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A Brief Overview Of The 2019 Procurement Job Market

So far this year, most organisations have been more actively hiring procurement employees on a permanent basis as opposed to on contracts.

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How has the supply chain & procurement hiring landscape been over the first half of 2019?

As all contracts with suppliers from the European Union continue to be reviewed as part of Brexit contingency planning, the first half of 2019 has revealed an increased level of permanent recruitment compared to the hiring of contract or temporary supply chain & procurement professionals. As cost savings remain key in the City, the market has remained extremely buoyant, with a strong preference from hiring managers for individuals possessing experience in IT or tech. The thirst for data is continually increasing and with procurement in mind, lots of emerging solutions that provide procurement and vendor dashboards are always needed. Therefore, these roles have frequently been recruited for.

Across Financial Services, Banking and Insurance, organisations are still busy and hiring. More specifically, the mid-tier and SME businesses have been busier than the larger tier 1 banks, as they seek to reduce their spend and ensure contract risks are minimal in these uncertain times.

Procurement is a money driven profession and salaries are particularly competitive at present, so bonuses and benefits packages can be crucial deciding factors when professionals are looking for new roles. From the perspective of hiring organisations, they have to be prepared to exercise flexibility in terms of salaries or day rates if they want to bring professionals with the right skill sets to the business. 

How to keep the workforce motivated and attract new employees

A large number of professionals are now requesting an element of flexibility in their role or the opportunity to work remotely.  The 9 – 5 working day is no longer how professionals in the UK operate. Flexible working, in terms of hours or being able to work remotely, is expected by the majority of employees in the UK. Organisations have to offer a level of flexibility if they want to attract high quality applicants in what has become a highly competitive marketplace.  

Some organisations continue to lean towards implementing tools or programmes for learning and development that are tailored specifically to procurement professionals. This shows an increased effort to bolster their candidate attraction and retention in these key business areas. In turn, this empowers employees to increase their knowledge in areas such as ‘best practice procurement’, sourcing methodologies and stakeholder engagement. This has become a real talking point, showing the right business highly prioritises procurement and its people.

What has made a Supply Chain & Procurement CV stand out?

Category Management remains a key area of hiring, so upskilling in this is hugely beneficial for all procurement professionals. Those candidates possessing detailed Category Management experience, including spend, savings and projects have been highly sought after by hiring managers. The increase in specialist IT category roles was category specific, mainly consisting of infrastructure, applications and digital transformation spend areas.

Any candidates who upskill in these areas will put themselves in a strong position. Having a good level of experience in any of these will make you stand out against other applicants. Businesses have also continued searching for tendering specialists who can help them mitigate risk on their EU contracts amid all the Brexit confusion. Those with transformation experience is sought after as businesses will require such support to guide them through the uncertainty of Brexit.

How can supply chain & procurement job seekers stay motivated over the slower summer months?

It is not looking like things are going to slow down for Procurement professionals during the summer months – it is a busy time for the industry. For those job seekers actively engaged in any processes, it’s important to keep in touch with your recruitment consultant. Call in weekly to make sure you are hearing about all suitable opportunities; this will keep you at the forefront of your consultant’s mind.

Procurement specialists need to develop their wider skills to implement in negotiations to ensure ‘compliant contracts’ that mitigate risk without over-engineering a low risk engagement – robust frameworks to manage third party engagements could inhibit flexibility for a negotiator.

This article was written by Natalie Limerick, Director – Morgan McKinley

Is Artificial Intelligence Destroying Your Job?

Just because a machine can learn from mistakes doesn’t mean it is self-aware and about to deploy robots to destroy humanity throughout time and space.  But it does mean that increasingly, machines can take on more and more human work.

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On 11 February this year, President Trump signed an executive order directing US government agencies to prioritise investments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) research and development. There isn’t any detail on how the AI Leadership executive order will be paid for, but as a statement of intent right from the top, it’s pretty powerful.  So, is this something you need to worry about?  Will robots be taking your job next Tuesday?  Probably not, but the answer is not as reassuring as it sounds.

When we think of AI, we probably think of Skynet (the evil computer that hunts humans in the Terminator films) or the similar tricked-up calculator that is the meanie in the Matrix films.  But real AI is a little more mundane.  It is more likely to be making sure your car headlights are on when you need them (and not on when you don’t), sending a nuisance spam call to your voice-mail or suggesting the next thing to watch on Netflix.  AI is the catchall term for software that can solve problems based on rules rather than a linear set of fixed instructions.  Really advanced AI can modify the rules based on how things turned out the last time or patterns that it detects in the environment.

Just because a machine can learn from mistakes doesn’t mean it is self-aware and about to deploy robots to destroy humanity throughout time and space.  But it does mean that increasingly, machines can take on more and more human work.  In recent decades we have seen this kind of automation steadily eat away at assembly line jobs as increasingly AI driven robots replace workers performing limited and repetitive functions.  A robot can sort big apples from small oranges more efficiently than a human and it never needs to take a break (or be paid). 

As the technology advances, it’s starting to creep into areas we might have thought of as immune from automation.  Medical diagnosis is increasingly the target for deep learning AI, the kind that recognises patterns and makes predictions based on those patterns.  During their career a doctor might see a few thousand x-rays or MRI images and get better at noticing patterns.  But AI software can review every x-ray ever made before the doctor has finished her morning coffee. 

A recent study, for example, compared the diagnostic precision of AI software with that of teams of specialist doctors from all over China.  The AI software was 87 per cent accurate in diagnosing brain tumours in 15 minutes.  The doctors could only diagnose 67 per cent and needed twice as much time to do it.  The AI increased precision and saved time because it was able to learn from a much larger base of experience than any individual doctor or team of doctors ever could. It uses like this that are why AI is predicted to add $15 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

President Trump joined the 18 other countries that have announced AI strategies since March 2017, because he wants the US to be a leader in AI rather than a follower.  And it is why investment in AI based startups jumped 72 per cent to almost $10 billion in 2018 alone.  

And even though some analysts are predicting 1.8 million jobs will be lost to AI in 2019 alone, those same analysts are predicting that the AI industry will create 2.3 million jobs in the same timeframe.  You can’t buy buggy whips now because the industry that created them was destroyed by Henry Ford, but there are many more jobs in the automobile industry he created than there ever were in the one he killed.

When analysts from McKinsey looked at the employment impact of AI in five sectors last year, they concluded that jobs which use basic cognitive skills, such as data input, manipulation and processing will likely decline, while demand for higher cognitive, social and emotional, and advanced technological skills should grow, as will the number of jobs that require customer and staff interaction and management.

If your job could be classified as administrative support then the future does not look bright.  And even if it requires you to do years of training so you can manipulate or recognise patterns in data, like those Chinese doctors, a financial analyst or a military strategist then AI will be coming to a workstation near you within the foreseeable future.  Humans are still a little too messy and unpredictable for the average AI bot.  So, if your job needs you to interact with humans and please them, such as in direct sales, management or counselling, then you are probably safe, for now.  And of course, if you are writing the programs that drive the AI then your career is assured.

AI is rapidly changing the face of the modern workplace.  And while nothing much will change by the end of the year, by the end of the decade, most jobs will be unrecognisable.  You’ve been warned. It’s time to transform yourself from a data geek to a people-person, before your computer takes your job.