What To Do When Stakeholder Management Gets Tough

Everyone has encountered difficult customers or stakeholders when running a procurement exercise. It’s how we choose to deal with them that can define success or failure for our tenders.

By zoff / Shutterstock

Recently I’ve been running a recruitment process at work, using the oft-derided and disliked ‘competency-based’ questions as part of the interviews. One question in particular got me thinking about my own experiences in procurement. That of dealing with a difficult stakeholder or customer relationship.

We’ve all had them, even if they didn’t necessarily feel like that at the time. Whether it’s the end user who keeps changing their mind about what they want, or the stakeholder who believes their opinion is more important than everyone else’s. And then there’s the supplier who believes they know better than you, that your process is flawed or you’re asking the wrong questions, and that they have the key to fixing it.

These aren’t necessarily difficult or challenging relationships all the time. Good stakeholder management encourages input from all sides, but there are times that opinions are unhelpful, unwelcome or downright wrong. And when this is the case, but the stakeholder remains convinced that they are correct, the relationship can prove to be make or break for the success of the exercise.

Path of Least Resistance

This brings me back to the original question that got me thinking in the first place. The question continues by looking for more detail on how the relationship was dealt with and what the outcome was. The aim of the question is to dig a little deeper into the competency of ‘influence’ and establish how the candidate managed the situation to a successful conclusion.

But as anyone who has encountered this issue in the past knows, success isn’t always a guarantee (more on this shortly). A good outcome may not necessarily be a bell-ringing, trumpeter-blowing success for the tender. Sometimes the best outcome is no outcome at all, a compromise, or a solution that follows the path of least resistance in order to preserve a much-needed relationship for the future.

And that is the tale that I want to tell now. Instead of focusing on the theory, I wanted to share a story from my own procurement experience where hard lessons were learned and gaining the realisation that not all relationships are destined to be easy.

Introducing: The Engineer

DISCLAIMER: The people in this story ARE actually real and any resemblance to anyone you know is because you have probably met someone just like this! I have, however, changed names and kept details deliberately vague to protect identities.

Picture this. A young graduate procurement trainee, a bit green, a bit wet behind the ears. New job, new suit, new city. Yes, you’ve guessed it – it’s me! If you’re picturing something similar to a parent’s photo of their children on their first day of school, that’s probably what I looked like to tell the truth.

I hadn’t been in procurement very long at all, having fallen into the profession while looking for graduate roles around the UK. It was all a bit new to me, but I’d delivered a couple of projects and was getting the hang of what was required. I’d started to build up a good foundation of knowledge and some solid, supportive relationships across the business.

That was until I met The Engineer. The Engineer had a reputation that preceded him – hard to pin down, hard to please, just generally hard to work with.

Colleagues more experienced than I (this is where the warning signs should have come in that I was getting the dubious please of this particular contract!) told stories of a nice guy, but someone with very little time for procurement and procurement/tender activities. The department was a roadblock, the processes too cumbersome. He knew plenty of guys who could provide the goods quicker and cheaper. That was, after all, “what we’ve always done around here”.

A Challenging Time

My experience wasn’t any different to what I expected after these friendly warnings. Meetings came and meetings went and the only thing that changed was the date on the calendar. The Engineer was respectful and professional at all times in his demeanour towards me, but he seemed determined to shred the procurement process.

Specifications were blocked as too vague, or not meeting the needs of the department. There were complaints about opening this up to suppliers who had been used in the past as it was felt their products were inferior. In hindsight there are plenty things I could have done differently – brought in more senior team members (I didn’t want to compound my newness by seeming like I couldn’t handle this), or change tact to put it on him to drive it forward. But, as they say, hindsight is always 20:20.

Eventually we reached an unspoken agreement and understanding that gave us a resolution of sorts. We both realised that nothing was going to change, either in the product demands or the procurement process. The contract was eventually put in place with a good supplier and the goods were delivered in good time. It wasn’t the utopic procurement outcome I had envisioned, but it wasn’t too bad. And boy, did I learn a lot!

An Interview-Worthy Response?

No matter what you do or where you go, you’ll find relationships like this to deal with. It’s ultimately how you deal with them that you need to decide on. Each relationship will be different and your response to them will differ in line with this. It’s important to remember that no matter how hard the relationship, it still needs to be worked at, possibly even harder for the particularly challenging ones.

They may not provide you with a gold-plated, interview-worthy example, but these interactions can help you further down the line and it all helps with your personal development. Just remember, no matter how hard it is, don’t burn those bridges. They may be the ones you need to cross in the future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this article and the series of articles on the challenges facing public sector procurement in 2019. Leave your comments below, or get in touch directly, I’m always happy to chat!

Human Rights Falter In Grey Areas Of Procurement Policy

Workers are often the victims when there are gaps in legal procurement and ethical procurement, but businesses nowadays have a lot to lose as the lines between profit and social conscience are no longer so easily defined… 

Back in 2010, rotten Apple stories started flashing up on smartphones everywhere. Forget tales of environmental unsustainability, these concerned social injustice: poor pay, unhealthy conditions and worryingly low levels of worker welfare. Then came the shocking news of staff suicides.

Attention focused on a prime link in the Apple supply chain: a vast 1.4-square-mile megafactory complex owned and run by Foxconn Technology Group, a Taiwanese multinational contract-manufacturing company, specialising in electronics.

