It’s no shock to anyone that women have been shortchanged in the workplace for decades now. We’re still struggling for equality on so many levels. From being promoted last, to being passed over for the best assignments, we always end up seemingly on the short end of the stick.
That surely doesn’t mean we haven’t made progress. This problem literally comes two months after Forbes reported Women had started holding more jobs in the US than men. And now, they have accounted for 55% of the increase in job losses.
That means, a portion of our progress may be quickly erased with the new ‘Pink-Collar recession.’ So, what exactly is it?
In a recent article from The Guardian, they define it as the economic downturn from the COVID-19 outbreak, that has ended up affecting more women than men. The opposite of what we typically see in times of economic crises.
Great. It’s exactly what we don’t need when it comes to advancing the cause. It’s been hard enough fighting for equal pay, now this setting us back even further!
Causes of the Pink-Collar Recession
Although there may be some who may be happy that we are going back to more traditional ways, most of us are not. And that’s only a sliver of the problem; because, it’s tradition for women to stay home and take care of the kids.
Now, just because it’s tradition, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Women have more than proved themselves when it comes to being successful.
Just look at amazing women politicians like Angela Merkle and Jacinda Arden. Not to mention all the women who have their own businesses and made it to the C-Suite of Fortune 500 companies. We’ve overcome the odds to be some of the most powerful women in the world!
Unfortunately, not all women can work full time, and therein lies another problem. Women started out with a disadvantage from the beginning. Women are over-represented in low-wage roles.
Add to that the majority of industries women have chosen to work in have been the ones the hardest hit by the downturn. Retail, food services and accommodations (hospitality) are at the top of that list.
Even in certain industries like transportation (i.e. airlines), women with the least amount of seniority, are most likely to lose their jobs.
“Among those doing paid work at home, mothers are more likely than fathers to be spending their work hours simultaneously trying to care for children…that in lockdown, mothers in two-parent households are only doing, on average, a third of the uninterrupted paid-work hours of fathers.”
I personally can validate these statistics. And I can say that it isn’t something I’m particularly happy about.
Women Making it Through and Past the COVID-19 World
We’ve endured much tougher things as women than a virus, so I’m certain we will make it through these times. Some women like myself, have been able to keep their jobs and effectively multi-task taking care of their children at the same time.
But for some, that may simply not be true or as lucky. Therefore, the question then remains, what are the women who have been directly affected to do?
Well for one, the women who have managed to maintain their positions and family, must look out for those who were less fortunate. Being aware of the current impact to the work environment, just simply isn’t enough.
Second, we must push harder for gender equality in the workplace. Equal pay, pregnancy leave, and flexible work-schedules (remote too) are at the top of my list. But even succeeding with these things, won’t get us to equality.
Go out of your way to become a role-model or mentor to other women who have been held back in their careers. And if you are managing women employees, make sure that they know you value work and are rewarded to reflect this.
We always knew the path to gender equality wouldn’t be a straight one, but I’m sure few of us planned for this set-back. That’s why it’s so important for us to try and keep what advancements we had made. And then push harder, for more in the future.
Without this, we may be leaving ourselves open to a much dire situation. And I personally can’t think of anything worse than our society being sent back to the 1950’s. We deserve equality, so let’s not let each other down and support the fight!
Three procurement experts share their strategies for mitigating supply chain risk during the second half of 2020.
The Economist put it best in early July: “You may have lost interest in the pandemic. It has not lost interest in you. COVID-19 is here to stay. People will have to adapt. The world is not experiencing a second wave: it never got over the first.”
This reminder rings true for procurement and supply chain leaders.
Thankfully, we are more than halfway through this disaster of a year called 2020. Let’s take stock of where things stand: At the outset of the crisis, 97% of supply chains were affected. Since then, the global supply chain has stabilized, but remains vulnerable. The virus continues to spread and economic uncertainty remains. But are we on the path to recovery?
“It’s hard to say if we are in recovery or not,” says Nick Binks, General Manager Contracting and Procurement for Woodside Energy. “The initial crisis has passed, but we have not fully recovered. We expect to see new hurdles and obstacles pop up in our supply chain.”
riskmethods, a supply chain risk management provider, recently analysed all the risk indicators for the first half of the year. What they found was telling: In May, there was a decline in every type of supply chain risk they monitored, which cautiously signalled the start of a turnaround.
The keyword there, of course, is cautious. riskmethods also found that the percentage of pandemic-related threats in May was still higher than January or February 2020.
“This crisis is far from over,” said Bill DeMartino, Managing Director for riskmethods North America. “The next few months are critical for building up supply chain defenses to protect against the next wave.”
Procurement’s Second Half Focus: Supplier Health and Risk Awareness
What’s the best way for procurement and supply chain leaders to strengthen defenses through the end of 2020?
Naomi Lloyd, the Director Procurement Asia Pacific for Campbell Arnott’s, recommends keeping a pulse on the big picture. “Be conscious of the entire market. You may be experiencing strong demand now, but someone else in your network may experience a drop in demand or disruption. Everything is connected,” said Lloyd.
DeMartino agrees: “Determining your critical supply chain dependencies is a must during the recovery process.”
The financial roller coaster we’re experiencing also bears watching. According to riskmethods, financial distress of suppliers was 105% higher in May than at the beginning of the crisis, signaling there’s more damage to come.
“Getting an accurate read on supplier health is always a challenge. Traditionally, we would qualify a supplier’s financial viability, and then set it and forget it,” said Binks. “Now we are regularly checking and monitoring.”
Becoming a more risk-aware enterprise is an essential step in the recovery and resilience process, according to riskmethods. Supply chain and procurement leaders can take different steps to make that happen, depending on what their business is experiencing right now. Specifically,
– During crisis, dedicate additional resources to risk management
– During recovery, expand the importance of risk in decision making
– While operating in the new normal, elevate the role of risk preparedness by uniting stakeholders across the enterprise
“Risk has always been a KPI on our procurement scorecard, but pre-COVID, no-one really took much interest in it within the business,” said Lloyd. “Now, risk management has been elevated. We’re holding weekly cross-functional meetings to openly identify and discuss what’s happening on the risk front. Procurement leads these meetings, but everyone is involved: quality, engineering, planning, operations, finance, R&D, sales, and more. This puts risk front and center for everyone.”
