Category Archives: Generation Procurement

Why More Women in Senior Roles Makes Sense

Should supply chains, and organisations as a whole, be working harder to bring more women into senior roles?Recent headlines, research and reports have firmly placed the spotlight on the subject of gender equality. The hack of Sony communications earlier this year very publicly lifted the lid on the lack of equality in salaries for world-famous actors and actresses.

It led to Jennifer Lawrence writing a passionate article on her feelings upon finding out how much less she was being paid than her male co-stars.

Procurement and supply chain are just a couple amongst a multitude of professions in which women are fighting for equality, not just in wages, but also promotion opportunities and organisational responsibilities.

The Business Landscape

Women constitute more than half of the total global workforce, but the figures are much lower when it comes to their presence in the boardrooms of the large organisations. Although recent reports in the UK showed that 26.1 per cent of boardroom positions on the FTSE 100 are held by women, overall there are just 10 per cent of top supply chain executive positions in Fortune Global 500 companies held by women.

Why is this?

There is some evidence that it can be down to perceptions of the roles. Research conducted by SCM World found that the majority of men (63%) and women (75%) believe that the natural skillsets of women differ from those of men, and that these differences are advantageous for supply chain management.

However, other research suggests that women are actually better equipped than their male counterparts for roles within the supply chain. Leaving aside the idea that women think less of themselves, what could be other reasons.

Held to Higher Account?

In many cases, female executives are both better qualified and better educated than male peers. A report from the American Management Association showed that:

  • Women are 33 per cent more likely to earn a college degree than men
  • 36 per cent of women (versus 28 per cent of men) in leadership positions hold STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degrees
  • Female executives attended colleges and graduate schools that were ranked higher on average than the schools attended by men

In spite of this, it has been suggested that female CEOs may actually be held to a higher standard than male leaders, which causes them to be passed over and left behind when advancement opportunities arise.

Just 4.8 per cent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and only 1.1 per cent earn $150,000 or more per year, compared with 4 per cent of men.

Women in Supply Chain

And this is where organisations are missing a trick. Attracting and retaining women within the supply chain sector is a realistic, common sense solution to many countries’ human resources challenges.

Add to this the fact that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their industry median, and you are looking at a recipe for success.

The benefits are further extolled in this webinar from Kinaxis and supported by Women In Supply Chain (WISC).

In the Real World

The imbalance is borne out when considered against industries and sectors in the UK, but, according to some members of the Procurious community, there may be a change occurring, however slowly.

Helen Mackenzie, Head of Exchequer Services at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, argued that procurement and supply chain aren’t that different from other professions. Traditionally, and still in some areas, women still have to appear to be 20 times better than their male counterparts in order to progress.

However, the balance is shifting in Scottish Local Government, where 17 of 32 Heads of Procurement are female. Helen also went on to say that expectations of procurement are shifting, which could play into the hands of women, as the profession focuses more on trust, relationship building and communication, something that women often have the edge over their male counterparts.

Juliet Frost, a freelance procurement expert, also hasn’t experienced any discrimination where she has worked, although pointed out that only once has she worked in an organisation where there was a female above her in the hierarchy.

From Juliet’s point of view, it’s important to work for an organisation that values diversity across the board, not just gender related. This will permeate into the procurement team and allow for a greater balance.

Procurious GM, Lisa Malone, believes that the issue for many women is not just balancing motherhood with work, but returning to work full-time after a long period away from the workforce.

Women are joining the supply chain profession in almost equal numbers now, Lisa says, but the numbers drop off in the early-30s demographic, usually associated with family raising. It’s important for organisations to help these women return to the workforce and get back on a career trajectory.

‘Returnship’ Programmes

Some organisations are now actively helping women (and men in some cases too) return to the workforce after an extended, voluntary career break. These ‘returnship’ programmes (a term trademarked by Goldman Sachs) are higher-level paid internships, offering flexible working over a 10-12 week period, often alongside free childcare and mentoring for returnees.

Organisations including Deloitte, JP Morgan and RBS all offer similar programmes – you can find a good list here. The programmes have been credited with helping to bring women back into work, with a good percentage of women offered full-time roles once their ‘returnships’ have concluded.

And finally…

We’ll leave the last word to Women in Supply Chain, with this infographic on how they suggest addressing the growing labour shortage in supply chain management in Canada.

It just makes sense, doesn’t it?

WISC Infographic

A Better Way to Manage Road Warriors, and Their Costs

You road warriors are a hardy bunch, aren’t you?

This article was originally published on WordPress.

You spend over a hundred hours a year on planes, take trips on short notice, cross too many time zones, lose sleep, gain weight, get up way early and come home late, and give up more than your share of weekends.

All while being squeezed by travel policies that leave you shaking your head, wondering if the people who approved these policies really, truly understand how hard it is to be a heavy-duty road warrior.

The Travel Friction Concept

Let’s call all this wear and tear you’re taking on “travel friction“.  You get it, right?  The more trips you take, the tougher those trips are, the more you get burned out by being on the road.