Dubbed ‘Foxconn City’, the mini metropolis housed almost half a million workers on a giant industrial park in Shenzhen, China.

Fast forward to 2019 and Apple is still sourcing from Foxconn, across various sites. The roll-call of Foxconn manufacturing, present and past, still reads like a who’s who of the tech world, and includes other monster brands such as Google, Huawei, Microsoft and Sony, to name but a few.

So, given that Apple was soon to become the first public company on the planet worth $1 trillion, how did it get embroiled in such a dubious ethical sourcing saga in the first place, plus seemingly fail to crisis-manage its public relations effectively when the story broke?

The simple, grim fact is that Apple and the tech community are by no means alone in this. The recent history of procurement by global consumer brands is littered with the reputational detritus of bad ethics and selective legality.

Fast fashion, in particular, has struggled to keep its name out of incriminating headlines, with ethical procurement issues ranging from ongoing stories around ‘dirty’ cotton, through ‘cry for help’ labels sewn into high street clothes, to the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, where 1,134 lost their lives.

Sourcing scandals also continue to flood out of food and agriculture. Ethical issues served up for public consumption range from TV exposés of supermarket chicken suppliers tampering with ‘kill dates’, to the abuse of water rights by industrial-scale avocado farmers in Chile.

Across all sectors and societies, employment remains the most mapped, but least navigable, legal and ethical intersection.

Figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO), released most recently in 2017, revealed that more than 40 million people worldwide were in modern slavery in 2016, including around 25 million in forced labour. Of those in forced labour, some 16 million were being exploited in the private sector. Furthermore, there were more than 152 million estimated victims of child labour, almost half of whom were aged between 5 and 11.

Ethical procurement is essentially a people business, affecting lives and livelihoods, for good or ill, says group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS), Cath Hill.

“Applying rigorous ethical standards to your supply chain is not just about compliance or completing necessary paperwork, but implementing good governance and preventing exploitation of human beings across the globe for the sake of profit,” she says.

In international waters, though, standardisation is a slippery fish.

If not a definitive and demonstrable difference, often at least, there exists a commercial and cultural tension between the norms of legal and ethical procurement. Discrepancies abound in a grey area between the two disciplines and, if unchecked and unpoliced, carve out a policy gap where human rights fall down.

Legal standards can lag behind best practice, especially in relation to global companies with complex supply chains, explains Martin Buttle, strategic lead for general merchandise at the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).

“A company that meets local labour laws in one country could still breach international minimum standards. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights make it clear that businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights even in countries where national law is weak, or poorly enforced,” he says.

Based on ILO conventions, the internationally recognised ETI Base Code of labour standards has been designed to tackle exactly this kind of cross-border inconsistency and jumble of jurisdictions, representing a commitment to ensure all workers are free from exploitation and discrimination, paid a living wage and enjoy conditions of safety, security and equity.

Stepping out of the moral maze for a moment, there are also many bottom-line business-case benefits to be gained by adopting such an ethical approach, suggests Mr Buttle: “It can maintain the supply of goods, increase productivity and quality, and enhance a company’s reputation with its customer base, which is increasingly expected by consumers.”

However, it is often the pressure of competitive marketplaces and overly aggressive procurement practices or pricing policies that result in damaging knock-on effects, he says.

“Brands should understand how their actions impact on their suppliers’ ability to uphold labour rights. For example, a company with poor purchasing practices, such as unrealistic deadlines or unit prices, can cause challenges for its suppliers, leading to increased risk of poor wages and excessive working hours. This is particularly the case if a supplier feels forced to accept orders below the cost of production to win contracts.”

All too often, there is little communication and accountability, says Alex Saric, smart procurement expert at Ivalua: “Cost is the only discussion point and data isn’t shared effectively, while risk and CSR assessments can be a ‘tick-box’ exercise, meaning transparency initiatives end up half-baked.”

Weaknesses notwithstanding, big brands can still set a positive agenda for supplier behaviour, beyond compliance. “If suppliers see that being responsible is more likely to win them a contract, ethical practices change from a minimum requirement to a valuable key differentiator. They must operate sustainably, or face losing out to more ethical competitors,” Mr Saric says.

While any ethical shift is relatively slow and undoubtedly late, legislative momentum is only pushing in one direction and businesses would do well to watch this space closely, suggests Lee Rubin, counsel and global sourcing expert at international law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

“When it comes to lawmaking, legal and ethical considerations are merging, typified by the Modern Slavery Act. While not all sections of the Act are directly applicable to business, the provision around ‘transparency in supply chains’ impacts the largest brands and companies.”

Serious money is also flowing more towards the good and the green, adds Mr Buttle: “Many investors understand that poor human rights practices in the supply chain can put their investment at risk. With a growing interest in social impact, we are starting to see the investment community influencing business decisions.”

All in all, this collective chorus calling for ethical procurement is simply becoming too important to ignore, says Ms Hill: “It is not only the right thing to do, but also the lines between profit and social conscience are no longer so easily defined. News travels fast and bad news travels at lightning speed.”

The heat is most definitely on, says Shaun McCarthy, director at leaders in sustainable procurement Action Sustainability: “These days the court of public opinion is an unforgiving place and brands need to be aware they are playing with fire when it comes to ethical procurement.”

