Myth or Reality? Minding the Talent Gap

Is the procurement talent gap a real concern? Or is it a false perception thanks to a talent shortage instead?

David Lyon, Head of Procurement at Cancer Research is quick to dismiss the idea of a procurement talent gap. He explains why the real problem is a lack of depth, and what we should be doing to address this.

David also highlights the importance of keeping millennials engaged and excited, what he’s learnt about the benefits of good project management and why aptitude and attitude go hand in hand.

1. What were your first 3 jobs?  

I started out as an assistant merchandiser at a Hong-Kong-based clothing manufacturer before acting more formally as the in-house, UK-based representative for the same company within the, as was, Burton Group.

I subsequently moved into the sourcing of clothing and textiles, where I predominantly sourced for womenswear at a major UK-based manufacturer. 

2. What’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known at the start of your career?

Firstly, I wish I’d known the value of having a clear direction and plan from the outset.

Secondly, the vital importance that good project management plays in bringing an organisation onside, when conducting any complex activity involving more than one person. 

Even in a senior leadership position, I find myself looking back to effective planning as critical in charting the course of procurement’s development in the organisation.

3. How can CPOs attract and retain millennials? 

The best way to retain millennials is by providing them with constant exposure to new experiences.  Millennials typically want to grow and learn in short bursts. They rely on technology for the operational basics, which would have traditionally been developed over a longer period.  

Millennials expect to access information in a user-friendly format, at their fingertips, and a dynamic and fun working environment.  Without these factors, retention will become increasingly difficult for organisations that want to have the best talent. 

4. Does the procurement talent gap exist? Or is it just as perception problem?

There is not so much a talent gap as a talent shortage. We have a number of really skilled procurement professionals in many organisations. However, we lack the depth in these areas, which means that there feels to be a gap between where we are now and where we want to be. 

We need to continue to promote and advertise the function to attract some of the right skill sets from other functions.

5. What’s more important for your hires – attitude or aptitude?

Both. Attitude is important with regards to the way employers go about what they do. Aptitude is needed in order to be able to deal with difficult circumstances.

I believe technical knowledge to be of lesser importance. I can buy those skills in as necessary, or train or develop, which is often a great investment in induction and personal development when we have a new hire.

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