Fun fact: Real road warriors, those in the top 10 per cent of all travelers, absorb close to 50 per cent of all travel friction in the average firm.    So you really are in a separate class when it comes to work-life balance challenges, and not surprisingly, for higher risk of quitting your job.

It’s this risk of attrition, of getting burned out on travel and quitting the road, that is the key to a better way of managing all you road warriors.

Old-School Procurement Is The Problem

Procurement folks must address the travel category.  The spend is too big, and the purchase practices too important, for them to ignore.

The old-fashioned way of procuring travel has been – and sadly, still is – to focus intensely on the travel supplier’s costs.  Hammer that airfare down, demand a lower hotel rate, haggle over a buck or two a day for the rental car.

At the same time, procurement knows that travelers need to abide by travel policies that further reduce travel supplier costs.  Things like taking extra connections, flying 12 hours in coach, or staying at inconvenient 3-star hotels…all the things that you road warriors really hate.

Procurement has been doing it this way for twenty years. Call this the “transaction cost” model of managing travel.

New-School Procurement Is the Solution

All we have to do is get procurement to look at the total cost of travel, not just the supplier’s portion.  Specifically, the cost of travel friction.

These travel friction costs come in a few forms: lost productivity, higher health costs, more safety incidents, and the killer – higher turnover.

The good news is that these travel friction costs can all be quantified.  The better news is that procurement folks already get the “total cost” concept.  They use it all the time in other cost categories.  Think computers or cars, and their total cost of ownership.

More Than Just Tiered Travel Policies

Many companies give their frequent travelers a more traveler-friendly policy.  Maybe you get business class on long haul flights and an airport lounge membership. Woo-hoo.

There are many other ways for your firm to reduce the amount of travel friction you take on.  Consider these options:

  • Recognition.  Wouldn’t a simple thank you from a senior exec go a long way to taking the sting out of that last month of road warrior hell you went through?
  • Less Travel.  What if your firm had a travel friction warning light that started to flash when you’ve reached a certain level of travel? Or a proactive way to share your travel duties with a colleague?
  • Better Trips – Safer, Healthier, Easier.  What does “better” mean to you?  Shouldn’t your firm at least know your particular preferences?
  • Better Travel Culture.  You’re a road warrior, not a Navy Seal. Maybe your firm needs to promote a more traveler-tolerant culture.  Some companies do this by discouraging need-to-travel meetings on Mondays and Fridays.
  • Travel Counseling.  A few of you are very likely addicted to traveling.  You and your firm should recognize this, and put some practical options on the table.

Road warriors are a very valuable segment of any firm’s workforce. It’s well worth reducing the friction in this important part of the business machine.

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Scott Gillespie is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at tClara, helping travel and procurement managers build more valuable travel programs, as well as the author of Gillespie’s Guide to Travel+Procurement.

10 Career Influencing Women in Procurement – Part 1

As a woman in procurement – what would you do if you weren’t afraid? Would you ask for more from yourself, your partner, your boss, your colleagues, your suppliers?

Probably. So, why don’t you? Is it down to a lack of confidence?

Confidence is “in alarmingly short supply” for women.

According to the book ‘The Confidence Code’, the main reason women have lower confidence is because they tend to lack self-belief. The book’s authors, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, found that women need to stop worrying about failure, stop second-guessing themselves, and put less emphasis on how others might perceive them.

Women need to stop worrying that they cannot succeed but instead start taking action and risking failure. By not believing that you can succeed, you are less likely to even try.

Embracing Your Ambition

This week I was a guest at the ProcureCon Europe ‘Women in Procurement’ Breakfast in Berlin. The very impressive Melani Wilson Smith chaired the breakfast, pushing the attendees to share their experience and get the most out of our short time together.

Melani is a perfect example of a successful woman in procurement. Currently Chief Procurement Officer for North America & Global Biscuits at Mondelez International, Melani has worked globally for other big names such as Pfizer and Proctor & Gamble, while still being an active member of her community in New Jersey.

The conversation over breakfast touched on the common challenges of influence and engagement. One of the key messages that resonated for me was that women in procurement needed to “create the courage to embrace your ambition”.

Women are ambitious and work hard, but they need the confidence and courage to follow through and create the career they deserve.

My Influencers

While I listened to the dialogue, I couldn’t help thinking about and reflecting on the women who have supported and influenced me during my career.

I see my career in two distinct halves – before and after I became a mother. This week, my focus is on the first half of my career

Before I had children managing my career was pretty straightforward. I got a great education, worked hard, kept my bosses happy (well, most of the time) and was focussed on continually presenting new ideas and ways to get things done.

These are some of the women who made a big impression on me, as well as having a major impact on my future.

1. Christie Breves

Christie was my first female boss in procurement. She had a demanding focus on detail, which was a very important learning point for me – the devil is in the detail and your numbers need to be indisputable.

Her formula is evidenced by her successful career – more than eight years as CPO at Alcoa, and now more than two years at US Steel. Christie had a young family when I worked for her, but – of course (as you do pre-children) – I didn’t even think about this at the time.

Christie is a legendary woman in procurement – and anyone who gets the chance to meet her should take the opportunity.