Ultimately, therefore, brands that muddy transparency, frustrate traceability and neglect communications get burned, concludes retail expert and consumer champion Martin Newman: “Consumers will shop with their feet and their mouse. If you pay this lip service or they think you’re being disingenuous, they will not only not buy now, they’ll never come back; and they’ll tell all their friends and family about it.”

This article, edited by Jim McClelland, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times. 

4 Terms We Should Ban In Procurement

We asked a number of procurement leaders to reveal the procurement term they would most like to ban, for good!

Every procurement professional has a different opinion on the terms that should and shouldn’t be used in their day-to-day working lives. Some terms are loathed because they undervalue the huge contributions procurement make to the organisation. Others are just downright confusing to anyone unfamiliar with procurement lingo.

Because we quite like a healthy debate, we asked a number of procurement leaders to reveal the procurement term they would most like to ban, for good!

1. Cost-cutters

“This is something I really feel is doing a discredit to the profession – it’s very important we are being seen as value-adding procurement people.”

Amelle Mestari, Head of Procurement – Bouygues Energies & Services

“We’ve been spending a lot of time reeducating the business around the extra value we bring so it’s not simply about getting a better unit price it’s about the wider value we can bring to the organisation.”

Gemma Bell, Head of Purchasing – L’Oreal

2. Savings Targets

“Sure, Procurement has to reduce costs and be financially motivated but you don’t see many organisations mission statements being to save money. Nowadays it’s crucial that procurement is measured on its contribution to delivering organisational goals and not just on savings.”

Chris Cliffe, Director – CJC Procurement



3. RFP

“I think there is still a lot of confusion around RFP as silly as it sounds. It’s something we band about and we know exactly what it means but when you speak to stakeholders it’s always the first thing they ask ‘what is an RFP and what does it mean’ and it actually means different things to different people. So I would there must be a different term we could use or a different way we could articulate what that particular process is.”

Chris Emberton, CPO – Clifford Chance

“If I’m going to speak to one of my stakeholders, if they don’t understand the language I’m speaking, how on earth is that going to help me in the business.”

Lucy Bunting, Head of Procurement

4. Negotiation

“It’s what everyone assumes we do and I think it comes to a point where you always get the hospital pass at the end of the day when someone says ‘I need you to negotiate this’ – so it means you’ve done something wrong.

Matt Beddoe, Head of Procurement – Nestle

These responses were obtained from attendees at Big Ideas Summit London earlier this year. If you’re a procurement leader and you’d like to get involved with similar discussions and networking at Big Ideas Chicago on 18th September, we’d love to have you there!

Big Ideas Summit Chicago 2019

It’s never too late to take control of your procurement career. And what better way to do so than spending a day with the profession’s best and brightest minds. 

At Big Ideas Summit Chicago 2019 we’ll be joined by 50 thought leaders to discuss how to set yourself apart from the pack, the neuroscience of decision-making, the evolving relationship between human and machine and procurement with purpose. 

By enrolling as a digital delegate, no matter where you are in the word, you’ll be able to…

  • Follow the day’s action from the comfort of your sofa
  • Submit questions to our speakers and the 50 CPOs who will be in attendance on the day
  • Gain an insight into the future of procurement
  • Watch video footage from the event including exclusive interviews with our speakers and live-streams of the day in action!

The One Thing You Should Be Doing To Boost Your Career This Year

Nearly 50 per cent of workers are making “learning new skills” a priority right now, ahead of both a pay rise and a promotion…

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Forget pushing for that promotion. Don’t waste too much time looking for a new role. And leave lusting after a new job title for now. Instead, focus on your skills.

“Skills” have traditionally been viewed as something for the trades – those who chose a more hands-on career pathway, rather than one that needed academic qualifications.

While we all appreciate the talent of hairdressers, plumbers, motor mechanics and a host of other vitally-important skilled tradespeople, this year skills have taken on a new meaning.

One of the top workplace trends for 2019 is “Skill signalling”.

There is added emphasis on highlighting the skills that set you apart from the competition according to recruiters Robert Half.

This could be your digital literacy – such as working with artificial intelligence – or softer skills such as communications and problem-solving abilities.

Basically, anything that can help you to stand out from the crowd.

No. 1 aim is to learn new skills

This is something you should take seriously, or you could get left behind.

Nearly 50 per cent of workers are making “learning new skills” a priority right now, ahead of both a pay rise and a promotion, according to research from CV-Library.

However, you might have to acquire these outside of the office as two-thirds of us say our employer isn’t responsive to our needs.

Also, much of the employer training on offer is a waste of time and money.  Research shows that of the $400billion spent on corporate learning globally every year, only 15% is proven to really work.

Top 10 career priorities for 2019

  1. Learn new skills (44.6%)
  2. Get a pay rise (43.5%)
  3. Move to another company (40.1%)
  4. Gain a new qualification (24.3%)
  5. Get a new job title (22.7%)
  6. Change job roles (19.7%)
  7. Get a promotion (17.2%)
  8. Change industries (13.1%)
  9. Work for themselves (12.4%)
  10. Build a personal network (8.9%)

Source: CV-Library

So, what are the skills of the future

What should you be learning? Well, employability skills are key – according to Hogan Assessments, the global leader in personality assessment solutions, these are defined as “the ability to find a job, the ability to retain it, and the ability to find a new job should the first one go away”.  There are three components:

  • People Skills – getting along well with others and working well in teams. People who score high on this skill seem friendly, pleasant and helpful.
  • Learning Skills – learning the essential functions of the job and acquiring new skills as the job changes over time. Individuals with learning skills are likely to be bright, curious, and motivated to learn.
  • Work Ethic – taking instruction, working hard, and producing high-quality results in a timely fashion. Employees with good work ethic are hardworking, productive and dependable.