The next five months will fly. The onus is on procurement and supply chain teams to ensure operations don’t crash.
Listen to Bill DeMartino, Nick Binks, Naomi Lloyd and Tania Seary in our latest webinar – The Risk Report – Now streaming in the Supply Chain Crisis group
Has your pay been cut due to COVID? Here’s what to do if it has.
There’s no doubt that the economic effects of the coronavirus have been significant, with job losses being so severe that many countries are comparing this situation to the Great Depression. But for those of us who have fortunately retained our jobs, the effects have still been felt. Namely, many of us in numerous industries from professional services to education may have had to have some uncomfortable conversations. And those conversations may have involved taking a pay cut.
Right now, we may all just be grateful to have a job, and besides, with quasi-lockdowns and travel bans still in place for much of the world, we may simply not need as much disposable income. But looking into the future, how happy will we be that we’re now working for less? How long will it take for wages to revert to ‘normal?’ Should we ask for a raise anytime soon?
To help answer all of your burning questions about pay, we spoke to Stella Voules, Director and Co-CEO of JOST&Co., a HR and change management consultancy. But before we bring you Stella’s insights, here’s a high-level rundown of the industrial relations set up in each of our major member countries that govern pay cuts:
Can my organisation force me to take a pay cut?
Is it even legal for your organisation to ask you to take a pay cut? It depends on where you live. Here’s the different laws for the US, UK and Australia.
In the USA, can my organisation force me to take a pay cut?
Legally, yes. Pay cuts are allowed, as long as they aren’t done on a discriminatory basis (for example, they haven’t your pay because of your gender). A pay cut due to COVID is legal, and all your employer needs to do is notify you of the same. If you do have an individual employment contract or union employment contract, you may be protected from pay cuts, depending on your conditions.
After they cut your pay, your employer does not have any obligation to return it to its pre-COVID levels.
In the UK, can my organisation force me to take a pay cut?
No If your employer does want or need to reduce your pay, they need to obtain your consent.
If they don’t first obtain your consent, you are entitled to resign, initiate a claim against your employer, or continue to work in your job while also initiating a claim for compensation.
If your employer does ask you to take a pay cut, you are also entitled to refuse. But if you do this, your employer may be able to terminate your employment contract and try to offer you a new one with varied conditions and pay.
If your employer is changing the pays of multiple people within your organisation, they are also legally obliged to consult with your relevant trade union.
In Australia, can my organisation force me to take a pay cut?
Usually, no. A reduction in pay is classified as a variation in your employment conditions, so you and your organisation must first agree on the changed terms before the change is made. You have the right to refuse a change in pay, and if your organisation terminates your employment on account, you can make a claim for unfair dismissal.
Yet although your organisation can’t force you to take a pay cut, there may still be pressure to do so if you fear you will otherwise lose your job.
If I’ve taken a pay cut due to COVID, when should I expect my pay to return to pre-pandemic levels?
The legals of pay cuts are rather black and white. Yet as many of us know, employment is very much a relationship, and given the strain that coronavirus has put on so many businesses, many of us are feeling both empathetic towards our employer, and grateful to be in a job at all. These feelings may have encouraged us to agree to pay cuts – for now. But when can we expect our pays to go back to normal?
Stella Voules says that that is a very big question, and the answer isn’t as simple as we’d like:
‘Your pay cut “end date” may depend on the instrument used to change your pay in the first place, for example what was in your contract or what your union negotiated. In some cases, an end date may have been specified.’
‘But given that the pandemic has no end date, it’s likely that your pay cut may be ongoing.’
Stella says employees who have had their pay cut should have done so on certain conditions, and those conditions may have included entering into a new, temporary agreement. If you don’t think this has happened to you, though, Stella advises seeking legal advice from an employment lawyer and your union to understand in more detail what you’ve agreed to.
If my pay cut was undefined in its length, what signs should I look out for from my employer’s perspective that might indicate my pay would be restored?
If you’ve taken a pay cut with no defined end date, you might be worried about when your pay will be reinstated. Will it be when the pandemic is declared over? Or will it be when the economy has completely bounced back?
Unfortunately, much like the pandemic end date, there may be no definite point in time or event which will signal that your pay should be restored. But if you are concerned, there’s a few things you can look out for, says Stella:
‘Just like in “normal” times, knowing what you should be paid is about watching the market. Look at job ads, ask around, see what other people at other organisations like yours are being paid.’
‘Within your organisation, there’s also a few things you can do. For example, look at the revenues of your business, ask for their annual report, see how they’re performing financially.’
If an organisation is still in financial distress, says Stella, it will be difficult for them to reinstate pays. And even if they aren’t in distress, they may be taking a conservative approach as no one really knows how the pandemic will play out. But if, and only if, it’s clear that your organisation has returned to its previous level of profitability, then you may start asking questions about your pay.
How do I go about asking for a pay rise, if my pay has been cut?
Asking for a payrise is never easy. But in pandemic times, it’s even harder. How do you know if it’s appropriate to ask? How do you do so in a way that doesn’t seem greedy and selfish, especially if your organisation has suffered financially?
Just like for any pay rise discussion, Stella says, you need to arm yourself with as much information as possible. Research what’s happening in your sector, and what’s happening within your specific category and job role. Understand whether there’s strong demand and have a good idea of pay benchmarks. Only then should you have any sort of pay conversation.
Yet benchmarking your role in terms of pay is only the first step, Stella says. In order to have any type of pay conversation in COVID or even post-COVID times, you also need to know the following:
How well your company is performing financially
How well you’ve performed in your role
What your unique skills and capabilities are, and value you personally bring to the company.
Armed with this information (and assuming it’s all positive), Stella says that you can reasonably request a pay review.
What should I do if my request for a pay rise is declined?
Asking for a pay rise is one thing. But getting one is entirely another, especially at the moment. So if your pay has been cut, at what point should you consider looking elsewhere?