2. Charmayne Rose

Charmayne may be surprised to make this list, but if it wasn’t for her telling me (in no uncertain terms) over lunch when I was 33, that I had better get started on having children, I would probably not have considered this for another decade!

I was too focused on my new company, and having too much fun to focus on something so serious. But her conversation prompted me to research the ageing process and its impact on fertility. I got the message and two years later had my first son.

While many of you might be thinking “too much information…”, this is a very important timeline for career women to keep their eye on. It is too easy for time to slip by!

3. Cindy Dunham

Cindy naturally assumes the leadership role wherever she is operating. She listens and respects the debate, then provides the ‘mile high’ strategic view, and considers solutions that will benefit the community.

I have always admired the way Cindy delegates and empowers her team. This allows her to manage her calendar to focus on the things only she could do. As women, in particular, I think we try to take on too much, and that then often means that we are over-stretched and under-resourced.

Cindy travelled the world with her role with Rio Tinto and still managed to keep the home fires burning.

4. Sue Steele

Sue is the most ‘statesman-like’ female leader I have met. Sue has succeeded in a very male-dominated field – engineering services – running the Operations team before moving into Procurement.

She reports to the CFO and is on the governance board for Jacobs’ major global clients. She now has two grown children – the stories of which have always given me great perspective!

Whenever I meet or speak with Sue she has an amazing way of making me feel very empowered, which is always much appreciated!

5. Antoinette Brandi

Antoinette is currently a Member of the Victorian Government Procurement Board, and has held some very senior procurement roles in tough male-dominated industries – defence, mining, contracting, and railways.

She was also CEO of the IPMM, before CIPS came to Australia. As well as being Georgia Brandi’s Number 1 mentor (aka mum), Antoinette has always supported me.

It is hard to think of something I have done that hasn’t in some way been acknowledged by Antoinette via an email, a call or a LinkedIn message. Priceless.

My Challenge to You

I’ll leave you with a challenge for the coming week, before the second half of my list is published.

Have a think about the people who have influenced your career – think about why that is, and what you have done to act on their advice. Can you offer this advice to someone you know?

Gender Balanced Leadership – Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action, and the use of quotas and targets in business, creates stigma and erodes merit. Fact or fiction?

Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com

Read the first part of my update here.

Affirmative action measures such as quotas and targets are seen to be problematic for many reasons. Perhaps the biggest concern is that women will be selected for roles based on their gender alone.

This leads to a double negative. First, there is a perception that women themselves will suffer the stigma of being in a role under false pretences. Second, that merit is eroded leading to a performance deficit, as women selected under these conditions are not deemed suitably capable.

What’s the evidence for stigma?

Numerous studies led by Heilman and others between the mid-1980s and mid-2000s explored the idea of stigma. Their research showed that women hired and explicitly identified as being hired under affirmative action programmes were generally seen to be less competent and less deserving of their positions.

This applied even where it could be demonstrated that they were as competent and qualified as male colleagues. (It’s something of a conundrum that women as competent and qualified as male candidates had to be hired through an affirmative action programme…).

Both men and women assessed the women described in this way as less capable. The women appointed through these processes themselves held these views, even in the face of contradictory evidence about their competence!

They also went on to take less credit for successful outcomes and indicated less interest in continuing in leadership roles.

More recent meta-analysis of this same databank, as well as more recent research, creates a more refined view that points to a fundamental problem with how we see affirmative action.

Why Affirmative Action?

Affirmative action is designed to ensure proactive investigation of whether or not equality of opportunity exists. And if it doesn’t, to take steps to eliminate barriers and establish real equality.

Quotas and targets are amongst such measures, in recognition that women and men of equal talent and skill tend not to be appointed to roles with the same frequency, as noted above.

The more refined view reinforces the importance of the language we use. Unzueta and his colleagues found that women’s self-image benefited generally from affirmative action policies, so long as they did not think they had personally benefited.

Other studies have shown that those who benefit from affirmative action recognise the success of such policies, see them as providing them with opportunities, and enjoy working for employers with affirmative action policies. Where women are told their qualifications are high, they do not experience the same negative effects.

Feeling Stigma?

In summary then, stigma may well occur under certain conditions, and how women’s success is described is a critical factor. If women are told they have won their role solely because they’re women, they are more likely to feel stigma.

Where there is a general environment that opportunity is being re-balanced and women move into senior leadership roles, there seems to be no stigma.

Where women are told they have won their roles because they are competent and capable, whatever the affirmative action landscape, there appears to be no stigma. (And this happens not just for women, but for any group in the minority, including male nurses working in a predominately female working environment.)

As it is so unlikely that women will be placed in roles solely because they are women, and as long as women are not described as winning roles solely on the basis of their gender, stigma should not be an issue.

Is Merit Eroded?

Merit is often discussed as if it were an absolute. As if there were perfect standards and assessment tools that allow raters to make unequivocal judgments about individuals. There is however clear evidence that measures of merit include subjective elements and are influenced by stereotypes. The testing community willingly admits to the challenges of making fair assessments of individuals.