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a fortune and take a year or two out of work to study an MBA or master’s to gain these skills.

However, the bad news is that you are often either naturally good at these – or not.

Tips

  • Do a 360 exercise with friends, family and colleagues to get a view of how you score on these points.
  • Find a mentor to help you work on these skills – for example listening and reflecting. Choose someone you trust within your organisation, or find a mentor externally (someone you already know, respect, get along with and want to be like).
  • Try to demonstrate these skills on a daily basis – work on them, and you will improve.

Decide to specialise or generalise

The future workplace will be made up of two types According to the Future of the Workplace 2030+ report from Unily.

Expert Generalists who can transfer skills and see the bigger picture necessary to drive the ideas economy.

Hyper Specialists who are more operational, can dive deep for solutions are equipped to understand details and specifics.

Once again, these skills are often innate. Some of us are brilliant when it comes to attention to detail, but find it hard to be adaptable. Choose your path depending on your personality type.

Whichever path you choose, you will need to work on these skills:

  • Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking

In a time of constant change, the skill or trait that will help you get ahead is being able to deal with change.  

The No. 1 personality trait you need right now

As a result, resilience is one of the key skills employers will be helping their staff to develop over the next few years.

However, you can develop this skill yourself by nurturing your own physical and mental wellbeing, which can help you to stay positive and cope with the ever faster-changing world of work.

This is also a key skill to highlight on your CV: it is one of the things employers will be looking for. So try to find ways to demonstrate your ability to “bounce back” from adversity and to deal with change.

If you don’t ask you don’t get

Boosting your skills can boost your performance as well as your life-long career prospects.

“Learning new skills is an excellent way to secure yourself more opportunities and a better paid job down the line,” says Lee Biggins, CEO of CV-Library.

So, how do you go about investing in your own success?

  • Identify the skills you need to work on or develop.
  • Look for ways to develop these (note: this is unlikely to be in a classroom).
  • Ask your boss to support your skills development  – whether that is giving you time off to attend seminars, conferences, lectures or to work one-on-one with a mentor or on new projects to develop new skills.
  • Make it a lifelong journey – skills need constant development.

Learning to learn – that’s the no.1 skill

“The future discussion will not be about reskilling or upskilling but ‘learning to learn’” according to the Unily Future of the Workplace Report which says:

Being comfortable acquiring new knowledge is a skill in its own right.

To become a continual learner, you will need to learn to

  • Take risks
  • Experiment
  • Adapt

… and challenge yourself to disrupt and do things differently.

The 4 Fundamental C’s of Success – Part 1: Clarity

How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success.

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How do you thrive in the new world where we need to be in control of our mind and embrace technology as it becomes more powerful. In a new article series we explore the four fundamental C’s of success. In this first article, Charlotte de Brabandt explores the importance of clarity.

To have clarity is to have the ability to be coherent and intelligible. It means to be able to have a clear mind, with thoughts focused on that which you intend them to be focused on. Gaining clarity comes when you think straight using intelligence and power , becoming aware of what is really important to you and to letting go of all other thoughts. Those without clarity never accomplish much of anything because their minds are full of unnecessary thoughts. As such, they can’t see clearly where they are going in life, making it difficult to make decisions and move forward. With clarity you can focus on the correct direction to lead you to the results you aim for. You are able to focus on your goals, and making decisions to attain those goals becomes simpler saving you time and energy and increasing your success. If you are unclear about what your goals are, then your results will be unclear too. Clarity is all about what you really want to achieve, so to start attaining clarity, ask yourself, “what do I want?”

This might be financial, physical, emotional or literally anything you desire. You absolutely must know what you truly want so you can work effectively to achieve it. From this point you will start to think straight without the endless confusion in your mind you perhaps once had. Once you know what your set of goals are, you can start making a clear plan of action in order to start attaining those goals. There will be many steps in your plan of action and at this stage you won’t know what they all are. If you do, then your aim is not set high enough! Write down the steps you know you will have to take to achieve your goal, but be aware of the unknown steps ahead and be flexible as you progress towards your goal. You may encounter different paths or opportunities on your journey towards your goal that will change your plan, be open to them. The important thing is to keep clear what the main objective is and stay focused along the way. As you progress along your journey towards your goal, every next step will be presented to you and your job is to take action on the presented step in order to move forward and receive the next.

As you continually visualise the attainment of your goal with focus and emotion, simpler ways to achieve your goal will be presented to you and you will continue to build your belief in the achievement of that goal, no matter how big it might have seemed at the beginning. Often making decisions is difficult. Even when you know your goals and aims, decision making is like a muscle, which has to be worked. In the beginning of your decision making process it will help to write down all of your options and eliminate them one by one, taking time to meditate on it until you can see with clarity the best decision for you to make . Lay your options out clearly and accurately so you are able to think with clarity about taking the correct next step. Then once that step is decided upon, do not look back, do not look to the side. Stay focused and bring your goal to your physical reality. As you continue to make decisions, meditating on what is best, your intuition will grow stronger and you will be able to make your decisions with more speed and accuracy. Remember making fast decisions is an important step and with clarity and a strong intuition, your ability to make fast, accurate decisions will become very simple.