Given the circumstances, Stella says, you should try to be fair to your employer by not looking elsewhere straight away, especially if they’ve been loyal and supportive throughout the pandemic. Beyond this, Stella believes that anyone concerned about pay right now should consider the bigger picture:
‘If you don’t get your pay rise, remember that reward is so much bigger than pay. So perhaps you can’t get more money right now, but what about more flexibility? Or more opportunities, perhaps some different benefits?’
‘Give your employer a chance to find a way to keep you satisfied before looking elsewhere. Remember, the grass is not always greener.’
Have you taken a COVID-related pay cut? Has your pay been restored yet or do you know when it will? Let us know in the comments below.
A clean start: tips and tricks for corporates to create a COVID-safe workplace.
One of the biggest misconceptions out there right now is that cleaning is booming, says Estelle Lewis, who is the group executive general manager for partnerships at cleaning services and hygiene products company IKON Services.
The company, which provides cleaning services and hygiene products to a number of blue chip clients, including Crown Resorts, has been on a difficult journey.
A big challenge has been accessing accurate information and ensuring it’s disseminated to staff and clients, she says.
“People turn to cleaning companies as the experts about COVID-19, but the reality is that this has sort of hit us all very quickly and none of us have really had time to sort of take in what this virus actually means for all of these businesses.
“We’re learning while our clients are learning, but we need to be that one step ahead,” Lewis says.
The Group General Manager of Procurement and Supply Chains, Ben Briggs admits he’s had similar challenges at Crown Resorts, with approximately 16,000 staff and contractors regularly on site.
“Reopening a Casino will have its challenges. It’s probably one of the most difficult things to do because you don’t typically reopen, you’re always open,” Briggs says.
“So we have to understand how to create a safe working environment for people, staff and patrons as part of the reopening phase.
“There’s a lot of human elements that we’re going to have to work through over the next couple of months to make sure that we can create a safe working environment at Crown,” he says.
As people get back to work, there’s going to be a level of comfort around the fact that we’re getting back to normal. But we need to be reminded that it’s a ‘new normal’ and a complex space, the pair agree.
The pair opened up about some of the 7 biggest challenges for companies looking to create a Covid-safe work environment:
1. Public confidence
A key priority right now is looking for ways to make the public need to feel safe about returning, so a lot of work needs to go into messaging, Briggs says.
“It will be a different working environment and a different operating environment. You may see thermal scanners at entry points, limited access points into the casino, furniture removed so that we can create social distancing and all the communication that needs to go along with that so that people feel safe,” he says.
“It’s not going to be easy, but I’m pretty confident that with the measures we’re putting in place, people are going to feel safe to come back to the property and come back and enjoy our facilities again,” he says.
Briggs admits he’s been dubbed ‘The Sanitiser Guy’ and ‘The Sneeze Guard Man’ by his colleagues as he looks to overhaul Crown.
“Where practical be such as hotel reception desks, we’re putting sneeze guards up. There’s sanitisation stations everywhere you go. People are going to have access to masks and sanitisation,” he says.
2. Visual reminders
Visual reminders in the form of signs and messages are being erected throughout properties and visual reminders added to flooring to keep people apart.
Making sure that hand sanitisers and wipes are available to all for staff to clean down their environments when they come and go will be crucial, Briggs adds.
Remote working will also be crucial, because we are unlikely to get all the 15,000 people back to work in the same space. We’re going to have to be smart about it. “Assessing which roles can work remotely, how we structure the work environment to enable appropriate distancing and which roles are operational and are needed on the ground will require some finessing,” he adds.
Lewis adds that she’s looking at sourcing a piece of sophisticated technology with an LSD screen to allow customer communication that allows you to add COVID-19 messages and takes temperatures at reception points is on the cards for clients.
3. Communal kitchens
The communal kitchen was once a place where food, coffee and great conversation takes place in offices, but that looks set to be a thing of the past, Lewis says.
Communal plates, cutlery, glassware and the shared office fruit bowl is on the chopping block.
“Kitchens are also a tricky space from a cleaning perspective. It could be an area where fogging works really well, which is a mist spray that works well for tight spaces. The high grade chemical concentrate mist helps get into corners and edges where viruses can live, which I’d recommend doing on a regular basis,” Lewis says.
And while there a plethora of new cleaning companies entering the market offering fogging and sanitisation, businesses need to ensure they engage companies that stand for trust and integrity.
4. The boardroom
Board meetings will be a very different function within a business. The room will be transformed to adhere to social distancing, with every second chair removed, access to wipes and additional bins for wipes to prevent the spread of germs. Hand sanitiser will also be added to the room.
People will be expected to take responsibility for their own hygiene, and report any symptoms if they’re feeling unwell and stay home, Briggs says.
5. Vulnerable workers
Vulnerable workers who are considered high risk require special consideration in the workplace, Briggs says.
It’s about putting enough protections in place for them so they feel safe and willing to come back into the office. A perspex screen and floor markings to encourage social distancing perspective so that people have their own space will be crucial.
“Adapt our workplace policies and processes to ensure they are safe and their workspace is a safe haven will be crucial. Reporting and compliance is also important,” Briggs adds.
6. Response plan
Creating a rapid response process that provides specific measures for closing down in the event of an outbreak is crucial, Briggs says.
The rapid response plan ensures properties are closed down and reopened swiftly, which also needs to be part of a training regime for staff and enforced, he says.
7. Clean desks
The traditional desk station is being overhauled, while hot desking has been abandoned in corporate settings around the world.
While people will continue to be encouraging people so work from home, if they do need to come into work, each personal workspace will need to be kept tidy and minimalistic so surfaces can be cleaned is paramount, Briggs says.
“It’s about keeping those practices up so that we don’t get comfortable and lazy in the area that things have gone back to normal so that we can go back to our previous behaviours,” Briggs says.
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How do you set a strategy for your procurement function? Discover what not to do.
In 2020, we’re all au fait with the word ‘strategic.’ Procurement needs to be strategic, metaphorically yells every advice piece we read. What’s the strategy behind that, what’s your function’s strategy, what’s the strategy this year? Exclaim C-suite executives we run into; or perhaps a strategy consultant they’ve engaged.
