Are you clear about the capabilities your role requires? Do you regard yourself as financially acute? Does your organisation have processes in place to capture vital knowledge from departing professionals as they retire?
Jim Barnes is a busy man. He’s the managing director for ISM Services, the Institute for Supply Management’s team learning and development arm, and the nature of his role means he’s on the road, or in the air, for much of his working week. His team and its affiliates are truly global, working around the clock with top corporations across the US, Latin America, Europe and Asia – in Barnes’ words, “the sun never sets on ISM Services”.
Procurious was lucky enough to get some time with Barnes at ISM2016 in Indianapolis. We asked him for his top three concerns for the future of learning and development in procurement. From his unique viewpoint near the pinnacle of one of the biggest supply management associations in the world, Barnes sees the following three shared challenges:
1. Lack of clarity around procurement roles and competencies
With procurement role definitions and responsibilities becoming increasingly fluid in modern businesses, Barnes has become aware of confusion around what many roles actually entail. “We’re seeing a lack of alignment between job roles and organisational needs. There’s also a lack of clarity in what it takes to get to the next level in your procurement career”.
ISM’s solution was to launch the Mastery Model, which CEO Tom Derry has referred to in the past as “the world’s greatest collection of job descriptions”. All of ISM Services’ content and training now maps to this model, and it’s part of Barnes’ role to ensure the model itself stays relevant in a fast-changing profession. “We’re constantly updating the Mastery Model”, he says. “That’s the whole point – procurement has moved so fast that we’ve almost outstripped the ability to have formalised career structures, but the model is designed to stay ahead of the latest trends.”
ISM Services surveys individuals to determine their competency levels across no fewer than 73 sub-competencies in the Mastery Model, identifying individual or group-wide gaps and devising a targeted investment plan for training and career feedback.
“There are so many ways people can be up-skilled”, says Barnes. “It could be formal training towards ISM’s CPSM or CPSD, or eLearning, or on-the-job mentoring and coaching. It’s all about targeted investment to address identified gaps. Most importantly, the Mastery Model helps procurement professionals understand what competencies they need to excel in their current roles, and what skills they’ll have to master to move to the next step in their careers.”
2. Procurement professionals need greater financial acumen
“If you’re in procurement, you need to ensure you have a basic understanding of business finance and accounting. For example, when selecting suppliers, you should be able to look at the financial data around their business to understand their dynamics”, Barnes says.
Being able to speak intelligently about finance will greatly benefit your ability to engage internal stakeholders and talk their language. “This is especially important when engaging with Finance, of course, and the C-level will expect you to have a good grip on business finance.”
Barnes says that more and more universities are offering quality courses in procurement and supply chain that address the gap in financial knowledge. “We’re seeing some terrific graduates coming out of these courses, including this year’s impressive group of Richter Scholarship recipients”.
Barnes’ advice to newly-minted graduates looking for a great role in procurement? “You’ve got to be willing to travel’, he says. “Lots of manufactures have plants in regional areas, often in the middle of nowhere – we can’t all land jobs in San Francisco”.
3. An ageing workforce
US electricity and gas company Duke Energy, says Barnes, is a prime example of the ageing demographic in procurement. “Over the next five years they’ll lose two-thirds of their supply chain staff. They’re replacing 200 people a year”. Barnes’ main concern with the demographic shift is capturing lost knowledge. “Of course there’s going to be a ‘brain drain’ – companies need to be very proactive about capturing as much knowledge from outgoing professionals as possible. But it’s also an opportunity to shift the skill set in procurement from old-school tactical to cutting-edge strategic.”
Barnes notes that ISM is on the front foot when it comes to developing millennial talent, most noticeably in its 30 Under 30 Supply Chain Stars program (in partnership with THOMASNET.com) and through its innovative eLearning initiative.
“The eISM online learning options make skills acquisition so much more accessible. We’ve now got people in remote places accessing our guided learning by webcam – they may not have been able to attend a workshop in person due to time constraints and travel expense. Trainers have to be able to accommodate people’s needs – and some procurement and supply chain professionals simply can’t find the time to leave their jobs”.
Virtual learning benefits trainers, too
On a personal level, Barnes is very pleased about the increasing popularity of virtual learning. “There’ll always be a need for face-to-face learning, networking and workshops, but one of the great benefits for me is that hopefully I won’t need to be on the road quite so much in the future!”