Tag Archives: procurement talent

Data. Tech. Talent. Giving Procurement The Edge

Today’s challenging business environment is marked by social and economic uncertainty, weakness and volatility in emerging markets, and increasing geopolitical risk. How can  procurement teams ensure they have the edge?

Dramatic changes in the role of the procurement function over recent years have meant a remit that exceeds traditional operational responsibilities, often having a critical impact on shaping business models. The challenge is to continue adding value – addressing new opportunities and risks, and becoming a strategic business function – without increasing overall cost.

CPOs need to think differently about three key assets – data, technology and people – and how to bring them together to deliver for their stakeholders.

Data deluge

Today’s procurement teams face a deluge of data from internal and external sources, and in the digital age, new data streams are emerging every day. Many companies have yet to overcome the problems of poor quality data, held on disjointed legacy systems. Historical spend data is often uncategorised and needs significant cleansing before it can form the basis of a forward-facing outlook.

So, while procurement teams can access an immense amount of information, it’s a challenge to deliver valuable, actionable insights. Used wisely and effectively data can deliver robust insights to underpin every decision and tackle today’s challenges head on. Mismanage it, and it can swamp internal teams and lead to indecision and paralysis.

Tackling technology

Technology is frequently seen as being the answer. We heard an enormous amount about digitalisation, and the promises of AI and ML in 2017, yet few organisations are ready to adopt these new digital technologies. Many procurement operation teams recognise they have yet to make the most of existing technology, and tackling the problems that come with legacy systems, so their focus is on getting the basics right.

The first task is to understand which technologies are applicable to organisational challenges and maturity, and this assessment is important to create a digital roadmap for the future. Technology is only an enabler – not the complete solution – and needs to be fine-tuned to match individual business contexts.

People power

In theory, putting data and tech together creates intelligence, but all too often the process fails to produce relevant insights. It is the third asset – people – which can have a major impact on the potential to generate valuable business information.

There are plenty of talented individuals in existing procurement teams, yet many CPO’s believe their teams lack the skills required to turn strategy into results. They recognise that unless they have greater visibility and insight, it’s difficult to make the right decisions. For category and contract managers, the largest skill gap is in analytics, where teams struggle to use levers including external market intelligence, supplier portfolio optimisation and actionable spend analysis to best effect.

As procurement’s influence in the organisation grows, innovative technology gets introduced, and new data streams become available, roles of procurement professionals also evolve. This necessitates continuous review and addition of new skills and capabilities which may not exist in the current team.

Helping hand

We have launched a white paper looking at what solutions can be used to overcome the data challenge, decode technology, and plan how the skills gap can be resolved, to help procurement teams become more active influencers and respected decision makers in 2018.

Team Approach: How Procurement Pros Can Procure Talent Better

What’s harder than finding top talent for your procurement team? Finding the RIGHT talent!

The only thing harder than finding top talent in the current candidate driven market is to find the right talent. Especially those individuals that have the technical and collaborative skill-set required to be successful with today’s ever-growing list of expectations from Procurement practitioners.

In our recent experience with several clients we have witnessed organisations building teams from scratch due to newly undertaken Procurement Transformation initiative. There are many cases of leaders bringing along a key player or two with them, or sometimes executives will hire consultants or a trusted managed service provider (MSP) to help supplement their efforts. This got us thinking a bit more broadly about whether companies should consider hiring teams instead of individuals as they are undergoing transformations. Based on our experience, we would say yes to this option. The three main benefits we see to this approach are immediate impact, decreased conflict and increased collaboration.

Team Players

Companies increasingly want skills that are difficult to assess in job interviews but can be easily seen in a team setting environment. According to the World Economic Forum, following are the 10 skills most sought after by companies in 2020:

  1.  Complex problem solving
  2.  Critical thinking
  3.  Creativity
  4.  People management
  5.  Coordinating with others
  6.  Emotional intelligence
  7.  Judgment/decision making
  8.  Service orientation
  9.  Negotiation
  10. Cognitive flexibility

Subjective and biased candidate selection process

One of the many pitfalls for hiring managers is the subjective and biased candidate selection process. There is still a tendency to over-rely on the tough interview questioning and ultimately hire candidates that either look like us or come from similar schools and backgrounds. So, think of the impact if a Director or VP was hired that could bring on a team of people he or she knew well. Imagine a leader who knew exactly where to deploy resources to maximize their benefits, such as specific commodity expertise or management of key supplier relationships. This hiring manager would leverage the hard data they have on these preformed teams and position them to hit the ground running.

Conflict amongst team members

Another scourge facing employers today is that of conflict amongst team members. These conflicts are the leading cause for employee disengagement, burnout, turnover, lower productivity and creativity, etc. By hiring teams that have a history of successfully functioning at a high level, organizations increase the odds that their new hires will have the reservoir of rapport and goodwill to accelerate positive results. It’s analogous to why Procurement prefers early involvement when it comes to advanced engineering of products/services, so they can help stakeholders engage with the best suppliers. It’s a lot more difficult to select and negotiate when you have built your product specs around a specific supplier’s capabilities and technologies rather than vice versa.