Test construction and conditions remain open to bias, and plenty of research supports this. Given that implicit beliefs that associate men with leadership and women with support roles are held at least slightly by the greater majority of the population, it is clear that even those of us with good intentions may not be able to suppress these when we are  assessing capability.

And according to Crosby, most people just don’t notice persistent injustices unless they have access to systematic comparative data. At individual decision level, and even within departments, and even by those attuned to such discrepancies, discrimination between different demographic groups isn’t discerned.

Detecting Different Patterns

It is only when reviewing large amounts of aggregated data comparing smaller groupings across a larger collection, that people are able to detect different patterns in hiring women and men.

Crosby and her colleagues put this down to a fundamentally human need to believe we live in a just world. When we perceive difference, we would rather put it down to a random quirk than to intention (discrimination), and so we miss the pattern.

Because observers are not always able to detect unfairness in processes, valid assessment of the merits of women are harder to achieve than valid assessment of the merits of men.

In Crosby’s words, “the main reason to endorse affirmative action … is to reward merit. Without the systematic monitoring of affirmative action, one can maintain the fiction of a meritocracy but will have difficulty establishing and sustaining a true meritocracy”.

What to do:

  • Prime women for competence
  • Prime others for women’s competence
  • Take care in choosing assessment methods, and as far as possible structure assessment processes to avoid priming on gender lines
  • Increase transparency of the numbers.

Dr Karen Morley is an Executive Coach, Associate Dean at Mt Eliza Education, expert on gender-balanced leadership and registered psychologist.

5 Ways to Beat the Procurement Blues

“In a ditch calling for a shovel” is a favourite saying from my husband’s long repertoire of business expressions.

In my recent blog 6 sure-fire ways to become a CPO, I talked about the high levels of frustration people feel when roadblocks get in the way of their ambitions and career progression.

It started me thinking about the many times I felt frustrated as a category manager. Sometimes, there were genuine business delays or hiccups that de-railed my ‘perfect world’, but other times it was just the sameness, the daily grind, which left me feeling less than optimistic about my future in procurement.

Suspecting that some of you may face these challenges, I thought I would share five ideas to help you break the cycle, get out of that rut, and reset your career trajectory.

1. Get out of the office – Sorry, I’m not suggesting that you start working from home or have coffee with all your friends because you’re bored or frustrated with work.

If your contract negotiation or rollout has come to a standstill, why not try and re-ignite activity and the relationship by organising site visits to your supplier, their competitors and, ideally, their customers. Taking a different, and potentially more relaxed, approach to communicating with your suppliers or stakeholders will create a new atmosphere for collaboration.

You will also gain a lot of new ideas and information from these interactions, which will hopefully inspire you to take a new approach and alleviate the current stalemate.

2. Update your online profile and look at other jobs – Before you get excited and think I’m going to advise you to quit your job because you’re bored, I’m not.

My point here is that updating your profile is a great way to remind yourself all you’ve learned in your current job, and allows you to reflect on the progress you are making in your career. Even though you may be frustrated now, you need to see that you are building an impressive story with your career to date.

I’d also encourage you to just look at other jobs, although not to apply for them. I suggest this approach in order to help you realise two things. Firstly, that the grass is not necessarily greener; and the importance of continually developing your skills in order to be qualified for your next career opportunity.

So take some time to look the job you want (the aspirational one), understand what you need to develop to get that role and get to work aligning your skills. You’ll find this will spark your motivation back in the workplace.

3. Organise a team event – Many of our workplace frustrations are focussed on our interactions with our peers, direct reports, or bosses. Often the root cause of these frustrations are that neither side really understands where the other is coming from.

Social events are the ideal way to break down some of these barriers and better understand your peers. A team event could take many forms – a volunteering day, a fun learning exercise, an activity, a party. The important thing is that it is something that most of the group would be interested in and is appropriate for endorsement by the company.

4. Offer your services to your CPO – Hopefully you have a very open and positive line of communication with your boss. If so, you should broach the concept of you helping complete one of the many “team development” projects they have on their plate.

There is always some work to do on the performance management process, or the SRM framework, or some communication material that needs updating. I would be surprised if there wasn’t something that you could help with.

Your CPO should be delighted with your initiative and provide the opportunity for you to demonstrate how you handle this type of leadership project. Completing such an assignment is a brilliant way for you to ensure that your name stays on the radar as a high potential employee – so make sure if you volunteer for this, that you give it 100% and complete the project on time and to specification!

5. Get connected – The best people to consult when you are having a tough time are people who understand your role, but are not closely involved and can therefore act as an unbiased third party to talk through your challenges. If you have a mentor, this is the perfect time to be talking regularly with them to work your way out of your rut. If you don’t have a mentor, it’s time to get one!

Make sure you reach out to the right contacts in your network – either through your professional association (CIPS, ISM), the Roundtables or networking groups your company subscribes to (Faculty, Hackett, Procurement Leaders, PSC), or your on-line networks (Procurious, LinkedIn).

