Tag Archives: procurement teams

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. 

Best Of The Blog – Neurodiversity – Your Secret HR Weapon

A lack  of understanding about neurodiversity has meant those with a neurodiverse profile have historically endured stigmatisation and struggled in the workplace. John Floyd explains why, and how, this is changing and what we can do to accommodate and embrace differences. 

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 about people with neureodiverse profiles, and the unique assets they can bring to your procurement organisation. 

We know the best performing teams are made up of a diverse group of people, whether that be gender, age, ethnicity or educational background. And Headmaster of Bruern Abbey, John Floyd, has just thrown “neurodiversity “ onto the list of must-have employee profiles, to help strengthen and enhance team output.

Recently rated by Tatler as one of the best Prep Schools in the UK, Bruern Abbey specialises in educating boys with dyslexia and dyspraxia. It is the only preparatory school of its kind in the UK and John Floyd is its outstanding headmaster.

John is a firm believer that learning difficulties, or learning differences, should not preclude academic success. In fact, after developing the right learning strategies at Bruern, many of the boys from go on to some of the best senior schools in the country.

Unfortunately, not everyone with dyslexia or dyspraxia is lucky enough to go to Bruern Abbey. Education systems around the world aren’t necessarily set up to accommodate those with neurodiverse profiles such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism. Of course, this extends to the workplace as well.

It is estimated that:

  • 5-10 per cent of the population has dyslexia,
  • 5-10 per cent of the population has dyspraxia
  • 5-7 per cent of the population has ADHD
  • 1 per cent of the population has autism

People with neuro-diverse profiles (and there’s a lot of them!) learn differently, think differently and apply their skills in alternate ways. As John succinctly puts it, “The term neurodiversity means that someone has a brain a little bit different to the majority of people”

Turning their differences into a virtue is a great opportunity for any team leader.

Diversity wins out

Organisations are starting to realise that employing people with neurodiverse profiles and optimizing their approach to work is great for business.

A few examples include:

  • MI5’s sister service GCHQ (the Government Communications Headquarters) employs more than 300 employees with neuro-diverse profiles and are actively recruiting more.
  • Organisations such as Microsoft and EY are trialing programs to recruit individuals with neuro-diverse profiles such as Asperger’s.
  • Last May the Labour party in the UK decided to appoint a shadow minister for neurodiversity.

Employers recognise that employees with neurodiverse profiles might offer heightened analytical skills, lateral thinking and a more naturally investigatory mindset than their peers.

How do you manage neurodiversity in your  teams? 

Everyone in your team will have different strengths and weaknesses. The opportunity for you, as a leader, is to optimize every member of your team to allow them to reach their peak performance. The key is to determine who has which strengths and to tailor the opportunities and development to suit that individual.

If you’re expecting a prospective employee’s CV to land on your desk with a neurodiverse label plastered across it, think again!

As John pointed out today, “If you start to see some badly written emails from a team member, you’ll know you shouldn’t assign them to write the press releases. But there will be a whole host of things they can do for you, and probably do better than anyone else!”

John gave a few examples of areas in which those with neurodiverse profiles might particularly excel.

Get them to do the interviewing

Dyslexics often have highly developed and fine-tuned listening and oral skills. They are the most studied of all neurodiverse profiles.

Compensating for having potentially struggled with reading and writing throughout childhood, many of them develop excellent verbal and listening skills.They are likely to be a resilient bunch and great under time pressure. Dyslexics  have learnt how to work well under stress.  having been up against it ever since they were first asked to do school-work.

It could be worth relying upon them to conduct interviews with prospective employees. They might be the most socially engaging person on your team and the most capable at listening to, and evaluating, a candidate.

Let them solve the problems

Adults with dyslexia and Dyspraxia quite literally think differently and are good at cracking codes or seeing patterns in problems that those who read with ease would overlook. They’re also great at re-inventing, re-evaluating and thinking laterally.

Give them the time-sensitive or juggling tasks

A number of adults with forms of neurodiversity such as ADHD can deal with juggling a number of tasks at high speed. It’s what they do all day anyway. For most of us it would be exhausting!  They might come up with too many ideas and try to execute them too quickly but they’ll never run out of steam and they’ll be utterly committed.

John concluded his talk today by urging us not to hesitate in employing somebody with a neurodiverse profile. They’ll be grateful to be employed, they’ll be your most resilient team members and they’ll work diligently.

You can guarantee that they’ll be thinking differently about something long before you’ve even entertained the thought that there could even  be an alternate option.