Superior collaboration

And finally, there is the benefit of superior collaboration that comes from being part of a high performing team. Imagine how an empowered team would feel knowing that they have been hired en masse as the “A-Team” when it comes to the mission critical nature of their jobs. It would be an intense, yet collegial environment where they would almost be joining as insiders and delivering tangible value. Just this past year we have witnessed a couple of examples that are in stark contrast as it relates to hiring and building out groups. Company A was a CPG leader in the Midwest US and brought on a Head of Sourcing that, in less than two months, created and filled several roles. These were all filled with former direct reports and colleagues from her past two companies. Not only did the team come in firing on all cylinders in a new environment and deliver immediate results, this hiring manager was promoted to a newly created senior level position within 7 months of joining the company. Company B hired a leader that had the perfect experience on paper, but in his transformation journey he’s been a lot less successful. This was partly because he didn’t assimilate into the company culture and insisted on getting rid of most of the current employees on his team. Even though he had over 20 years’ experience with good companies, he failed to bring over a single person he has worked with in the past. His leadership style and reputation became a barrier to his and ultimately his department’s success.

While every company will have its own unique set of challenges surrounding types of candidates and expertise being sought, this team-hiring approach is certainly not a panache for all companies. But the ones that take the risk and try a novel approach to combat the challenges of procuring talent just may gain an advantage over their competitors that have not yet confronted the new reality in sourcing for the best.

Procurement Pudding (It’s A Trifle Complicated)

Nothing says Procurement quite like a classic trifle; it’s intricate, it’s complicated, but if you get it right… everyone wants a piece of it!

As the holidays descend upon us, it’s time to start winding down the gears to relax and – inevitably – reflect on the year that was!

Time with family and friends for me is synonymous with food! Because I almost always spend this time of year in the southern hemisphere, it’s a summer menu. It’s more about prawns and pavlova than pork and pancetta (although the latter does make it onto table anyway!) But, of course, that other p … the “p” we all love – procurement – is never far from mind and always on the menu for discussion!

During the year I have been fortunate to speak to procurement and supply chain audiences around the world about the trends we are seeing on Procurious and the impending impact of Industry 4.0 on our profession. In order to provide a framework for thinking through all the challenges and opportunities, I have been sharing a rather quirky analogy by comparing the well-loved English pudding – the trifle – to procurement and supply chain today. Putting up a giant image of a pudding on the big screen at a conference is also a great way to get your audience’s attention!

For the uninitiated, constructing an English trifle involves carefully layering sponge, jelly, custard, fruit, cream, and often garnishing with a heavy sprinkling of nuts.

Yet each layer remains distinct, and that’s how I think of procurement today – a series of self-supporting layers that feed into and out of each other. To manage our roles, we need to understand the strengths and weaknesses or the “setting points”, of those layers if we’re to stay ahead.

Let’s think through some of those layers.

Navigating the Nuts

Let’s start with the top layer of nuts. A generous sprinkling of the unexpected! This is how I think about the Black Swan events that seem to occur with alarming regularity these days. We need to be thinking about these unthinkables – hurricanes like Harvey that de-commission whole cities, man-made catastrophes like the Tianjin port disaster, not to mention recent terrorist attacks. If we can’t predict them, we can at least prepare for the unexpected, take pre-emptive action against disasters that could destroy our supply chains and analyse areas of high-risk.

Geopolitical jelly

Brexit is just one example of how our supply chain forward planning can become somewhat suspended by macroeconomic and geopolitical changes. In Europe, the UK’s decision to activate Brexit is having clear ramifications including a rise in nationalism that’s reflected across Europe. Currency fluctuation and workforce migration also impact procurement and supply chain. The costs to import goods within supply chains will increase; there could be a loss in freedom of movement both in goods and services for UK and EU businesses, and procurement talent could also be considerably affected if the talent pool is reduced.

The Fruits of Progress

We all have front row seats at the parade of new and exciting technologies that are driving the 4th industrial revolution. The rise of the Internet of Things, robotics, blockchain and artificial intelligence will create what we are calling Procurement 4.0.

Cognitive procurement & supply chains are the most exciting developments to happen during my 20-year career. These innovations will enthuse a whole new generation of procurement professionals to join our ranks, but we need to be flexible, agile and able to foster a culture of continuous invention to stay on the leading edge and avoid extinction.

The Foundation Layer

Finally there’s the layer in which we hold the power: Procurement.

Procurement is the sponge at the bottom of the trifle. No matter how many unstable layers of fruit and jelly and custard are piled on top of us, we remain intact. We successfully juggle with the events and changes over which our stakeholders and suppliers have only limited control.

Fortunately, social media helps. I don’t know about you, but when my phone is pinging through the night with texts and emails from the other side of the globe, I’m often tempted to turn it off. But I don’t, because for all the downsides of being constantly online, the benefits of being connected are immense.

Three out of four of our respondents to our Gen Next Survey believed that being well-connected online actually improved on-the-job performance. By using resources like Procurious, not only can we maintain the layers of our trifle by staying aware of these constant changes, but we can also gain access to an enormous diversity of ideas and enthuse the next generation of procurement talent.

The Cream of Procurement Talent

To meet the challenge posed by the top layers of the trifle – unthinkable events, geopolitical earthquakes and disruptive technology – attracting the best and brightest to the profession is vital to our success.