But when it comes to procurement – what does a strategy even mean?
As an internal function, a procurement strategy is a complex idea. As procurement’s purpose is inherently to serve our stakeholders, should our strategy simply be to do just that? Or should we set a separate procurement strategy, based on best practice we observe in our particular function, elsewhere? Both approaches have their benefits, but also significant downsides. So which one is it, or is it neither? Here’s a detailed explanation of the two different ‘strategies’ that most procurement teams execute, and exactly why they may not be the best choice going forward:
Bad strategy #1 – The ‘Your Wish is My Command’ Strategy
What is the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy?
Ken had not long been in his role as CPO at a utilities company when a meeting entitled ‘Procurement Strategy’ appeared in his diary. He hoped – and assumed – that the meeting would be about the business’s long-term strategy, which he would then translate into a roadmap for his team.
But he was wrong.
Alison, the company’s CEO, told him that he need not bother himself with strategy, because ‘that’s what I’m here for.’ She said, unapologetically, that the job of internal functions like procurement was to ‘keep all internal stakeholders happy’ and that she expected his team to ‘do whatever was required’ to do just that.
‘That was the problem with the last CPO,’ she told Ken, ominously. ‘She was always on a different wavelength, always chasing her own version of success. But while she did that, no one here was happy. Don’t repeat that same mistake.’
Why is the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy so appealing?
The ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy, or the idea a procurement function exists to simply do whatever is required by stakeholders within the business, is frighteningly common. This is because the basic premise of this strategy – the idea that internal functions are created to serve the wider corporation – is in fact correct. Many CEOs believe that the business units that create products or support customers should be supported by internal functions. While this is true, it can also be deeply frustrating for functions that need – and deserve – to create their own strategy.
But the problem with the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy runs much deeper than just frustration.
What’s the problem with the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy?
The ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy works in theory only; as many CPOs will have now no doubt learnt. By granting ‘wishes’ – so to speak – to a multitude of different commanders, without any regard for what to prioritise or how to allocate resources, staff quickly become overworked, resources get spread too thin, and stakeholders are often underwhelmed. All decisions become reactive and nothing is done well, meaning that the all-important procurement influence is lost, with little room to show value added. Business units start ‘insourcing’ – either doing part of procurement’s job themselves, or looking for cheaper, external resources to do it for them.
Overworked staff, insourcing and little value perceived to be added leads the C-suite to fundamentally question whether procurement is ‘worth it,’ meaning ever-more pressure on cost savings, and eventually, redundancies.
The ‘My Wish is Your Command’ strategy is something that Dave Pastore, Senior Director, Sourcing Operations at Corcentric, has seen too many times – but, in his opinion, it never works:
‘Any strategy that reduces the procurement function to a shared service without providing it with the ability to challenge the organisation is a squandered opportunity at best, and a self-inflicted wound at worst.’
On the surface, the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy seems to make sense. But dig deeper, and it’s a deeply fraught concept that deprives procurement as a function of fundamentally doing what they need to do – adding value.
Bad strategy #2 – ‘Market Leader’ Strategy
It’s clear that the ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy is no way forward. So is the opposite strategy, one whereby procurement makes clear choices that set the company apart vis-a-vis other procurement functions externally, the better choice then?
What is the ‘Market Leader’ strategy?
As a new CPO in one of the world’s fastest growing tech companies, Karen thought she’d secured her dream role. And in her first few months on the job, that seemed to be the truth.
As someone who was quite entrepreneurial and strategic herself, Karen knew that to become a ‘market leader’ in procurement, the company needed to invest heavily in tech. The CEO, himself a young entrepreneur, gave Karen the green light to do whatever she needed. ‘Just make sure we’re the best,’ he said, while signing off on a budget that made Karen’s eyes water.
But as time passed by, problems materialised for Karen. It turned out that being ‘the best’ wasn’t as easy as emulating best practice in the marketplace, for a number of reasons.
Why is the ‘Market Leader’ strategy so appealing?
For ambitious CPOs, the chance to implement the ‘Market Leader’ strategy can feel like a career-defining moment. Firstly, it treats procurement with the respect it deserves, and places it equally with the rest of the business in terms of power and importance. Secondly, it just seems like the right thing to do. If you’re trying to be ‘the best,’ why not look for an example of that and then try and do the same?
Creating a ‘market leading’ procurement function may well look good on your CV. It may be the case study that nets you media coverage; that amplifies your personal brand and that makes you an authority in the space. But at the same time, there’s every chance it will fail within your organisation.
What is the problem with the ‘Market Leader’ strategy?
The ‘Market Leader’ strategy seems perfect until you consider one thing: context. And given that procurement is not separate to an organisation, but an integral part of it, context is hugely important.
Take the example of Karen detailed above. What evidence did she have, beyond the fact that she was working for a tech company, that investing heavily in tech was what was needed for her function? Precisely none. Many procurement leaders have chased ‘best practice’ before, only to discover that what might be best in the marketplace may not suit their organisation for a number of reasons.
Jennifer Ulrich, Senior Directory, Advisory, at Corcentric, believes that the idea that you have to be a ‘market leader’ in all aspects of procurement is misguided:
‘You don’t have to be a market leader on every aspect of procurement in order to generate a competitive advantage to the organisation.
‘Doing what is right for the business will put you in a winning position more often.’
While market-leading strategies look externally focused, they actually function more like internal monopolies, where procurement serves themselves, rather than the needs of the business leaders around them. As a result, the function falls victim to the typical problems experienced by monopolies, including arrogance and overresoucring. Managers within the business complain that resources are being used for ‘show’ as opposed to invested in things that would actually give the company a competitive advantage.
As a result, backlash ensues. The ‘value’ added by procurement is again called into question, and the function is seen as the exact thing it is trying to rebel against: burdensome cost.
So how should you set a procurement strategy?
If a ‘Your Wish is My Command’ strategy doesn’t work, and neither does a ‘Market Leader’ strategy, then how should procurement create a meaningful, long-term and effective strategy?
‘Start with defining what success should look like for procurement in your organisation, finding those answers early is a relatively easy way to build a strategy that will drive healthy support across the organisation.’