There will be a number of people within your broader network who can provide invaluable advice on how to get out of your current career gridlock. This is an invaluable, yet free, source of support for you and it’s only a click away!

Search for Ladders, Not Shovels

The suggestions above may be nothing more than temporary diversions away from your negative thought-trains and frustrations. Throughout my career I have found that by occupying my mind with another task, even for an hour or so, helps to reinvigorate my motivation and allows me to step back and see the big picture. This perspective means I can return to task at hand with a new drive.

It’s normal to get frustrated about your role from time to time, particularly if you are ambitious and have plans to succeed and progress. What’s important is that you look for ladders, rather than shovels, to get yourself out of these holes.

Good luck!

Gender Balanced Leadership – Token Representation to Critical Mass

For gender balanced leadership, moving from 10 per cent to 30 per cent representation doesn’t happen ‘naturally’.

Gender-Balance-FBNSME/Shutterstock.com

In a couple of recent posts on LinkedIn, I’ve explored the areas of women’s representation in politics and on boards, and have been pondering why achieving a critical mass of women seems so challenging.

Here’s a summary of the three key barriers to critical mass.

1.  Token numbers lead to complacency and stall progress

The existence of women in token numbers creates a belief that the glass ceiling has been breached. ‘Token practices’ lead to a form of complacency – women perceive that as long as one woman has made it, their own mobility is possible.

Once at least 10 per cent of board members are women, men also view hiring practices as equally fair to men and women.

Even where the number of women in senior roles doesn’t change over time, women still tend to believe that hiring is fair. They view their organisations as providing them equal opportunity. Men are aware that they have a greater chance of promotion under token conditions. And under token hiring practices, men feel that their status as the majority is legitimate.

Recent research into the gender balance of the five highest paid executive roles in 1,500 US firms between 1991 and 2011 found that once one woman had been appointed, the chance of a second woman joining this group dropped by about 50 per cent.

The researchers had expected to find that the introduction of one woman into this top echelon led to a snowball effect. That did not occur over this 20 year period.

2. Homophily restricts network reach creating gender stall

Networks are the traditional basis for and continue to influence board appointments. Homophily is the tendency to associate with those like ourselves.  At token representation levels, the density of the female director network remains subcritical.

Token conditions mean that women already in the system can’t develop a strong network that enables them to invite a sufficient number of other women onto boards. Men’s tendency to network with other men also means that prevailing conditions don’t change.

Without intervention, critical mass cannot be generated. Too many boards with no women, and too many boards with token numbers, equals gender stall.

3. Gender bias limits women’s perceived legitimacy for leadership roles

Leadership continues to be associated with agentic characteristics such as dominance, competitiveness and ambition. The pervasiveness of this set of beliefs means that decisions about legitimate leadership are routinely biased against women and in favour of men.

Women face a dilemma. They’re damned for being competent as leaders, or doomed to support roles when they demonstrate gender-associated warm and communal behaviours.

It is well researched (e.g. Bhonet et al 2014) that hiring and selection decisions are impacted by unconscious bias based on candidate gender. Males are more likely to be selected even where experience, skills and abilities of male and female candidates are identical.

Targets, quotas and other methods are required to to counter-balance these forces, and achieve critical mass.

Make sure you come back for the second part of this article next week.

Dr Karen Morley is an Executive Coach, Associate Dean at Mt Eliza Education, expert on gender-balanced leadership and registered psychologist.

What You Can Expect from a Procurement Job in Australia

After three weeks, eight flights, a wedding and some workshops, I’m finally back from my trip to Australia. It was a great trip – as well as spending time with my friends and family, I had the chance to reconnect with the procurement community ‘down under’.

Australia is where I started my procurement career and I feel I know the landscape down there pretty well. So on the flight home I penned my tips for anyone considering a procurement role in the ’lucky country’.

1. You’ll land in a hotbed of procurement talent

The spotlight is shining bright on Australian procurement professionals. Kylie Towie, the CPO of WA Health, won this year’s ‘Procurement Leader of the Year’ Award. Last year’s winner was another Australian Scott Wharton, who is working in New York as the Global Head of Enterprise Supply Chain for Citi.

The Procurement Leaders Award pits the top supply chain and procurement professionals from around the globe against one another. Having Australians win the award in consecutive years is a major achievement for Australian procurement.

According to Eva Wimmers, the former CPO of Deutsche Telekom, the procurement function in Australia is in a mature state.

2. Be Wary of the Boom

Unlike the rest of the developed world, the Australian economy was, by and large, unaffected by the Global Financial Crisis. In fact, Australia has seen unbroken economic growth for the last twenty something years. Unemployment rates are enviably low (6 per cent), there is very little public debt and inflation has been stable for many years.

For procurement, huge resource and infrastructure projects over the last decade have meant that Australian companies have needed to purchase a lot of stuff.

Sounds perfect, right?

Not quite. The Australian economy weathered the financial crisis largely thanks to its enormous natural resource sector (and the Chinese appetite to consume these resources). However, 2015 has seen shaky growth figures from China, causing commodity prices to plummet, and the Australian economy is feeling the pinch.