To do that, we need to think hard about how we are bringing on Generation Next, and giving them every opportunity so their impact is not just local, but global.

While we’re talking about talent, here’s another “unthinkable” to ponder – our Gen Next survey also discovered that over 70% of our 500+ survey takers intend to leave their organisation within the next five years. How can we respond to this? The worst thing to do is to keep up the pretense that every member of your team will be sitting at the same desk in ten years’ time. Instead, it’s time to throw away the retention plan and accept the reality that today’s workforce is increasingly mobile.

But this doesn’t mean giving up on developing your team. If you’re known as a supportive manager who gives others the opportunity to go on to a stellar career, you’ll become a talent magnet in the profession. Just image the level of superstar talent that you’ll attract if you develop a reputation as someone who produces future CPOs!

Cutting Through The Complexity

Change management is such an integral part of every senior procurement professionals’ role, and often involves driving change within your organisation and amongst suppliers on a global scale.

The good news is that we’re exactly the right people for the job. Procurement’s position as the conduit of supplier intelligence, our ever-growing level of influence in our organisations, and our keenly-honed negotiation and communication skills make us natural change-management gurus.

Remember that trifle?

The challenge for today’s procurement leaders to deftly cut through all those quivering layers of economic, social, political and technological complexity to serve up a slice of procurement solutions in such a way that your audience will devour your change agenda with gusto! 

Bon Appétit!

Three Secrets of Procurement Talent Magnets

Why is it that some organisations consistently attract the best and brightest talent in the profession, while others miss out? ISM CEO Tom Derry tells Procurious that it’s not just about salaries…

Tom Derry will present his Big Ideas on the essential attributes required by the Digital CPO at Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit in Chicago. Register now as a digital delegate

In the sports world, there’s a tradition known as coaching trees. This occurs in teams where an inspirational coach is known for developing others who have gone on to be successful coaches in their own right, and in turn pass on the knowledge, skills and philosophy of that lineage.

From his vantage point as CEO of ISM, Tom Derry has seen evidence of coaching trees in the procurement and supply management profession. “Sometimes it’s companies, sometimes it’s individuals”, he says. “Certain CPOs have gained a reputation for coaching and developing people who have subsequently left, and gone on to make their mark.” Their organisations benefit by being seen as an employer of choice for top procurement talent, and the CPOs themselves benefit from the dynamism and vitality of a team made up of the brightest the profession has to offer. Like the legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi (pictured), CPOs are elevated by the success of the talent they’ve managed to attract.

But where do you start if you want to become a talent magnet in procurement and supply management?

  1. Build a reputation

“It’s important to create a reputation for yourself as an organisation that coaches and develops great talent”, says Derry. “To do this, you need to commit to the development of your team members. The secret to retaining talent isn’t about paying them more, or promoting them before they’re ready – it’s about investing in their skills and providing the opportunity for them to do more and give more.

“Stop worrying about losing people. Focus instead on developing talent, and you’ll build a tremendous reputation”

  1. Shift your style

For some of the old-school CPOs who are accustomed to leading through command and control, it’s time to shift to a more collaborative approach, particularly if you’re interested in attracting millennial and Gen Z talent. “You need to become more comfortable with being vulnerable”, says Derry. “Team members are more aware of where you are and what you’re doing, so be prepared to receive feedback from all directions, in real-time. It’s about being receptive to this feedback, but also being adroit and knowing when to wrap up the conversation and move on.”

  1. Embrace diversity

Derry says that cultural inclusiveness is no longer an idea but an expectation. “Your team needs to be diverse – in fact, you’ll look impoverished if you don’t have that. The benefits include being able to tap into a diversity of experience and opinion to solve challenges. This creates a truly attractive environment for top talent.”

Live From The Big Ideas Summit

On 28th September, Procurious is bringing The Big Ideas Summit to Chicago. Register now (it’s free!) as a digital delegate to gain access to all of the day’s action.

The Struggle is Real: Building Effective Procurement Teams

The struggle might be real but, according to VSP’s CPO, the solutions are many when it comes to building the most effective procurement teams! 

The conversation around talent shortages in the procurement space has been going on for five or ten years now. I’ve come to realize that the real problem is not the lack of ready-to-go procurement talent, it is hiring managers’ inability to see a future procurement pro in a law student, a finance professional, an engineer or yes even a sales person.

An investment is required to grow non-traditional sources of talent into procurement professionals, but the end result is often a better rounded team. A procurement team should be comprised of diverse talent by design in order to speak the language of the business.   A homogeneous team will have its own inherent challenges – one being that innovation is harder.

How you build your team depends on the market conditions you are in and the skills or talent profile you are hiring for. Depending on the availability of qualified candidates, you may allow someone to work virtually or look to other disciplines to bring a new resource in and then round them out. But to simply say ‘there’s a talent shortage’ and do nothing about it is a naysayer’s approach. Get creative.

Cross-Functional Procurement Talent

At my prior company, I had an engineer playing a procurement role. I had somebody in finance on the team. I had attorneys on the team. If you restrict yourself to an artificially small portion of the talent pool by insisting upon a fixed skill set you’re naturally going to have hiring challenges. Just keep an open mind.