Want more detail? Discover exactly what to do in our next article: How to Set a Procurement Strategy Part 2: What to do. Join Procurious now to be notified immediately when it’s published.
How do you play office politics to your advantage? Here’s four skills you’ll need to do so.
Let’s face it, no one, bar perhaps a few actual psychopaths, goes to work because they love the politics of it. In fact, toxic office politics is often cited as one of the key reasons people quit, and is also associated with low levels of engagement and productivity, and on the more serious side, mental health issues and stress complaints. Does this mean that politics should be avoided altogether?
Whether you like it or not, office politics are unavoidable. Even worse, if you do choose to try and avoid them, there’s a lot at stake. In most offices, politics are akin to the workplace’s unwritten rules, and they have the power to dictate how people should act, who gets promoted, and ultimately who enjoys career success and who doesn’t. Many successful people will tell you that politics can be even more important than merit – so it’s important to understand how to play them to your advantage.
Yet for many of us, politics and ‘playing the game’ feels like a dirty concept. Is there a way that we can advance our own interests without making our colleagues collateral damage? In other words, is there a way to play the game without selling our soul?
Knowing the difference between good and bad politics
Although many people inherently think of office politics as a bad thing, political scientist and cultural researcher Harold Laswell doesn’t believe they have to be. In fact, Laswell encourages all people to think about politics as simply ‘the way things are done around here’ in any particular environment, and as such, know the difference between what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ politics might entail.
In any organisation, and in any role, a degree of self-promotion in order to advance interests is needed. Good politics, then, is where you do so, but not at the expense of others or your organisation’s legitimate interests. For example, good politics may involve strategically making connections with important stakeholders or deliberating making an effort to better engage C-suite executives. Good politics, otherwise known as being savvy, well-networked, influential, an intelligent communicator and even a little charismatic, serve a higher purpose in that they help you get ahead – but don’t sacrifice others in the meantime.
Bad politics are the opposite of this, though, and something we’ve all been a victim of. Bad politics are when you backstab, create rumours, or do something that you’d otherwise consider sneaky and immoral in order to advance your position. In other words, you advance yourself by sacrificing someone else. Bad politics feels bad because it is – and no amount of telling yourself that it’s “worth it” or they “deserved it” should help you feel better. Unfortunately, bad politics can help you get ahead, but the success that ensues is often short-lived.
In reality, bad politics co-exists alongside good politics in most organisations. But in the best organisations, bad politics are stamped out and only good politics remain. And if you’re able to hone your good political skills, success can easily be yours.
Social astuteness: Social astuteness is the next step beyond one of the most essential workplace traits: self-awareness. When you’re socially astute, you’re not just aware of yourself and your own strengths and weaknesses, but you’re also aware of how others perceive you and how your behaviour impacts them. For example, if you’re socially astute you’ll understand that Karen from HR doesn’t think too highly of procurement, and you’ll be proactively working to change that.
Interpersonal influence: We’ve talked extensively here at Procurious about why influence is important and we’re not going to stop anytime soon because it’s so true – your interpersonal influence is everything. Influence, defined as your ability to affect how and what others think, is essential in managing politics. But before you dive in to influencing your own agenda at work, it’s important to understand others and specifically, what their preferences and goals are. This way, you can personalise your approach to exact the greatest level of influence.
Exceptional networking: Networking skills are another of Procurious’s favourite topics for good reason – they are essential to success. As we’ve always maintained though, networking within an organisation needs to be a two-way street, and you need to ensure that you’re creating mutually beneficial relationships with people with whom you expect support from.
Sincerity: Politics has received such a bad rap before because people think it’s inherently dishonest. But to the contrary, good politics requires sincerity, honestly, and openness (or at least the appearance thereof, where complete transparency isn’t possible). If people around you perceive you as sincere, they’re more likely to trust and believe in you, which can help with advancing your cause.
Politics may well be a dirty word, yet the outcome of playing good politics certainly is not. A plethora of research shows that having the above mentioned skills enhances not only job performance and satisfaction, but influence, salary, opportunities and advancement. So even if politics has never been your game, it’s time to participate to the best of your ability – your career success depends on it.
What has been your experience with office politics? Do you typically see more bad politics than good politics? Let us know in the comments below.
Writing off Procurement as the department that finds things for the cheapest price is to write off a complex and important decision-making mechanism that expertly considers several vital factors over “buying cheapest”.
It is saddening how some organisations still think the only idea of Procurement is to buy the cheapest. This leads to numerous erroneous opinions about Procurement function and profession in general. Because of this myth, other departments within organisations try to avoid Procurement department while making strategic decisions. Consequently, in many instances those departments face numerous problems, such as poor service, substandard deliverable, late performance and even disappearing vendors.
It is important to instruct our colleagues and duly inform them about the role and significance of Procurement function in any organisation. It is important to bust Procurement myths.
First, in Procurement profession we do not even use the words “cheap”, “cheaper” or “cheapest”. These are banned words. Because the word “cheap” reflects many attributes, including quality. We say “lower in price” or “lowest-priced” or “less expensive” or “least expensive”.
Second, we never look at the price of goods, works or services, if we are not satisfied with the quality. Even if the price is $0.00. We are simply not interested in seeing the price of a bad quality product.
Third, we do not consider price if delivery schedule and delivery conditions are not what we requested. I.e. if medicines or other vital products are going to be delivered long after they are needed – why do we bother about the price at all?
Forth, most often we give zero attention to price if the company offering products or services is not qualified and reliable. Some exceptions might apply for new technologies, know-hows and monopolies.
Fifth, we do not consider price if a bidder disagrees with terms of the contract we envisage.
Only after all these criteria are met, Procurement starts reviewing, comparing prices.
So, in practice, we might review the prices of only 4 offers out of 20 offers received. The remaining 16 would be filtered out because of the criteria above that come before price.
In other words, price is just one of those numerous factors Procurement considers.
Additionally, it is vital to acknowledge that while sourcing best value for the organization, Procurement wears two hats:
The first hat is for dealing with the final recipient of the product or service. Procurement needs to listen carefully and understand all the details and peculiarities of the final deliverable. The price of a mistake here is too high. Any concerns or alternative solutions should be properly discussed before going to market.