“The clearer you are, the simpler things become”

AI And The Future Of Work: Why It’s Not Oblivion That Keeps Me Optimistic

With AI encompassing a broad range of technologies, it is unlikely that there will be a role that will not feel the potential impact.

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With all the media focus and conversation about the impact of technology on the work we do, it can sometimes be a wonder to think that any of us will have anything left to do in the digital world once the machines take over. With the success of AI development from companies like Alphabet’s Deepmind and IBM’s Watson, it seems that the performance and contribution of humans raises some significant and confronting questions about what the future of work will look like, not only for us in the existing workforce, but for the generations that have just entered, or are soon to enter. With four nephews in primary school and just starting high school, this is very much a personal question, as much as a professional one.

In May this year, I had the opportunity to facilitate a panel discussion at the Future Work Summit. The topic, Capitalising on Australia’s Talent, was an interesting one. After all, with all of the talk of the professional wilderness that awaits us, how could we possibly discuss this topic without sending the audience members into a spiral of hoplessness? Thankfully, the speakers on the panel were three very passionate and amazing people who were putting their efforts and experience into addressing this exact question. Notwithstanding different roles and organisations, all are connected in their commitment to improve the potential of individuals in the workplace by enabling training and skills development that will help the navigation through the digital age.

With AI encompassing a broad range of technologies, it is unlikely that there will be a role that will not feel the potential impact. Rules based, repetitive tasks are ripe for the application of Robotics Process Automation. It’s impossible to imagine that any person, no matter their level of skill, attention or capability would be able to compete with an automated application that can process transactions within seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More sophisticated technologies including Machine Learning and Deep Learning can now look for patterns that would be either indiscernible to humans, or take so long to be identified that organisations shift priorities half way through. Add the ability for simulations and visual processing and it makes for a very compelling, and potentially threatening perspective about how people fit.

That’s certainly one perspective. The other perspective is the one that the panellists and I chose to explore. That is that while the nature of work may be changing, this change is an evolution and we as humans are impacted but we are not redundant. In an analysis of roles, McKinsey found that only about 5 per cent of roles can be fully automated and that 30 per cent of 60 per cent of the roles assessed could be automated. Yes, some roles will go, and along with that, some skills will no longer be needed. The future of work however, presents an opportunity to understand the impact of digital currently and in the future. It is an evolution that will allow us to adapt what we know and the skills we have developed or need to develop in order to position ourselves for what is coming.

As we talk about transformation in industry and organisations and make demands as consumers for organisations to get more in line with what we want to see, we have seen the rise of the ‘woke’ consumer. We all want to think we are one. So, it’s time to apply this thinking to our own personal and professional development. The future of work requires a transformation of how we perceive our place in the world. Skills and learning are not something we did in the past and left behind. The transformation required for us to stay relevant is adopting a mindset that embraces the idea of lifelong learning. Taking any formal learning we have undertaken and combining it with practical experience gets us to the place we are now. In the future of work, we continue to build. That may be through a combination of additional formal learning which is undertaken in a self-paced digital environment; welcome to the world of on-line learning that incorporates elements of gamification, animation and virtual reality. It’s here already although not as accessible as I hope it gets to be soon. What a way to learn. 

In other cases, it may be through experience. We are all familiar with the principle of learning 70-20-10. What if you could choose how you spent the 70? Would you want to spend it on administrative and operational tasks like crunching through a data activity, or would you want to spend the time validating and understanding insights and recommendations to be able to execute strategies that create value for your business? What about the opportunity to spend more time developing your team or engaging with your customers?

Even while we are concerned about machines and technology, we are embracing it when it comes to helping us expedite personal decisions and tasks. Many people are happy to engage with a chatbot to help them solve a query if it means not going through an arduous contact centre protocol. Smart algorithms are being mastered by savvy retailers. Organisations like Spotify and Netflix are personalising the customer experience and helping us discover preferences we didn’t know we had. In my case, I’m observing my experimentation with Spotify opening me up to music by artists I would not have otherwise come across. In leadership terms we call this curiosity, and we welcome it because it is a sign that we are open to understanding that we do not know everything and that learning makes us better. When it comes to the future of work, this is the mindset that will facilitate understanding and success in the man + machine interchange. It will be some time before the machines are really able to do what the hype says they will. In the meantime, what an opportunity to understand how they can help improve how we work and the type of work we do.

How Public Sector Procurement Can Have Social Value

With public sector organisations becoming increasingly aware that their procurement decisions have an impact on local communities, some are rethinking how they award contracts.

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Both private and public sector entities are becoming more interested in how their organisations impact society. Whether it’s in contributing to the community or managing the impact on the environment, organisations recognise they can change their local communities through who they pick to deliver goods or services.

Traditionally, it had been assumed that choosing a supplier that added social value may mean compromising for a sub-standard quality product or service, but views are slowly starting to change.

