easily, they will find a way to solve complex problems, they will teach themselves new methods and they will value effort, determination and improvement over any talents they perceive to have been born with.

They will find a way to win rather than believing that they are simply a winner or a loser.

Here’s four ways to hire someone with a growth mindset:

Going to the Next Level

Professor Dweck worked with a baseball team to identify draftees with a growth mindset. Prospective draftees were asked what they would have to change in order to be successful at the top level.

Recruiters were looking for people who acknowledged that they’d need to improve most of their skills because this demonstrates an understanding that abilities can be developed.


This question can easily be modified to suit a company setting.  Just ask candidates what they would need to do to be successful in a role that is one level up from their current role.

Dealing with Failure

Ask candidates about a time when they didn’t get an outcome they wanted. It doesn’t have to be linked to their careers – it can be anything like a grade at school, an application that was refused or a poor showing in a sporting competition, to name a few. Then ask what their conclusion was. Why did they fail? What did they learn? What did they do next? Look for attempts at improvement based on greater effort or a change of approach.

The Musician Test


Ask candidates what it would take for them to become really good saxophonists. This should be a multiple choice question. One answer should be along the lines of “a good teacher and lots of practice” and another should be something like “hell to freeze over, it will never happen”. The idea is to determine whether candidates think they can develop skills in an area that they previously had none.

Labelling


Give candidates a number of scenarios and for each one ask them to choose between two phrases that describe how they feel about the outcome. For example, if the scenario is “you came fourth out of eight in a race” then the two phrases could be “too slow” and “need to speed up”. If the scenario is “you got 58 is the biology exam and 83 in the literature exam” the two phrases could be “better at literature” and “didn’t study effectively for biology”.

The first phrase in both scenarios effectively labels the candidate as a success or a failure, as good or bad at something. This implies a fixed mindset. Conversely, the second phrase in both scenarios implies a belief in the ability to improve.

Hire for Growth 

Hiring people with a growth mindset means that, instead of hiring fixed talent, you are hiring people who will become more and more talented over time. Improvement in your company will therefore be continuous. Once you know what to look for, hiring people with a growth mindset is not necessarily difficult.

This article, written by Omer Molad, was originally published on Vervoe.

Is The Ageing Workforce Blocking Career Progression?

Younger workers are worried that an ageing workforce makes it more difficult for them to get a job – but just how much truth is there behind their concerns? 

By Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock

The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, now aged 78, was once asked by an NBC reporter whether her decision to stay in the job blocks a new generation of Democratic leaders. Offensive though it is, the question makes sense to a lot of younger workers.  If Pelosi keeps working, a younger person doesn’t get a go at the job. And there are many workplaces where that question is playing on the minds of workers.  But intuitive as it sounds, the evidence says it’s a load of bollocks.

More of us are working to an older age than ever before.  In Australia for example the chance that a 55 to 59 year old is still working has jumped from 60 to 75 per cent since the turn of the century.  The likelihood that a person aged 60 to 64 is still working has similarly leapt from 34 to 57 per cent.  And the story is repeated across the globe.  Eighty three per cent of 60 to 64 year olds in Iceland still work, as do 76% in New Zealand, 68 per cent in Sweden and 66 per cent in Japan. 

This is trend that is likely to continue to accelerate with the United Nations projecting that by 2050 the number of people aged over 60 will more than double, to approximately 2 billion, representing around a fifth of the world’s population.  Better healthcare have contributed to longer average lifespans. This combined with declining real spending power for employees has resulted in strong economic and social imperatives for people to stay at work longer.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, younger workers are worried that the presence of older workers makes it more difficult for them to get a job and to progress if they do get one.  Surveys like the one carried out by Canada Life Insurance group reveal that two in five employees believe the ageing workforce will make it harder for younger employees to get a start. 

Employees under thirty are the most concerned with almost of half in agreement with the proposition that older members of staff should retire so that younger workers could have a genuine chance of promotion.  Just 29 per cent of workers aged over 50, agree.  There’s only so many jobs at any given level, young workers reason, and if people are staying in work longer then their chances of progressing are significantly decreased. Only one in five workers felt that older workers should be retained so that they could benefit from their experience.

And while that logic sounds intuitively correct, there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it.  The “lump of labour” theory, as it is known by economists has been around since 1851, when a British economist argued that cutting the number of hours employees worked would eliminate unemployment.  It has been used in policy debates to justify all manner of sexist, anti-immigrant or ageist employment or retirement legislation.  In essence it maintains that any big ‘lump of labour’ suddenly hitting the workforce, such as from immigrants, women, returning veterans or, in this case, older people, reduces the employment prospects of new entrants.

But when economists went looking for proof that this actually happens, they have consistently come up dry.  One recent example is a major review of US labor statistics covering the period 1977 to 2011.  It found that the increased number of older workers in that period had not reduced employment of younger workers, reduced the wages paid to younger workers or reduced the number of hours of work available for younger workers.  Indeed the data suggested that the greater employment of older people had lead to better outcomes for younger workers in that period.