My philosophy, regardless of the skill set in question, is to hire the best resource you can find, train them, and invest in them. If they stay, they will become successful procurement professionals and if they leave they will be well informed enough to serve as advocates for procurement.

But thinking differently is not just about where we source talent, it affects the skills we are focused on. Procurement will quickly loose relevance if we don’t proactively prioritize soft skills in our hiring practices. Look at the traditional competencies for a procurement professional: the ability to negotiate successful outcomes, the ability to read and redline a contract, the ability to build relationships. In my opinion, soft skills are now more important in procurement than some of the technical skills we have emphasized in the past.

Taking Risks to Incorporate High Performers

All good managers want to put people into roles that will challenge them in a healthy way. I’ve put people in roles that I knew would be hard for them, and I was authentic enough to say, ‘This is going to be a make it or break it situation for you. Grab the opportunity, and I’ll invest in you. If you are successful, wonderful, if not I’ll be your best reference.’ The reality of the situation is that you have to release people if they aren’t a good fit, even when it is a tough decision. But that is not a reason not to make an effort to bring non-traditional backgrounds and approaches into procurement.

In my experience, there is more than one kind of high performing professional. Some lack engagement and become a challenge, but that is not hard to handle. Complacency is a bigger problem. Having a pep talk with people that are no longer motivated is challenging. You have to educate people on what the opportunities are for them. By understanding what’s important to them (work life balance, career development, etc.) you can sort out what motivates them.

The same approach works for building relationships with internal stakeholders. Sit with the business, understand what their challenges are, look at the opportunity from their perspective. I think demonstrating that appreciation makes you more effective. Each of us needs to appreciate the culture we are in and operate within that culture: the culture of procurement, of the company, and of the industry as a whole.

Human behavior is interesting. If somebody has confidence in their ability to do something they’ll gravitate towards it. A lot of individuals are focused on transactions; they are tactical. You can’t just go in and anoint somebody and say, ‘Now you’re strategic.’ You must develop their capabilities and create the expectation that they are no longer in their former role. Otherwise, a week, a year, two years into the process they will gravitate back towards those transactional responsibilities. Being a leader in the procurement space requires us to adapt and be flexible.

What’s Next for Procurement?

I’ve watched procurement gradually shift away from a focus on tactical or technical capabilities to more strategic responsibilities and the development of soft skills. I’ve seen it, and I’ve lived it. The organizations that have not gotten on that bandwagon of their own accord are no longer relevant. That shift has occurred, and technology has been a key enabler in making that happen. When people talk about applying robotic process automation (RPA) or AI within the procurement space, the first steps have already been taken, and we’re trying to figure out how we can further leverage it. Perhaps, through sourcing tools and decentralized buying, procurement’s next incarnation will be as an overseer of technology and broad business outcomes.  Procurement’s role will be centered on value creation in a consultative, advisory role and less about compliance and transactions.

Greg Tennyson is the CPO at VSP Global.  This article was originally published on The Art of Procurement. 

How To Hold On Tight To Prospective Procurement Talent

The recruitment process can be brutal. You’ve worked hard to identify and attract the best procurement talent. But,  at the last minute, the candidate pulls out leaving you back at square one.  

Everyone loves a good throwback article, which is why we’re hopping in our time machine to bring you back some of the biggest and best Procurious blogs. If you missed any of the golden oldies, look no further!

This week, we’re revisiting an article which featured some exclusive insights from Graham Lucas, Managing Director  Procurement & Supply Chain and Logistics at Michael Page. Graham suggests six ways procurement teams can hold on to new talent that they’ve worked so hard to attract. 

Procurement has come a long way and holds a position of positive influence within many organisations but there has never been a more urgent need for bigger change and greater evolution.

You need only to look at the progress over the past few years to recognise this; SRM, improved supply chains, driving both value and innovation from suppliers, and category leads shaping strategic agendas are some of the developments we have seen.

Whilst the progress is positive, the evolving shape of organisations and the disruptive nature of technology is only going to increase both the degrees, and speed of change required. I genuinely don’t believe that procurement as a function will continue to exist unless it drives a much greater breadth to its commercial influence over an organisation.

So what affect does this have on talent attraction, acquisition and retention in procurement teams?

The Procurement Talent Pool

It is clear that 80 per cent of the roles on which we are being briefed carry very similar requirements. Organisations are competing for the 20 per cent of  candidates in any potential pool that possess  the key skills needed to help procurement teams deliver that broader value. Influencing skills, communication, being able to connect with stakeholders and suppliers, and driving innovation etc. Most procurement teams will have advertised a role recently specifying many of these requirements.

Identifying the talent you want to hire is only one aspect of the challenge. You’ll also need to ensure that you are able to acquire them. Three in every  four of the offers that our clients are making are being met with counter offers, many of them substantial.  In half of these cases the counter offer is equal to or greater than the offer made by our client.

It’s important to prepare a candidate for what is to come when they resign. We would also consider what they need from the process and screen out those that are not serious. This is all part of what a good recruiter will do. And after that, it’s down to you….

What  can procurement teams  do to avoid losing talent they have worked so hard to identify and attract? It comes down to six key factors. 