“They recognise the benefits of working with social enterprises, but are ruled by the need to mitigate risk and deliver efficient and economic services,” says Beth Pilgrim, co-founder of Supply Change.

“Often companies will just go to suppliers they know. What we are trying to explain to the public sector is that adding social value into your supply chain doesn’t have to be difficult or require extra work.”

Ms Pilgrim established Supply Change in 2018 with colleagues Aoise Keogan-Nooshabadi and Verena Wimmer after the trio conducted a series of research studies on the public sector procurement process. They found that while public sector bodies were keen to award contracts to social enterprises, they struggled to do so.

“One of the key themes that came out of our research was that social enterprises struggle to navigate public sector procurement processes,” Ms Pilgrim says. “The existing portals are not really tailored towards them, so they don’t get good visibility.”

In 2013, the UK government’s Social Value Act came into force, obligating public sector bodies to look at the social and environmental benefits of awarding a contract to a supplier, as well as the economic ones.

Heralded as a game-changer by the then-government, the Act has nudged public bodies to look more closely at the attributes of companies bidding to win work.

Despite this, some experts say that the legislation doesn’t go far enough, with a company’s social and environmental points score only accounting for a very small percentage of the overall total, and the outcome weighted towards other factors such as quality and cost.

“A number of leading authorities have recognised this and increased the social value element of their contracts,” says Ed Cross, executive director at procurement advisory group Odesma.

Mr Cross says that upping consideration of social value attributes could be good news for smaller businesses competing for contracts, but adds that the public sector still has some way to go.

“There seems to be a lack of trust in smaller enterprises, particularly social enterprises, from the public sector,” he explains.

“Part of this is down to the false assumption that social enterprises working with volunteers or part-time employees aren’t as reliable as larger organisations with full-time, paid employees.”

Mr Cross’s sentiments are shared by many, who feel that smaller enterprises can often face a real battle just to get an initial foot in the door.

“One of the biggest challenges smaller businesses face when it comes to gaining access to contracts that offer social benefits is the tick-box process of tenders for contracts, as well as how public sector guidelines are inflexible,” says Craig Knowles, marketing manager at procurement software group Market Dojo.

“The tick-box approach often means small businesses that might not fit specific criteria are left at the door before they’ve even been given the chance to prove themselves.

“There needs to be a change in attitude on taking “risks” on small business as many, often wrongly, believe they don’t have resources to work through big tenders when in reality this couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Despite widespread concerns that social enterprises and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are still missing out on contacts from the public sector, there is evidence of innovation.

Supply Change’s Ms Pilgrim says initiatives at some local authorities show how awarding contracts to smaller, local businesses can be transformative for the local community. She cites Preston in Lancashire as an example.

In 2013, the council brought in external consultants to evaluate whether it would be possible to redirect some of its annual contract-award budget to local businesses which had clear social impact objectives. Since doing so it has stimulated the local economy, putting money into local firms and increasing employment.

“We have seen how that can be a real success story,” says Ms Pilgrim. “Preston has a strategy of spending money within their local economy to build up SMEs, social enterprises and the voluntary sector as much as possible. It has resulted in a turnaround in the local economy.”

Similar projects are now underway across the UK, with Manchester City Council and Birmingham City Council among the larger authorities to consider how they can alter their approaches.

For SMEs and social enterprises looking to get a piece of the action, Malcolm Harrison, group chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, says small firms should play to their strengths.

“SMEs and social enterprises need to work hard to showcase the flexibility, innovation and financial rigour they can provide,” he says.

“To help SMEs, government should do more. Simpler language, less jargon and the chance for an open dialogue all help SMEs to compete with large companies. SMEs can themselves take charge and become more visible to potential contractors, and websites such as Contracts Finder and Compete For can be a great way of finding opportunities.”

One of the biggest challenges smaller businesses face is the tick-box process of tenders for contracts, as well as how public sector guidelines are inflexible.

This article, edited by Peter Archer, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times. 

5 Common Interview Mistakes Recruiters Should Overlook

It’s up to the person recruiting to decide whether a mistake is due to anxiety or a sign that the candidate is a bad match for the organisation. Here’s five mistakes you should overlook…

By Esenin Studio/Shutterstock

Nightmares focusing on poor performance at work, especially job interviews, are common among adults in the US – and it’s easy to see why. Job interviews are stressful. Horror stories of interviews gone wrong are all over the internet. While they may be fun to read, it’s not easy to get through a job interview without making at least one mistake. 

What does a “perfect” interview really mean anyway? Interviews have disqualified candidates for everything from being late to “being too attractive.” Candidate error is just one factor in the overall equation; and it’s all too common to make a mistake under pressure. At the end of the day, it’s up to the recruiter to decide whether a mistake is due to anxiety or a sign that the candidate is a bad match for the organization. 

Here are some of the most common, but forgivable, job interview mistakes that recruiters should overlook. 

A candidate sounds rehearsed

Many candidates don’t make it through the first-round interview because they sound too stiff.Recruiters lose interest when a candidate sounds like they’ve memorized their answers. It’s hard to get a good sense of who that person is when they answer questions robotically. 

However, recruiters should consider that the problem isn’t the candidate’s presentation. It’s the questions they’re asking. Candidates apply to dozens of jobs during their search. Eventually, all the interview questions start to sound the same. Recruiters should avoid asking outdated, all too common interview questions that applicants answer at nearly every job interview. 