The second hat is for dealing with vendors. Here procurement needs to obtain the maximum value for the organisation, while keeping the vendors interested and motivated.
Negotiating in two fronts is difficult, but no one said Procurement is easy. Procurement is a complex and important decision-making mechanism that evaluates risks and offers solutions to guarantee the best value for money. It is certainly more than just buying the cheapest.
This article is based on series of lectures by Levon Hovsepyan organised in 2008-2014
This article was originally published on June 9th, 2020. Source: Procurement.org and has been republished here with permission.
What traits are required to succeed as a contractor? Here are the 5 must-haves.
For those of us that have only ever had full-time, permanent jobs, the idea of contracting may seem scary or strange. Why put yourself through all that uncertainty? What do you do when it ends? What if you fall in love with the company but can’t stay? These are the many questions that we might ask ourselves. And given the current economic climate, now might be time to start seeking the answers. But as it turns out, contracting is the answer to much more than those questions.
At various times throughout our careers, whether it’s because of a global pandemic, a recession, an industry disruption or the fact that we’re just plain burnt out, we may decide or be forced to include contracting or consulting in our work histories. Contracting can have so many benefits that we may never have considered, for example, they allow us to experience new projects and challenges, forge new connections, and trial businesses and bosses to ensure they’re the right fit. Having the breadth of experience can also make us more marketable and hireable, and expanding our network can help us access ever more opportunities.
In other words, contracting can be a great career asset – especially post COVID, as there will be more contracting opportunities than ever. Yet at the same time, contracting isn’t for everyone. So how do you know whether it’s for you? Here’s five traits you’ll need to succeed at contracting:
Trait #1: The ability to influence others
Having placed hundreds of successful contractors over his nearly three decade career as a supply chain recruiter, Tim Moore, President of Tim Moore and Associates, believes that there is one trait that is, without doubt, the most important trait you’ll need to succeed as a contractor. And that trait is the ability to influence others. He says:
‘As a contractor or consultant, you’re called in to solve issues. It could be relatively minor, involving a single department or concern, or it could be monumental and systematic, affecting the entire company. The bottom line is that fixing it is up to YOU.’
Given the focus on fixing things, many people mistakenly think that good qualifications and good experience count for more when you’re contracting. But that certainly hasn’t been Tim’s experience:
‘Time and time again I’ve seen a great candidate, someone highly educated with a Masters degree, several professional delegations and years of dedicated experience, I’ve seen them not succeed at all at contracting.’
‘These people may have great potential on paper, yet they’re not totally effective because of a lack of ability to communicate and ultimately influence others.’
But what does totally effective look like? It’s certainly a high bar, Tim believes:
‘As a contractor, if you can’t elicit the burning desire, conviction and approval of others toward a common vision, goal or operating solution, no amount of planning, networking or knowledge will suffice.’
‘You need to be able to influence others in an effective manner, not through coercion, but by projecting and justifying a vision or solid course of action toward an acceptable solution.’
Trait 2: The ability to create trust
Being as persuasive as Tim describes can certainly feel like a tall order. But it isn’t as hard as it seems, if you possess another trait which is essential in contracting and that is: the ability to create trust.
Trust is the backbone of all good relationships and as such, the more you focus on it and deliberately work to develop it, the easier it will be to influence others. But how do you create trust? There are a few specific things you can do, Tim says:
‘If you’re looking to create trust, it’s so important to “walk the talk.” Be honest with your communication and with all of your decisions and motives … even if it’s bad news, unfavourable, or a tough decision.’
‘Consistency is also important. Be reliable and supportive.’
As great as this all sounds, any of us who have worked in challenging cultures or with difficult stakeholders know that it can be easier said than done! But that’s all part of the challenge of being trustworthy and influential, Tim believes. And realistically, it may involve overcoming previously held fears:
‘As a consultant or contractor, you can bring fresh perspectives. Yet still it can be scary to speak up, especially if it’s an unpopular perspective or contrary to the status quo.’
Tim likens this fear to the famous story, Hans Christian Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes. In the story, two weavers promise an emperor new clothes, but say that they will be ‘invisible’ to people who are incompetent or unfit for their positions. In reality, the weavers make no clothes at all, but when the emperor parades his clothes, everyone, fearful for their jobs and status, are too afraid to say anything. In the end a child, who doesn’t share the same fear, cries out ‘but he isn’t wearing anything!?!”
For Tim, an exceptional contractor is one who plays the role of the child in challenging situations:
‘The difference between a good contractor and an exceptional one is the ability to tell the truth to power … regardless of popular opinion.’
Trait 3: The ability to convey empathy
By now, you’re probably pretty clear on the fact that as a contractor, you’ll need to influence others by first gaining their trust, which, in many cases, may involve breaking with the status quo. But for any of us that have tried to do this, we know that it’s often not well received. Is there a better way, then, to share unsavoury views and opinions?
There is, according to Tim. And the secret is empathy.
‘When you speak the truth without empathy, especially when it’s critical in nature, it can be non-productive and can build barriers to creating trust and influence. You must develop the ability to detect other’s emotions and understand their perspective, whether right or wrong.’
‘Being non-judgemental and listening enables others to feel accepted and understanding where they are coming from validates their opinion.’
To convey empathy, you always need to listen before you speak. And to get the information you need to convey empathy, you may need to dig a little deeper than simply asking for your stakeholder’s opinions, Tim says:
‘You can convey empathy only after you truly understand your stakeholders. And to do this, you need to ask them about their priorities and preferences, you need to understand their motivations and how they fit into the project you’re working on.’
‘In order to garner this deeper understanding, make sure you give stakeholders your full attention. Simple things like eye contact and ensuring you’re not multitasking show that you respect them.’
Trait 4: The ability to research properly and fully engage others
As a contractor, you’re often in the hot seat when it comes to solving problems and giving advice. And given your experience, you should be. But does this mean that you should go in guns ablazing and start firing off your expertise before doing your research and engaging others?