Understand key motivators

Understanding candidates’ key motivators is crucial to ensuring that any chance of buy back is reduced, and to make the right hiring decisions for long-term performance and retention. If you have truly understood their motivators you are more likely to run a process that allows them to see how these can be met by you and your organisation. Where these don’t match you can save yourself critical time. This will allow you to focus on better prospects in terms of those that will actually join and, just as importantly, stay.

Get clarity on the full package

Package clarity: as with motivations, it is vital to get into the detail of a candidate’s current package at the beginning of the process so provide a full breakdown of the package and the value of it.

This will allow for an accurate comparison of a candidate’s current situation vs. the package on offer. Bonuses (likely earnings and also when they are paid), pensions, healthcare, car packages…. Not only do they mean different things in different businesses but many people don’t know the details until they are asked to look. Get in the detail early and manage expectations from day one. Otherwise you could be either under offering or underselling your own offer.

Offer a healthy balance

It’s easy to overlook the importance of a work life balance. There’s no point getting into the middle of a process only for a candidate to decide the commute is too tough or expensive. Likewise, what is the realistic work/life balance you can offer  in the new role? What are the candidate’s personal circumstances? Will this impact their final decision? It is crucial to be upfront about this from the start.

Ensure that people want to join your people!

This has a huge impact on candidates but is, strangely, sometimes underestimated. Candidates will form an attraction to a business and a team. This is separate from things like role specification, package, location etc. If you can get your prospective employee to meet people that they believe they can work with, and most importantly learn from, it makes the organisation much more desirable.

People join people more than they join companies.

A competent recruitment process

Candidates often judge businesses by their processes particularly at interview stage.  Make sure there are  clear timelines in place to manage expectations. Does the advised preparation match with the content of the interviews?

Whilst these may seem like small things, they can make a big difference. A company that is well organised, thorough and effective at recruitment, can either impress or put a candidate off. Asking someone to deliver change in an organisation that doesn’t appear able to do what it says it will do sends out the wrong signals.

Make your offer compelling

An offer should always be made based on what the hiring business thinks the candidate is worth, not just on the advertised package. For each role it is worth considering what a compelling offer would be. Both as a statement of intent to secure the candidate and also to ensure your remuneration is in line with the rest of the market. Importantly, this might not just be salary; it could be a bonus, private healthcare package or flexible working hours.

Rising Stars: I Fell Into Procurement (With Style!)

Did the ISM and ThomasNet 30 Under 30 Rising Stars always have a burning desire to embark on a procurement career or were they late converts? Procurious investigates….

Last month, THOMASNET and ISM announced the 2016-2017 winners of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award, presenting the profession with an inspirational batch of role models who are sure to attract more Millennials to the supply management profession.

Procurious has been lucky enough to sit down with many of the winners to find out what the award means to them, what it takes to be one of the  30 Under 30 Rising Stars and the key skills needed for a procurement and supply chain career.

But how did these rising stars first embark on their careers? Were they passionate about procurement from the offset or did a chance encounter or inspiring internship inspire them to “fall into” procurement later down the line?

Andrew Bagni, Procurement Manager at General Dynamics Mission Systems recalls that “ten years ago supply chain wasn’t as hot a topic as it is today. Specific supply chain degrees weren’t offered at my college at the time but this is now an option for students.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that 66 per cent of this year’s 30 Under 30 Stars didn’t plan a career in procurement.

The Slow Burners

Bagni applied for an internship with General Dynamics “in the hope of gaining some of the business experience l was lacking at 18 years old! I  worked the internship for the summer, which went really well and carried on throughout college whilst I was studying business management. It’s not been a lengthy career so far but the whole of my career has been spent working in supply-chain despite having fallen into it completely by chance.”

Nick Imison, Subcontract Administrator at Northrop Grumman Systems Corp, had a similar experience to Bagni: “I fell into it sideways. I was a finance major. I went to job trade fairs, interviews, and just wasn’t passionate about finance. One day I stumbled on a supply-specific career fair, which was put on by the University of San Diego who push undergrads and postgrads to the supply chain field. They were very convincing and introduced me to the many sides of the business, giving me a holistic view. That piqued my interest and, from there, I enrolled in a few supply-chain courses.

Corey Gustafson, Senior Buyer at Deluxe Corporation initially attended school in Wisconsin to train in engineering, ” I went on a programme  that focused on the printing industry including graphics and communication management and eventually  started taking a procurement and supply-chain management course. The instructor happened to be the program director for the supply-chain programme and it was the best course I’ve ever taken. I was interested in the way the function  impacts the business and wanted to continue with to focus on that.

The Die-Hard Procurement Pros

Not all of the 30 Under 30 winners came to procurement by accident, however.  Barbara Noseda, Global Sourcing Associate at Johnson & Johnson, has a particularly notable passion for, you guessed it,  shipping containers! “I know it might sound random” she says, “but I swear it’s the truth! I did my bachelors degree agree around shipping and logistics in Hong Kong and  then went into supply chain.  Even  today, every time I can get on a project about shipping containers I jump on it.”

Matthew Montana, Category Lead at Pacific Gas and Electric Company, was also interested in supply-chain at the offset, “supply-chain really caught my attention. I liked the analytical aspect and qualitative aspect. There’s a good balance between creative thinking and working with numbers. It’s the balance of quantitative and qualitative that really drew me to supply chain.