Global analysis by the US National Bureau of Economic Research says that the macroeconomic reality is very different from what intuition tells us.  From an economy-wide perspective, the presence of older workers means more people working rather than collecting pensions and being otherwise dependent on the productivity of younger workers.  This in turn drives greater and faster economic growth which in turn spurs the creation of more jobs.  The pool of available jobs is not static say economists.  It is a rapidly expanding pool that is driven by economic activity and technological innovation. 

If your plan for career progression begins and ends with waiting for your boss to retire or die in harness, then yes, the ageing workforce is going to be a bit of a problem for you.  But if you are open to lateral movement, reskilling in new technologies and embracing the new opportunities that an expanding economy presents then older workers are no threat to you.  And more than that by the time you get to be part of that cohort, you will probably be very grateful for the healthcare and lifestyle benefits they have forced employers to adopt to support an older workforce.

Become The Translator for Your Procurement Network

You may have thousands of contacts in your professional network, but how many of them are you actually influencing?  

By Lemon Tree Images / Shutterstock

In the age of big data, “vanity metrics” are a plague that affect every profession. Anyone who has a website, for example, will know that page views and “likes” may make you feel good, but are very difficult to link with key business drivers.

Vanity metrics to watch out for in procurement might include measuring team activity, counting your total POs, your number of suppliers, or number of projects without actually measuring the value that they’re delivering. A team member who brags that they’ve had 100 meetings with key suppliers in the past six months is talking about a vanity metric, but if that same person provides numbers around the savings and other value flowing from those meetings, then we’re talking about real value. 

Online networking is another area rife with vanity metrics. No matter whether you have 500, 5000 or 10,000 connections across LinkedIn, Procurious and other platforms, your network risks being nothing more than a dormant asset unless you contribute. By “contribute”, I don’t mean that you “like” something they wrote or share photos of your holiday – I mean that you share your mastery, your insights and your experience. For the majority of us, it’s rare that we contribute meaningfully to our networks.    

Remove the collection addiction

I believe we have a collection addiction in the business world. In previous years we collected piles of business cards wrapped in rubber bands – which often (if you’re anything like me) ended up gathering dust on a forgotten corner of the desk. These days it’s about racking up the number of connections either online or within our databases.

Both these situations have the same outcome – a massive potential network and no influence. I would rather you have 50 people who are highly engaged in everything that you do – commenting, joining the conversation and sharing your insights among their own networks – than 5000 people on a list that have never been touched.

In other words, popularity is the wrong metric – focus instead on influence. Focus on having people engaged enough with what you’re doing – so much so that they would happily share your ideas, insights and achievements with everybody that they know. In other words influence is the ability to say ‘look over there’ and have people engaged enough to look. Your responsibility then becomes making sure that what you point them towards, what you contribute, is and valuable as possible.

Engage rather than collect

While collecting contacts is a vanity metric, engaging with contacts is a value-driving activity. The best way I know how to engage with others online is to become the ‘primary translator’ of your space.

A translator is someone who goes out into the areas where others don’t have the time, nor the bandwidth, nor the experience to go, and bring relevant information back for their network in a language they understand. If you want to stand out and build your influence, you need to become the translator of valuable information for your target audience. What does that look like? The best place to start is to make a list of the top questions the people you are wanting to influence are asking in relation to your area of expertise. If you’re not sure – ask! Then systematically go through that list and find the best way to contribute the answers. It might be in the form of articles, videos, internal presentations, checklists, how to guides, insight reports or even preparing in advance in order to contribute more actively in meetings.

Another good exercise is to take a moment to think about the translators that you follow. Whose work do you consistently follow or read? Now think about what they translate for you; the value they bring, and how they go about it – do they present the information in essay-length blog articles, or bite-sized posts? If you consistently give them your valuable attention – I guarantee you they effectively translate something important to your world.

Speak the language of the business

You’ll notice I mentioned that the first step in becoming the translator – is getting to know what questions are important to the people you’re trying to reach. For procurement professionals this means understanding what questions your business stakeholders are asking. What are their challenges? What are their opportunities? That they may or may not have seen? Then it’s up to you to access your own expertise and bring that information back to them – not in procurement technical language, but in their language – in the language they already speak.

Translators know that they need to be able to speak the language of the business, and also understand that a multitude of languages exist within every organisation. This is often referred to as ‘charismatic language’. Every group and community of people has one. Your finance function, for example, will speak a very different language – use very different and specific words – than your stakeholders in marketing. What they do have in common, however, is that neither group of stakeholders will want to hear you talk about RFPs, RFXs, or tenders.

Become the trusted authority

Take time to revisit your network of stakeholder (both online and in the office) and think about what subjects you can translate for them – within your area of expertise. Doing so will capture their attention and help build their perception of you as an influential subject matter expert. However – much larger than that. They will know that you care about – and have real value to share in relation to – the issues that are important to them.

It’s this decision – to become your organisations primary translator and contribute your mastery in a format that resonates – that will quickly accelerate you to the role of trusted authority.

Now that’s the metric of real influence.