Large resource projects have been mothballed, and will likely remain so, until commodity prices show significant signs of recovery. While the mining and resources sectors are only one part of the Australian economy, the knock-on impacts for business confidence across the country cannot be understated.

3. The supply market is shallow

Although the Australian economy is strong, it’s important to remember that it is also isolated and relatively small. As such, the depth of the supply market is not comparable to markets in Europe and the USA.

Monopoly or duopoly suppliers dominate many industries, meaning you’ll need to get creative with your category management plans. Good category managers are constantly looking to create competitive tension in the supply base. This may mean leveraging international suppliers more frequently or even producing the required product internally.

4. You’ll be part of a connected community

The Australian procurement community is well connected. There are more than 2000 Australian members of Procurious (it’s one of our strongest membership groups).

CIPS has a strong and active presence in Australia. The Institute runs events, provides certification and training and numerous networking opportunities for procurement professionals down under.

The Faculty, too, provides a number of development opportunities for procurement professionals in Australia. The company’s Roundtable acts as a forum to bring together elite procurement professionals to share their experiences and insight.

By leveraging Procurious, CIPS and The Faculty, you’ll find it very easy to connect and continue to grow as a procurement professional.

5. There is a unique industry focus

People used to say that Australia rode on the sheep’s back. While, strictly speaking, that’s not true any more, the Australian economy is certainly very heavily weighted towards primary production. The retail and services sectors are respectable, but it’s mining and oil and gas that really drive the economy.

6. The pay is good

Procurement pays well in Australia. According to recruitment firm Hudson, a full-time procurement manager in Western Australia can earn between $150 and $210k; experienced category managers can expect to earn about $120-150k. Even taking into account unfavourable exchange rates, these salaries are enviable when compared to similar positions in the US or Europe.

7. And you’ll need every cent

Australia isn’t cheap. Sydney consistently ranks amongst the world’s most expensive cities to live in. Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide don’t trail too far behind.

House prices in Australia have boomed in recent years. A modest, two-bedroom apartment in Paddington (a suburb in inner-city Sydney) will set you back roughly $1200 a week in rent.

If you’re buying in the same neighbourhood, you’re looking at close to $2 million. The cost of living (eating out, shopping, etc.) is also consistently high too.

8. Visas can be tricky but not Impossible

If you’re not an Australian or New Zealand national, you’ll need a visa to work in Australia. There are a number of different visa options for people looking to migrate to Australia for work, but the most common, particularly amongst senior level staff, is sponsorship.

Visa sponsorship requires commitment of both time and money from employers, but, as Brendan Turner from The Source told me, “Australian employers are open to visa sponsorship, especially for senior roles and for those candidates coming out of the UK market.”

9. It’s Fun!

There is no that opportunities for employment and personal development are abundant in Australia, but it’s the lifestyle that is the true superstar.

Whether it’s lattes in lane ways (Melbourne), surfing on the Sunshine Coast (Queensland), or barbecues in Bondi (Sydney), the Aussie way of life is second to none. We love our sport, we love our beaches, the food is fresh, the coffee is great, the air is clean and sun is almost always shining.

To quote one of our B-grade celebs…“Where the bloody hell are ya?”

Ahhh…it’s enough to make you home sick.

2015 FLiP Ambassador Talks Future Of The Procurement Function

Procurious interviews 2015 FLiP Ambassador – Ryan Kirgan.

Ryan Kirgan is a Portfolio Category Manager at Downer, a leading provider of services to customers in markets including Transportation, Mining, Energy and Industrial Engineering, Utilities, Communications and Facilities.

At the recent Future Leaders in Procurement (FLiP) event, Ryan was awarded the position of FLiP Ambassador for 2015. Procurious recently caught up with Ryan to discuss his ambassadorship, the FLiP event and the future of the procurement function. 

Procurious asks: Ryan firstly, congratulations on being recognised as the FLiP (Future Leaders in Procurement) 2015 ambassador and carrying the flag for the next generation of procurement leaders. Could you give us some background into the FLiP group and what it hopes to achieve?

Ryan answers: The FliP group is a collection of young leaders in the procurement function. Our meetings are held in conjunction with The Faculty’s CPO Forum. When we meet, we undertake an intensive program of discussions, presentations and networking with the ultimate goal of developing the next generation of procurement leaders and furthering the procurement profession.

FLiP put on a fantastic series of events. Through the relationship with The Faculty, we are able to attract a good number of truly outstanding speakers. This, and the chance to network with our peers in other businesses, presents a fantastic opportunity to develop our skills not only as procurement professionals, but also as leaders.

Procurious: How have the FLiP events helped develop you as a leader within your business?

Ryan: The most critical link I think, in developing the functions future leaders has been the access FLiP has granted us all to senior procurement leaders.

We have been given backstage access to a huge number of influential CPOs. All of these leaders have been very approachable and accessible. They’ve opened up on discussions and events that are impacting the function at the moment. To have access to this level of seniority has been huge. We’ve all been able to benefit from people who have already had long and successful careers in procurement.