And Matthew has another reason to be passionate about procurement. His father also works for Pacific Gas and Electric. “He’s been in supply chain for several years now. Growing up and seeing him work there and seeing how good the company has been to him and his good career influenced me. It’s a good company and a good industry. I had inside info and insight from him so he was one of my mentors early on.”

Amanda DeCook, Sourcing Associate A.T. Kearney, knew exactly where her career was headed, “I knew which University I was going to and I knew I wanted to pursue a Business Major. Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business has the best supply chain program in the USA, and I loved the tangible,  practical skills involved in the course.”

Indeed, several of the 30 Under 30 stars credit their colleges for propelling their careers. Jeff Novak believes his “college had a lot to do with [his career choices]. I went to Penn State Uni,  which is one of the top supply-chain schools in the states, if not the world. It seems that however your procurement or supply-chain journey starts out, you could have a vibrant and successful career ahead of you- take it from the 30 Under 30’s!

The 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars will meet for the first time as a group at ISM2017, where ISM and THOMASNET.com will roll out the red carpet to celebrate the winners’ achievements and broadcast their success stories to other young people considering a career in supply management. 

One Skill To Rule Them All

Want to know what it takes to really make it in the procurement world? Cognitive tech expertise? A firm background in supply management? Nope – 72% of the ISM and ThomasNet 30 Under 30 Stars agree there’s another, essential ingredient to success…

Last month, THOMASNET and ISM announced the 2016-2017 winners of the 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars award, presenting the profession with an inspirational batch of role models who are sure to attract more Millennials to the supply management profession.

Procurious has been lucky enough to sit down with many of the winners to find out what the award means to them, what it takes to be a 30 Under 30 Rising Star and how they embarked on a career in supply management in the first place. We’ll be revealing all of our findings throughout this series of articles but first up, what key skills are the winners acing?

You can forget prioritising the development of your tech skills. It turns out that communication is absolutely the crowning glory of all procurement skills.

Communication is king

72 per cent of 30 Under 30 winners named communication as one of the top three skills that have been essential for their success, which is unsurprising given the nature of most procurement and supply roles. Nick Imison, Subcontract Administrator at Northrop Grumman Systems Corp,  reminded us, “You often have an extremely short period of time to capture someone’s attention, explain why you need to go down a given path and  effectively relay what it is you’re trying to accomplish.”

Corey Gutafson, Senior Buyer at Deluxe Corporation, explained that he had to hone his communication skills very quickly at the start of his career. “If I’d had to do a five-minute presentation when I was in high school, I might have passed out from nervousness.  But communication in supply management is HUGE! Whether it’s via email, on the phone, presenting online or in person, we’re always talking with many different stakeholders and suppliers. If you’re not a good communicator, you’re going to have a difficult time.”

Barbara Noseda knows a thing or two about communicating under different circumstances. As a Global Sourcing Associate at Johnson & Johnson, she is very much in a global role which might mean she begins the day focusing on Europe and ends it with Africa. As such, she sees enormous value in being conscious of global differences and managing these, as well as being able to communicate effectively internally. “I’m a big fan of CQ (Cultural Intelligence) and I think it should be given much more importance. But internal communication is also important. As a sourcing associate, I often find myself talking with CEOs, having  to explain what I want and packaging it in a way that means they see the benefits.”

Know your data

“It might be cliché but in today’s world you have more data at your fingertips than ever, which means data analysis skills are crucial” says Matthew Montana, Category Lead at Pacific Gas and Electric Company. “It’s important to be able to manipulate data and use it to your advantage.” Indeed, 45 per cent of the 30 Under 30 Stars rated data analytics as one of the top three skills for procurement professionals.

Imison describes data analysis as the “ability to look at a given situation and provide some sort of useful evaluation, such as selecting the best path to go down from a financial perspective.”

But being great at data analytics isn’t just about … well,  being great at data analytics.  Gustafson has found his data skills have worked wonders for his relationships with senior team members. “It’s helped me develop some strong relationships with some of my older colleagues. I help them with analysing data and they can  help me with things like contract terms or negotiation tactics. If you don’t have tech savviness, it can take four or five hours to do a 20 minute job due to lack of efficiency.”

You can’t go wrong with a generous helping of these key skills either…

Some of the other key skills highlighted by the 30 Under 30 winners include:

  • Team work
  • Adaptability
  • Dependability
  • Perseverance
  • Flexibility
  • Empathy
  • Time management

It’s interesting to see that the majority of skills highlighted are “soft skills” (although we hate calling them that!)

Abhishek Dahiya, Chief of Staff for Global Materials Dell Technologies,  thinks it’s important to stay up to date with the latest developments in the industry. “An openness to learning things that are out of the scope of your job makes you perfect for that job!”

And, of course you can’t go wrong with a persistent attitude, even if it’s in the form of some good old-fashioned relentless pestering as Amanda DeCook, Sourcing Associate A.T. Kearney, points out. “Sometimes you have to have the confidence to just go for it; pick up the phone and cold call a supplier. It can be scary but the worst-case scenario is that they won’t answer. And if they don’t, embrace that can-do attitude and keep calling (whether it’s three or four times) until they do!”