In fact, according to Tim, the fourth critical trait you’ll need as a contractor is the ability to fully engage with your stakeholders and proactively seek opinions and information before you make any judgement. Prior to positing any solution, you should ensure you’ve identified and fully explored all available options.
Doing your research in this sense in so important, so when you’re active listening, ensure that you’re also engaged, says Tim:
‘Engaging others is NOT a spectator sport. You have to get involved, get to the root of the problem, and do so in a non-threatening manner. It’s only then that you can seize the opportunity to educate others about your supply chain perspective and responsibilities.’
Trait 5: Being an expert in your profession
Have you noticed a trend with the traits we’ve listed above? Yes, you’re correct – they are all ‘soft’ skills, which, especially in the brave new world of procurement and supply chain that is starting to emerging post-COVID, are particularly important.
Given the complexity of our profession, though, naturally one final trait is important, and that is: the ability to be an expert in our profession. And when it comes to contracting, it’s important to figure out exactly what you’re an expert in. To do this, Tim recommends reflecting on your last couple of work assignments and asking yourself the following yourself what you might be known for:
‘Of everything you’ve achieved, there’s probably one or two things you’ve performed particularly well in. Perhaps you’re really good at cost savings, negotiating, or transitioning legacy IT systems to leading edge capabilities. Whatever it is, pick a couple and run with them.’
Contracting skills = career assets
As the world begins the slow recovery from the pandemic, there will be more and more contracting opportunities as businesses look to hire in specialist skills and undertake new and exciting projects. So even if you’ve never contracted before, now could be the time to give it a try, as you’re likely to be able to garner some unique experiences, and perhaps even career-defining opportunities.
Regardless of the opportunities, though, one thing is for sure: the traits you’ll need to succeed as a contractor are equally important in any role, so developing them in any way you can will represent a distinct career advantage.
What other traits do you think are required to succeed as a contractor? Let us know in the comments below.
You might think that your most strategic suppliers are the ones you spend the most with. But supply chain crises may shine a light on which suppliers are actually strategic.
Modern-day supply chains are truly global, highly complex and getting longer and longer. 20 years ago, most of a company’s suppliers were probably within a very short radius. Today they could be on the other side of the world.
The reality is that organisations have more difficulty than ever keeping track of their entire supply chain – from Tier 1 all the way down to the smallest supplier organisations. This poses enough challenges for organisations when it comes to issues like environmental performance or modern slavery, let alone with supply chain efficiency or continuity of supply.
With so many suppliers to keep track of, organisations have to make decisions about who their strategic suppliers really are. Traditionally, organisations (and their procurement departments) have fixated on the suppliers with the largest spend volumes. In reality, they should be most concerned about a supplier’s risk profile.
This risk profile is thrown into light at times of crisis in global supply chains. This may come from volcanic eruptions disrupting global flights and travel, or from a global pandemic, such as COVID-19.
What Does the 1% Look Like?
All suppliers are unique, bringing different things to an organisation beyond the goods and services they provide. When assessing which suppliers to manage as ‘strategic’, procurement departments have traditionally focused on their visible suppliers. This usually is defined by spend profile and determined using traditional methods such as the Pareto 80:20 principle.
However, it’s the less visible, hidden suppliers that are often the most strategic. These are the 1%.
This group is made up of the suppliers who are easiest to ignore as they supply something low-cost and apparently trivial to the organisation. In truth, this trivial component may be manufactured from an expensive or rare raw material, be a proprietary item, or come from a supplier who has a monopoly or dominance in the market. Despite this item costing very little, the likelihood is that it is difficult, if not impossible to replace. This makes the potential impact on the supply chain huge should the supplier fail to deliver.
Assessing these suppliers using another procurement favourite, the Kraljic Matrix, they would fall into the ‘non-critical’ or ‘bottleneck’ categories (see below).
However, in many cases, the risk aspect of supply is downplayed or removed entirely, leaving the focus solely on profitability. This is where the issues with your 1% lie.
The Role of Technology
In times of supply chain crises, every supplier – even your ‘transactional’ and ‘bottleneck’ suppliers – need the same attention in order to ensure you’re not missing something. What may have once seemed like an impossible and highly inefficient task has been aided considerably by the advancements in procurement solutions and technology.
Organisations have gone from a reliance on their transactional systems, such as their ERP, and the knowledge and experience of their procurement teams to manage their suppliers. This has left organisations exposed through a lack of data to define and manage strategic suppliers, as well as the loss of knowledge when people leave to join another organisation.
Procurement technology and solutions have developed to the extent that they can help provide the necessary foundation for tracking an entire supply base. This has moved the profession from a position of weakness, to a position of strategic responsibility. In the current climate, people are now actively talking about supply chains and procurement’s role now and in the future.
Therefore, the profession cannot undermine itself by failing to manage its 1% effectively. Even big organisations, with highly developed supply chains can be caught out, as we can see below.
Real World #1 – Keeping Supplies Zipped Up Tight
The fashion industry has taken some very public, very high-profile hits for its supply chain. Organisations have a uniquely complex situation to contend with – finding suppliers who are flexible, reactive and usually low cost on one hand, while on the other ensuring that the highest ethical standards are still achieved.
Suppliers can frequently be small, family-owned and geographically challenging too. However, you might consider an everyday item on many items of clothing a product of a 1% supplier – the zip.
You might overlook it, but a zip is a critical item for manufacturers and designers. The market is dominated by two major suppliers, YKK and SBS, but there are other players there too. However, the majority of these are geographically focused in Asia – specifically Japan and China. Switching supply is unlikely to be easy, so all it takes is a supply chain crisis in this region, say a lack of key raw materials or alloys for production, and supply could be disrupted, without viable alternatives.
Low value compared to other items in the fashion design process, but very high risk.
Real World #2 – Bearing the Risk
Manufacturing is another industry with highly complex and multi-layered supply chains to manage. In automotive manufacturing, supply chains have moved towards the ‘Just-in-Time’ method pioneered by Toyota, making continuity of supply and supplier reliability critical at all times. It’s no use having 99% of the parts available to use, when the 1% is stuck in its factory, two tiers down your supply chain.