What has been really great is that rather than discussing the technical capabilities of procurement staff, which most other conferences do, FLiP is pitched much more around soft skills with a younger audience in mind. That’s something I haven’t come across at other conferences. The program is really tailored to what we’re doing as young procurement professionals.

Procurious: Aside from the speakers and CPO access, were there any other intangibles you were able to take away from the event?

Ryan: The event was fantastic for market intelligence. When you put people who are making similar decisions in the same room you’re bound to learn something.

It was a great opportunity to understand my suppliers, not just from a procurement perspective, but also more broadly around what they are trying to achieve as a company. That sort of insight is priceless.

The general openness and willingness to impart knowledge and help out as much as possible is fantastic. It’s not like you’re making a cold call and asking for insight. It is senior level procurement professionals who are there with a genuine interest in helping out and developing the function.

Obviously, networking is what you make of it, but I’ve had great engagements off the back of the conference. A few days after the event, another delegate contacted me to discuss fleet management, a category that my organisation sources well. I was happy to share my experiences. A few weeks later my help was reciprocated when the person I spoke to was able to assist me with some queries I had about supplier relationship management.

Procurious: Have you been able to transfer any of the learnings from the FLiP conference into your job at Downer?

Ryan: At the end of the conference Gordon Donovan (Principal Consultant at The Faculty at the time) challenged us by saying that he would be calling each attendee 50 days after the conference to see what changes we’ve made based on what we took away from the conference.

This is something that I got down to right away. The day I got back to the office, I called a meeting with the corporate affairs manager. We spoke a lot about alignment with corporate objectives at the conference and I wanted to ensure my activities were contributing directly towards our corporate success.

Downer has recently refreshed its corporate identity. This has involved a shift towards a greater customer focus. Our tagline is “relationships creating success”.

During this discussion I found myself asking, “how does my work as a procurement professional align to the corporate vision?” I quickly realised that I had a fairly deep understanding of our relationships with our top 100 suppliers, however knew little about our engagement with all but a handful of our key customers. This seemed ridiculous.

I grabbed all the guys in the team and went through a process of aligning each of our category plans to the corporate vision and to our end customers. I also initiated our team’s ownership of managing revenue data reporting in addition to spend data; all of which helps bolster our presence as commercial leaders within the company. Unless I’d gone to the conference, I don’t think we would have gone through that process.

Procurious: As part of your ambassadorship you were given the opportunity to take part in a panel discussion at The Faculty CPO Forum. Can you tell us about that experience?

Ryan: It was a great opportunity to speak in front of such an experienced procurement audience. I feel that those sorts of opportunities are a valuable part of our professional development as leaders.

To sit alongside three highly experienced CPOs and to come off the stage and be told that I didn’t seem out of place up there was very humbling and flattering.

We spoke about ensuring alignment of procurement activities to the wider business. It was reassuring to see that across industries, procurement teams are taking on similar programs and facing similar challenges. As I mentioned earlier, this initiative is something that I acted on as soon as I got back to the office.

Procurious: At Procurious we’re passionate about social media and its role in the development of the procurement function. What have been your experiences as a procurement professional on social media?

Ryan: The opportunities that lie within social media are truly eye opening. I think the biggest challenge is staying on top of everything. The speed that things are changing is so rapid.

Social media is becoming standard practice for procurement; it’s no longer a fringe activity. We need to leverage our relationships with suppliers, co-workers and colleagues and social media is the most effective way to do this.

Social media gives us access to knowledge sharing and best practice thinking from across the globe. All of this builds out our capability as professionals.

Access to sites like Procurious means that good ideas don’t remain hidden for very long. If one person asks a question, you’ll get 30 people responding. There is so much knowledge and wisdom out there and Procurious is connecting all of that.

At Downer, we use Yammer as well and I’d be one of our most active Yammer users. I’ve established a group to discuss our fleet services; the 80 stakeholders across the business for fleet services are in this group. It’s a brilliant way for us educate and connect with the stakeholders. We get great engagement on there.

Procurious: Thank you for taking the time to speak with Procurious and again, congratulations on your ambassadorship for 2015. Any final thoughts you’d like to leave us with?

Ryan: I’d like to thank FLiP and The Faculty for the opportunity they’ve given me. The exposure to all of The Faculty’s programs has given an insight into just how switched on they are. Having programs that develop procurement people at each stage of their professional development is brilliant. They are great advocates for the profession.

How Do You Turn A Technical Expert Into A Leader Of The People?

Procurious recently caught up with Karen Morley to discuss her upcoming presentation at the CIPS event in Melbourne, Australia. In the first part of our interview we learnt what separates good CPOs from great CPOs and discussed the impact truly great procurement leaders can have on their business. That article can be found <here>

Today, for the second part of our discussion with Karen, we’ll be covering the development of technical experts into leaders of people and pointing out what procurement professionals should be doing to continue their progression up the leadership ladder.

Procurious asks: In a recent LinkedIn Pulse article you published, you discussed the difficulties organisations face in transitioning technical experts into managers and leaders of people. Can you provide some commentary on that? 