The 30 Under 30 Rising Supply Chain Stars will meet for the first time as a group at ISM2017, where ISM and THOMASNET.com will roll out the red carpet to celebrate the winners’ achievements and broadcast their success stories to other young people considering a career in supply management. 

Procurement Needs People: How To Nurture Your Top Talent

As the global marketplace changes exponentially, the need for both personal and professional development becomes ever more crucial for procurement pros. Jim Baehr explains why  organisations need to invest in their people.

Category Management. Risk Management. Contract Management. Supplier Relationship Management. All are part of the Supply Management vernacular in 2017. They represent best practices. Those who have mastered these competencies are sought by companies wanting to take their Supply Management to the next level and beyond. Yet, step back and look at the big picture. How many Supply Management professionals have the time, the skill or the support to pursue these best practices?

Applying the 80/20 Rule In Procurement

Continuing to look at the big picture, let’s apply the 80/20 principle to this question. Considering all the spend of all companies – large, medium and small – it’s reasonable to believe that 20 per cent of the professionals in Supply Management are managing 80 per cent of spend. (This number may be even more acute based on benchmarking articles found elsewhere at My Purchasing Center.)

Bigger companies have more spend and are more likely to have invested in their organisation as led by a Chief Procurement Officer. The professionals in these organisations are expected to be proficient in these higher-end responsibilities – the Managements (Category, Contract, Risk, Sourcing, Supplier Relationship, etc.). These professionals can practice and hone their competencies daily. This is a good thing. This means that in many ways the profession has taken the lead set by the Peter Kraljic “Purchasing Must Become Supply Management” article found in the September 1983 issue of the Harvard Business Review.

Flipping the principle would make it logical to believe that 80 per cent of Supply Management professionals are handling 20 per cent of the spend. Here’s the challenging part: It is likely that these are the same professionals who are handling 80 per cent of the purchasing churn – dealing with requisitions, purchase orders out the door, tracking delivery, invoice reconciliation, etc.  The result is they don’t have the same opportunity to apply best practices like their counterparts in bigger companies. Not because they don’t want to. They simply don’t have the time. Or, more frustratingly, the ability. But, seeing the articles and blogs – all the attention given to “the Managements” they want to do the same.

Purchasing Vs Procurement

While the terms Purchasing and Procurement tend to be used interchangeably, there is a big difference; moreover, the responsibilities of a Purchasing and Procurement professional are not the same.

Purchasing is operational, process driven,  ordering, receiving and paying for goods or services. Procurement is more tactical, more purposeful. Procurement calls for establishing requirements, performing market research, evaluating/selecting suppliers, and negotiating contracts or purchase orders. (Yes, POs can be negotiated.)

For the purpose of the remainder of this article Purchasing is used as the title for the group that handles  buying, procurement and, in some cases, sourcing.

It’s understood that technology is automating many of these routine functions. It’s agreed that that the developers of these systems are doing their best to “democratise” the technology – making it available, applicable and affordable to all companies – regardless of size. While the technologies are making inroads, there’s still a long way to go. And, when we get there one of two things will happen – positions will be eliminated or, companies will direct their Purchasing professionals to become more Procurement-like. Hopefully, it will be the latter.

Do we need to wait until technologies and automation address operational needs to free up the time for (paraphrasing Kraljic) Purchasing to become Procurement? The answer is “no.” Good Procurement, efficient and effective,  for the foreseeable future, is a people matter.

Is Purchasing Only About Getting The Lowest Price?

Before offering any recommendations, we first must recognise the realities. Purchasing, in many cases, is still viewed as “getting the lowest price”. This perception impacts relationships internally with business units and externally with suppliers. It creates a misunderstanding of purpose. The Purchasing professional is relegated to coordination of buying activities instead of having the opportunity to collaborate with internal clients, and suppliers, to produce value.

If we go back to the 80/20 rule the negative perceptions of Purchasing are conceivably based on the interaction of internal business groups and suppliers with the 80 per cent group. They are the majority population and they drive a perception that Purchasing “gets in the way” rather than adds value. Again, flipping the numbers, 80 per cent of the expectations for Purchasing come from what senior leadership reads or hears about the state-of-the-art techniques that the (upper) 20 per cent apply to the “Managements.” The result is that many businesses think their Purchasing group is not effective.

Research shows that staff and talent constraints inhibit Purchasing professionals from being all they can be and, more importantly, all they want to be. The abilities of these professionals are, and may continue to be, underdeveloped. But, there is an opportunity to build on what they already know and have experienced. We can reinforce what they know and make them comfortable with the basics and then introduce them to the “Managements.”

Personal and Professional Development Is Crucial- So What’s The Solution?

As Purchasing becomes more sophisticated, as business becomes more demanding and as the global marketplace changes exponentially, the need for both personal and professional development becomes proportionately as important. Let’s accept that not all the next generation of Purchasing professionals will come with MBAs from universities with Supply Management programs.-

So, now that the problem has been stated, what’s the solution? Keeping it simple – consider the following:

  • Recognize that the 80 per cent is underdeveloped but able and wants to do more.
  • Accept that this same 80 per cent  is under-appreciated and underserved.
  • Acknowledge that talent management requires talent development.
  • Commit. Business leadership, as well as professional associations, must step up and do more for the 80 per cent.
  • Invest in developing the 80 per cent as the cost pales, in comparison, to the potential return in value.