As such, a greater focus on quality over price is required, but even this is not fool proof. Fiat Chrysler announced in February that it was halting production at one of its factories in Serbia as it couldn’t get parts from China. Manufacturers who would traditionally hold minimal stock to remain competitive and agile are faced with a situation where that very strategy could pose a huge risk to their organisation.
As the impact of COVID-19 related factories closures around the world continues to grow, even large manufacturers may actually stock out before there’s a chance to re-align. And these items could be as simple as ball bearings for wheels – very low value, but huge risk at this time.
De-risking the 1%
Is there a solution that overworked procurement professionals can take advantage of in the face of a supply chain crisis? When it comes to supplier risk, there are a number of actions that may be taken immediately in order to reduce this.
According to KPMG, these can include setting up a response team to manage the flow of information across key stakeholder groups, reviewing key contracts with customers and suppliers to understand liability in the event of shortages, and conducting a full risk assessment to provide a list of actions to take, which may include shortening supply chains and assessing alternative options.
In the long-term, however, the focus needs to be more on supplier management and the creation of truly ‘strategic’ relationships, built on risk profiles rather than value. This should be done across the entire supply chain and aim to go down through the various Tiers that exist in it. This is defined as ‘Holistic Supplier Management’, a concept explored in more detail by JAGGAER in their latest whitepaper.
JAGGAER’s research uses a similar model to the Kraljic Matrix for supplier positioning, but with the key difference that it focuses on risk and cost to the business (rather than cost of supply) in the event of supplier failure.
A concept is all very well but being able to deliver Holistic Supplier Management and manage suppliers on risk and cost requires being able to access data on current performance, the impact of an individual supplier on your organisation, as well as the value that they deliver. This is where technology comes to the aid of procurement and it’s what is offered within the JAGGAER Supplier Management solution.
The solution not only provides the data and analysis that is required by procurement for key decision-making, but also gives a deeper understanding of suppliers to help construct better contracts that deliver greater value to the organisation. By using technology like this, procurement can effectively and efficiently de-risk their supply chains, keeping them better prepared for managing crises when they inevitably hit.
Don’t Get Caught Out
The key message, as every procurement professional knows, is that good communication is key to maintaining a strong and stable supply chain. However, as supply chains grow more and more complex, geographically dispersed and multi-tiered, individual procurement professionals and departments need to make use of all the resources at their disposal.
No matter how safe you think you are, how stable you believe your supply chain is and how strong your links are with your strategic suppliers, there is always an inherent risk within that 1%. By being better prepared and truly understanding your supply chain, you can avoid being caught out in time of crisis.
Careful planning and a willingness to adapt help ensure that your key suppliers stay with you when you’re implementing a new tech system
Implementing a new tech solution can be like a voyage into a new world. There is the promise of efficiency, the draw of increased margin, and the assurance of better working relationships. But much like a voyage, reaping the benefits of process automation in procurement means that all parties must be fully on board – including suppliers.
Implementation is a complex process in itself, with many important steps to take before the new system is in place. Even if companies implement the best available solutions for their processes, their biggest obstacle is often the resistance of their suppliers to implement the new cloud system.
Visibility is important to any journey. When it comes to supply-chain collaboration, companies don’t just need a supplier or vendor, they need a trusted partner to accompany them. But how? Here are three steps to help you make sure your suppliers are on board with you on your voyage to new tech.
1. Get organised and build a strong message
You know your destination, but does your entire crew? The success of your implementation will depend on how well you communicate the changes – and proper expectations – to your suppliers.
When building your case, you’ll need to consider which suppliers you want to get on board. Don’t overwhelm your resources, have a manageable list of targeted suppliers and ensure that all of your supplier contact information is up to date. While this process can be time-consuming, it’s crucial that you begin with an updated supplier database to ensure efficient and effective communication.
Once you have your crew accounted for, create a detailed communications plan that includes messaging before, during and after the implementation of your new cloud system. Your messages should build a sense of urgency and excitement about the implementation, as you’ll want suppliers to get on board in a timely fashion to not cause any delays.
Sharing the value proposition will help encourage suppliers to actively participate in the onboarding process. Catering your communication to each specific population, you should focus on answering a few key questions:
What’s in it for them?
Which option is right for their organisation?
What steps do they need to take right now?
Build a supplier-facing portal where suppliers can get their questions answered quickly. Realize that no matter the incentive to your suppliers, building a united front may mean burning some bridges – you can’t start your campaign with offering a contingency plan for those that don’t adopt. Enforce the mandate and don’t look back.
2. Take the helm…but first, delegate
One of the most common pitfalls in supplier onboarding is when a client takes on too much or do not properly define roles and responsibilities. Not only is this bad optics for your project, but it discourages suppliers, making it more difficult to achieve your enablement goals.
Once you have a clear communications plan in place, it’s necessary that you determine who is responsible for what during your voyage. Have a defined escalation process with clear roles and responsibilities. Make sure buyers and category managers are on board with your plan and create a step-by-step process defining who will do what when a supplier declines to enroll.
This will hold all parties accountable, including your suppliers, and avoid unwelcome surprises or project launch delays.
3. Remain consistent, realistic, and optimistic
Once the voyage to the tech new world has started and implementation is underway, make sure you monitor progress.
Stay consistent in your message but be open to the fact that some supplier populations may need more time and support than others – or may not reach your destination at all. Offer incentives along the way to increase the perceived value of your system and encourage higher rates of adoption.
Keep in mind that when implementation ends, the process is not necessarily over. To continue to ensure that suppliers are being added to the platform, you’ll need to develop a long-term plan and dedicate resources to manage the solution after it’s implemented. Perhaps consider making the roles you have defined or the standard procedures you have created permanent. Individuals that are responsible for enablement will be able to look at data regularly to identify changes in volume, follow-up with suppliers, and make adjustments as needed.
With these strategies in place, you can embark on your procurement tech voyage ensuring that you and your crew stay the course to success – and can reap the benefits promised at your destination.
Did you know that Matt has teamed up with Procurious to launch ‘Major Tech Fails’ – a series looking at everything from implementations to getting buy-in. Register here