Karen: I’m coaching a young woman at the moment who trained as an engineer. She was promoted into her first management role in 2011 but did her first leadership program in 2014. She has joking said that it would have been pretty handy if it had been done that the other way around.

It wasn’t until she got into the management program that she started to understand the concepts of leadership and the need to think differently when you are leading other people as opposed to when you are the functional expert or an individual contributor.

This sort of transitioning is something that I’m constantly working with people on.

When you are a functional expert, or an individual contributor, you are responsible only for yourself. But when you start managing other people or when you are moving to general management areas, you are the authorizer of the work that other people do. People are looking to you to be the authority figure and I think that is a very significant part of the transition.

Again, this is consistent with those leadership attributes we discussed earlier. People who are able to demonstrate all of those things, particularly presence, integrity and the professional advocacy are able to make a big difference.

Procurious: Do you feel that by moving technical experts into managerial positions we are promoting them towards failure rather than celebrating their specific expertise? 

Karen: I think this is an important point and I really wish we thought of career paths in quite different ways. I think that some people are great technical experts, who are vital to the success of an organization and perhaps we don’t see enough value in their technical expertise. In a sense, we run the risk of shutting down on their brilliance and technical capability by promoting them.

I would like to see organisations promoting and recognising people for their scientific, engineering or procurement expertise without necessarily having the need to move them into big leadership roles.

I think when you are in the front line leading, you still need to be across the functional areas in a very big way. You might even be doing some functional work as well as leading the team. When you get to a general management level, you lose the ability to have deep knowledge into the technicalities of the functional areas.

Promoting experts to managerial roles also presumes that everybody has the same level of ambition and everyone wants to move up the line as far as they can.

Some people just want to be really good at what they do. Some people want to be the best category manager out there. There are a lot of things you can do for these people to ultimately improve their performance and their value to your organisation. You can allow them to have a mentoring role with other category managers, perhaps outside of their own group. They can help to train or advise non-procurement people in category management and how they integrate into the business. It’s a huge opportunity not only for the employee but also for the business.

Procurious: Any final tips for procurement professionals out there looking to continue their progression up the procurement ladder?

Karen: Raise your game; raise your voice. I would highlight the importance of spending the time to focus on what I call the leadership narrative. So often people wander through their careers and things happen or don’t happen, maybe they set goals and maybe they don’t. But the idea with the leadership narrative is that you are thinking about where you want to end your career right now and being more focused on how to move towards that end goal.

Also, I would suggest, you need to understand your own identity, values and core purpose and you should look to create a link between those things and what you’re trying to achieve from a career perspective. These help your to retain your own authenticity and natural approach. Being able to talk about and articulate these things are critical steps for those trying to get ahead.

Read the first part of this article

To Make A Difference CPOs Must Have The X Factor

Ahead of the upcoming CIPS Australia event, Procurious caught up with Dr. Karen Morley, one of the event’s distinguished presenters. Karen has extensive experience working with organisations, teams and individuals to increase their leadership effectiveness.

Over her career Karen has led a broad range of leadership development, succession and talent management assignments. She emphasises evidence-based approaches tailored to suit the organisation/firm’s context.

Today Karen is talking about what makes great procurement leaders and how to successfully move technical procurement experts into managerial positions.

Procurious asks: At the upcoming CIPS Australia conference you will be discussing a piece of research you produced for The Faculty that looks to distinguish the very best CPOs from the rest. What would you say are the traits that separate the great CPO’s from good CPOs?

Karen: That’s right, I will be presenting the findings of our X Factor research. The report addresses the importance of great leaders in the procurement function.

To answer your question, I would say the two things that make the great CPOs stand out from the rest are their interpersonal leadership attributes and the way they go about linking these relationships to the commercial direction of the organisation.

It is clear that the really outstanding CPOs nail commercial leadership. This stems from the fact that they possess an in-depth understanding of the whole business, not just procurement. They are engaged across the entire organisation and are speaking to other functional leaders on a strategic level. They are engaging with the board and CEO on what has greatest strategic value, and they interpret this through their procurement initiatives.

Once that strategic dialogue has been established, the next critical step is to ensure these messages are reaching staff further down the chain. It’s here that interpersonal skills become critical. Great CPOs have very close relationships with the people that report into them. They are able to align the goals and expectations of the business to activities of their staff.

Procurious: Can you provide any insight into what difference these ‘great CPOs’ can make for their organisation?

A lot of organisations are still focused solely on cost cutting. It’s a vital part of what procurement teams do and this will certainly continue to be the case. I think the difference that really great CPOs make is around moving discussions and activities to a more strategic level. They are not simply focusing on what can be cut out, but where savings can be made and value added at the same time.

I think that’s a pretty rare mindset. A lot of procurement leaders talk about value, but only a few can actually deliver it.

The costs cutting initiatives will always be there. It’s something that you can do successfully for a couple of years and come up with some impressive saving numbers. But, the challenge comes in finding what’s next. Once you’ve delivered those initial savings, then what are you going to do? The great CPOs realise they need to understand the business broadly and create close relationships across functions to see where procurement can best add value.