Here’s the good news: There are companies that already recognise this need. They are making the commitment to invest in their people. But, there must be more – many more. Quoting Eleanor Roosevelt – “Nothing has been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.’”

Jim Baehr is the Lead for the Sourcing Strategies Group LLC (SSG).  Currently he is the President of the ISM – Pittsburgh Affiliate, a member of the Board of Governors of the Joint Chemical Group of Pittsburgh and a member of the Visionary Council of Coupa Software Incorporated based in San Mateo, Calif. This article was first published on My Purchasing Center

How To Hold On Tight To Prospective Procurement Talent

The recruitment process can be brutal. You’ve work hard to identify and attract the best procurement talent. But,  at the last minute, the candidate pulls out leaving you back at square one.  Michael Page’s Graham Lucas has some top tips for achieving a successful recruitment process.

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Procurement has come a long way and holds a position of positive influence within many organisations. The agenda for the Big Ideas Summit  – Procurement in the Digital Age, Rethinking What’s Possible, Building Workforce 4.0, and The View from the Top – shows that there has never been a more urgent need for bigger change and greater evolution.

You need only to look at the progress over the past few years to recognise this. SRM, improved supply chains, driving both value and innovation from suppliers, and category leads shaping strategic agendas are some of the developments we have seen.

Whilst the progress is positive, the evolving shape of organisations and the disruptive nature of technology is only going to increase both the degrees, and speed of change required. I genuinely don’t believe that procurement as a function will continue to exist unless it drives a much greater breadth to its commercial influence over an organisation.

So what affect does this have on talent attraction, acquisition and retention in procurement teams?

The Procurement Talent Pool

It is clear that 80 per cent of the roles on which we are being briefed carry very similar requirements. Organisations are competing for the 20 per cent of  candidates in any potential pool that possess  the key skills needed to help procurement teams deliver that broader value. Influencing skills, communication, being able to connect with stakeholders and suppliers, and driving innovation etc. Most procurement teams will have advertised a role recently specifying many of these requirements.

Identifying the talent you want to hire is only one aspect of the challenge. You’ll also need to ensure that you are able to acquire them. Three in every  four of the offers that our clients are making are being met with counter offers, many of them substantial.  In half of these cases the counter offer is equal to or greater than the offer made by our client.

Fortunately Michael Page are mitigating most of the risks associated with this for our clients.  It’s important to prepare a candidate for what is to come when they resign. We also consider  what they need from the process and screen out those that are not serious. This is all part of what a good recruiter will do. And after that, it’s down to you….

What  can procurement teams  do to avoid losing talent they have worked so hard to identify and attract? It comes down to six key factors. 

Understand key motivators

Understanding candidates’ key motivators is crucial to ensuring that any chance of buy back is reduced, and to make the right hiring decisions for long-term performance and retention. If you have truly understood their motivators you are more likely to run a process that allows them to see how these can be met by you and your organisation. Where these don’t match you can save yourself critical time. This will allow you to focus on better prospects in terms of those that will actually join and, just as importantly, stay.

Get clarity on the full package

Package clarity: as with motivations, it is vital to get into the detail of a candidate’s current package at the beginning of the process so provide a full breakdown of the package and the value of it.

This will allow for an accurate comparison of a candidate’s current situation vs. the package on offer. Bonuses (likely earnings and also when they are paid), pensions, healthcare, car packages…. Not only do they mean different things in different businesses but many people don’t know the details until they are asked to look. Get in the detail early and manage expectations from day one. Otherwise you could be either under offering or underselling your own offer.

Offer a healthy balance

It’s easy to overlook the importance of a work life balance. There’s no point getting into the middle of a process only for a candidate to decide the commute is too tough or expensive. Likewise, what is the realistic work/life balance you can offer  in the new role? What are the candidate’s personal circumstances? Will this impact their final decision? It is crucial to be upfront about this from the start.

Ensure that people want to join your people!

This has a huge impact on candidates but is, strangely, sometimes underestimated. Candidates will form an attraction to a business and a team. This is separate from things like role specification, package, location etc. If you can get your prospective employee to meet people that they believe they can work with, and most importantly learn from, it makes the organisation much more desirable.

People join people more than they join companies.

A competent recruitment process

Candidates often judge businesses by their processes particularly at interview stage.  Make sure there are  clear timelines in place to manage expectations. Does the advised preparation match with the content of the interviews?

Whilst these may seem like small things, they can make a big difference. A company that is well organised, thorough and effective at recruitment, can either impress or put a candidate off. Asking someone to deliver change in an organisation that doesn’t appear able to do what it says it will do sends out the wrong signals.

Make your offer compelling

An offer should always be made based on what the hiring business thinks the candidate is worth, not just on the advertised package. For each role it is worth considering what a compelling offer would be. Both as a statement of intent to secure the candidate and also to ensure your remuneration is in line with the rest of the market. Importantly, this might not just be salary; it could be a bonus, private healthcare package or flexible working hours.

Graham Lucas is Managing Director – Procurement & Supply Chain and Logistics at Michael Page. He’ll be speaking at the 2017 Big Ideas Summit next week. Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate here.