There’s a certain script that’s easy to fall into. If you find your candidate sounds a bit canned, try a different approach in the next round. 

A candidate talks too much

The opposite of a candidate who sounds rehearsed is a candidate who is too chatty. Anxiety or under-preparation is usually the driver behind a candidate who talks at length. Talking too much is usually seen by recruiters as a red flag – what if a candidate talks too much in a client presentation? Will this person be a distraction when working in teams? 

It’s not necessarily fair to assume that chattiness is a sign of weakness. It could be a sign of under preparation, or it could be a lack of experience: two factors that job training can address. But for recruiters who don’t have time to spend all day in an interview, using a one-way video interview can help. Generally, we’re against putting restrictive timers on pre-recorded videos. What if the candidate has technical difficulties? But, you can set the time to be long enough to account for technical glitches while still cutting down on nervous chatter. 

A candidate immediately responds to an interview request

Some recruiters consider replying to an interview request right away to be a red flag. Likewise, following up “too much” can make a candidate seem needy or desperate. In today’s hyper-connected society, expecting a candidate to wait an appropriate amount of time is a little too selective. 

It could be that a candidate follows up because so few companies are transparent about their process. While talking to your job interviewee, make sure to be upfront about your timeline and next steps. Managing expectations can help prevent any lingering confusion or excessive follow up from your potential new hires. 

A candidate is asking questions “on the fly”

It has become almost cliche for hiring experts to recommend candidates prepare their own questions. Recruiters disqualify candidates who ask questions “on the fly” – but why? Asking questions that are not pre-rehearsed can show genuine interest. A candidate who comes upwith questions on the spot is engaged, paying attention, and quick on their feet. Recruiters should prefer that over a candidate who simply pays lip service to the interview script. 

A candidate doesn’t bring a hard copy of their resume

It’s time to go green! If recruiters want a hard copy of the candidate’s resume, they are capable of printing it out themselves. Some recruiters see this as a sign that the candidate is under-prepared or careless. In reality, many people don’t have access to a printer. It’s an arbitrary ask that recruiters use to disqualify a candidate from making it to the next round. Wouldn’t you rather see an employee show their real-world skills rather than their ability to press print?

This article was written by Emily Heaslip was originally published on vervoe.

George Clooney Is Not The Only One In A Catch 22 – Jobseekers Are Too

While nearly nine in ten UK professionals are considering moving jobs right now, according to CV-Library, many are doing nothing about bagging themselves a better paying job.

By Denis Makarenko/ Shutterstock

You want to earn more. (Who doesn’t?)

But the only way to get a significant pay rise is to move jobs.

However, that is risky – what if it doesn’t work out?

Also, there’s a lot of competition.

So even after all the hard work of looking around for a new role, you might be left disappointed.

And if your current boss finds out you are applying elsewhere… well, that might not reflect well on you.

It’s a paradox – a Catch 22 – with seemingly no escape.

We’re feeling trapped

So, while nearly nine in ten UK professionals are considering moving jobs right now, according to CV-Library, many are doing nothing about bagging themselves a better paying job.

Just under six in ten say they aren’t doing so because they believe the salaries on offer aren’t high enough. Although they might be wrong on that score (it’s often hard to find out what you could get paid, unless you apply and get an interview).

In addition, around three in ten are stuck where they are because they don’t feel confident enough to apply for a new role – with younger employees worried they don’t have enough experienced.

The pay paradox

Yet, those who are brave enough to take a risk and jump ship should reap the rewards.

Pay is on the up – by 3.4 per cent – on average for all UK employees. So, it’s great that most people are enjoying above inflation pay rises.

However, if you look for a new role you should be able to earn more.

Talent shortages mean that pay rises for new jobs are 5.8 per cent higher than a year ago with new recruits are seeing higher salary hikes than existing hires.

Much depends on where you live.

Certain UK cities are witnessing well above-average growth in pay for advertised roles.

            Top cities for highest annual hikes in advertised salaries

  1. London – pay up by 16.1 per cent
  2. Hull – pay up by 15.8 per cent
  3. Edinburgh – pay up by 12.8 per cent
  4. Portsmouth – pay up by 10.7 per cent
  5. Nottingham – pay up by 9.5 per cent

Competition is hotting up

So, firms are so desperate for the right candidate they are having to up their advertised salaries significantly. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that everyone else is beginning to get the same message.

As a result the number of job applications is soaring in many cities according to CV-Library.

            Biggest jump in job applications year-on-year

  1. Bristol 27.2 per cent
  2. Brighton 22.1 per cent
  3. Edinburgh 20 per cent
  4. Manchester 19.7 per cent
  5. London 19.6 per cent

Hiring is slipping

Brexit is taking its toll – with many firms adopting a wait-and-see approach. As a result, there has been a 3 per cent drop in the number of job vacancies year-on-year according to CV-Library.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) UK Report on Jobs, produced with KMPG, has been tracking this trend.

The number of people placed into permanent job roles has fallen in four out of the past five months and the growth in vacancies hit an 80-month low in April (rising slightly in May – but still subdued).

Once again, much depends on where you live. The Midlands has been seeing permanent staff appointments decline while the North has seen them increase.

            So what does this mean?

More candidates + less vacancies = tougher competition.

Time to be more Clooney

So how do you become the George Clooney of jobseekers – standing out above all those other candidates?

With competition for roles increasing, you need an escape plan:

  • Avoid the scatter-gun approach: Applying for anything and everything is not going to land you a role worthy of your skills. Identify your ideal jobs and employers and then target them specifically – even if a job is not being advertised you can always make an approach. Let them know you want to join their team and believe you will be an ideal fit. You will then be first in mind when a vacancy arises.
  • Network your way to a new job: Referrals, recommendations and introductions are now one of the most popular ways to find new recruits. It really is a case of “who you know” as well as “what you know”. So, boost your social profile (at sites like Procurious and LinkedIn), link to the right people and make sure you are visible.
  • Get the right tailoring: I don’t mean the right suit (although looking the part is important). This is about tailoring every CV and cover to every role and employer. Make it appear that you are only applying for this one job … and this is one that you are not only uniquely qualified to do, but this is THE one you really want.
  • Stand out from the crowd: There will be other candidates… so how do you make sure that you are the preferred one? Well, the first step is to get an interview. For that, your CV needs to stand out. Learn new skills (investing in your own success shows you are a go-getter), be more of a mover and shaker (post blogs, join networking groups, raise your profile) and be very specific in the wording you use on your CV (demonstrate every requirement of the job on your CV). You can also grab the attention of recruiters by including some big numbers (I raised sales by 20 per cent, worked on a £40m project etc).
  • Do your research: Failure to find out about the employer, the work they do, their clients and their values, is one of the main reasons why candidates do not get the job. It’s easy. While you are at it, research yourself online (a bad social media profile can cost you a job).
  • Believe in yourself:  If you’ve ever missed out on a job offer to a less-qualified rival, you’ll know that getting hired is about being the perfect fit rather than having the perfect CV. Practice your interview techniques with friends and family – people work with people. So aim to come across as someone they’d like to work with.

3 Ways Procurement Can Make A Lasting Impact On The Organisation

Advanced procurement functions, and the CPOs that lead them, can make a significant and lasting impact on the success of their companies, but only by focusing on the real value and innovation that suppliers can bring…

By Jacob Lund/ Shutterstock

There’s no doubt that procurement enjoys a privileged position in a company’s value chain. Sitting between a network of thousands of suppliers and the business, it has clear visibility of customer need, company strategy and the capabilities that exist in the supply base

From such a position, advanced procurement functions, and the chief procurement officers (CPOs) that lead them, can make a significant and lasting impact on the success of their companies, but only by focusing on the real value and innovation that suppliers can bring and how this can support the organisation’s ultimate value proposition.

To do so, procurement must drive change in three broad areas. Firstly, CPOs must address the procurement operating model so it is better aligned with company strategy and end-customer value. Historically, procurement has segmented third-party spend into categories, from raw materials to office furniture to semiconductors and so on, with the ultimate goal of leveraging scale to reduce price, while also managing risk and quality.

Smart chief executives, however, will be far more interested in how suppliers can enhance the product portfolio to maximise the company’s competitive position in the market. Aligning the supply base around that portfolio will enable supplier innovations to feed more successfully into that goal and ensure collaboration with suppliers is more productive and more focused on value creation.

Of course, this isn’t feasible for every last drop of third-party spending so CPOs must differentiate between core and non-core spend, so 100 per cent of the procurement function’s energy can be applied to those suppliers that really matter.

Secondly, for this to be feasible, CPOs must ensure procurement is a frictionless experience for those in the business who buy as part of their role. Every effort should be made to automate through digital technologies and platforms, so the actual buying process is seamless and efficient.

Robust governance and a sophisticated suite of digital technologies that have been designed with the end-user in mind must underpin such an environment. And the ultimate goal must be to reduce the time and resource spent on non-core products and services, without sacrificing low cost, impacting quality or introducing risk.

This laser-guided focus on execution must be a cross-functional effort, so the right specifications are secured and any savings go straight to the bottom line and are locked into the profit and loss.

Thirdly, the very fundamentals of supply markets continue to evolve. It’s clear an increasing volume of the world’s innovation is being developed outside the walls of large corporates and big, traditional suppliers, with smaller, niche companies and startups working on new technologies and approaches that regularly disrupt traditional, incumbent markets.

Further, these non-traditional players work differently, are more agile, less process led, more open to collaboration and come with large amounts of risk. But despite this, corporates cannot afford to close their doors to the innovation taking place within them.

CPOs must develop the capability to engage with these outliers and engineer how the intellectual property they produce can be introduced into their organisation’s value chain, whether through traditional onboarding as suppliers, technology licensing, collaboration with other suppliers in the network or myriad other potential approaches.

In essence, CPOs must build and exploit supply networks, or ecosystems, capturing value during the collaboration that takes place between third parties at all points in the value chain.

None of this is straightforward and few organisations are even close to making it a reality. To be successful, it demands the support of a visionary chief executive who understands the dynamics at play in the supply base and beyond, as well as a procurement team full of intellectually curious, entrepreneurial and collaborative personalities.

But if done well, procurement will evolve from a position of controller to one of value architect, and one of the most critical functions in any modern corporation able to positively impact revenue, sustainability and profit targets.

This article, edited by Peter Archer, was taken from the Raconteur Future of Procurement report, as featured in The Times.