Tag Archives: skills

Negotiating With Empathy & Respect Doesn’t Make You Weak

Stop fearing negotiations! Learn how to reframe them from conflict to mutual respect and empathy, save face, and both walk out winners.


The sexy part of procurement is often seen as the negotiation phase

It’s the part of the project where the junior employees (who have done all the grunt work) are pulled off the project and senior management dusts off their suits and are rolled in for the “heavy lifting”. The outcome of which often goes one of two ways: either champagne is popped at the close of negotiations or, alternatively, someone mysteriously disappears to “seek opportunities elsewhere”.

But, negotiations are built off a myth. Let’s explore this by starting with a question.

What’s your reaction to the thought of having to lead a negotiation?

If you said “panic”, you wouldn’t be alone. 

We can all relate to this scenario: your stakeholder is happy with the procurement process that’s been completed … but there’s one thing. The pricing needs to be negotiated and some of the terms need to be pushed back on. Actually, there are a few areas the business owner has decided need to be sorted before the contract can be signed.

This is the point when terror can creep in. You don’t know if you’re ready for an all out war with the supplier – in fact, you’d be happy to concede some points if you gained ground on some of the more important areas.

Negotiation is wrapped in a myth and it’s time we bust it open.

Negotiation myth

Negotiating is typically seen as:

  • Something you have to learn through a course
  • A persona you have to become, leaving your “normal” self at the door
  • Hard, serious, take-no-prisoners approach
  • Directly correlated to your career success or failure
  • Confrontational
  • A considerable investment in time, effort and resources

Time and place

There are projects that do warrant an approach outlined above, where the stereotypical negotiation style needs to be adopted but it’s not needed for all negotiations. There are other areas of traditional negotiations that are important too, like negotiation plans, checklists and planning / rehearsing meetings.

Here’s an idea: what if we started to adopt a negotiation style that was built on mutual respect, where it doesn’t matter what the other side represents or may be plotting? What if we bring our authentic selves to the negotiation table?

Saving face

Saving face is a concept used to describe the facet of a person’s image that they want to retain: it’s connected to their identity and dignity. Nobody wants to be made a fool of or shown up. Saving face is about respecting that human desire. In negotiations, if there is awareness of saving face it can lead to better outcomes as both sides retain their image and reputation.

Negotiating with empathy

Here are some alternatives to the stereotypical negotiation blood bath:

  • Don’t call it a negotiation. Pick up the phone and structure a conversation around finalising the contract. “We’re almost at the finish line, I just want to run a couple of things by you to tidy up some loose ends so we can proceed to signing.”
  • If it’s about price, be honest. You’ll save a lot more time if you can give percentage thresholds where your business would have more comfort. “Look to be honest, you’re at least 10-20% above where our CE would feel comfortable proceeding. Other bids have come in closer to our mark but it’s your methodology and solution we’re seeking to proceed with.”
  • In New Zealand they often open meetings with the Maori custom of a mihi which shares who they are, where they come from, which acts as an offer to create a mutual meeting space where all are equal. Could you start the meeting with an informal conversation to shift the environment? Or share something from your own culture?
  • If you’re struggling with someone on the other side of the fence try something that will speak to the person they are, not the role they are playing. Flattering their experience in their field can act as a good way in “clearly you have extensive experience in this area, [begin your point]…”
  • Empathising with their view to show you hear and understand them. “We can see that it’s important to your business to guarantee continuity of supply and we can understand where you’re coming from. We need to ensure x,y,z. Is there a mutual place we can agree on?”
  • Syntax is important. An old tip from the pros is to use the word “and” instead of “but”. The latter implies that you are about to contradict what you just said and also disregard their point of view. “And” implies that you are joining two views together.
  • Research active listening and practice it for a week or so before your negotiation meeting. 

The tips for moving negotiation towards empathy and away from confrontation are centred around respect principles. Give it a try and share your tips in the comments below.

Why Procurement Will Soon be One of the Most Sought After Professions

As jobs disappear and the roles of tomorrow don’t even exist today, what makes Procurement and Supply Chain professionals so hot in demand?


We’ve seen in the past year how easily the entire global job market can be disrupted. With luck, businesses and economies will recover, but there’s nothing “normal” about where they’ll be in the coming years. Thanks to industry 4.0, work as we know it is on the cusp of big change — in fact, some experts and futurists are hesitant to even predict what kinds of work will exist twenty years from now. What we do know is that it won’t involve many of the jobs we’re so familiar with today.

It’s not just manual labor that is likely to go away. Doctors, lawyers, and even police officers will also see their professions being increasingly automated. The outlook isn’t bleak, it’s just uncertain. But what practical information can we take away from that … and what does it have to do with procurement?

The vital nature of procurement in business

Let’s start by answering the question, “What is procurement, anyway?”

Procurement is the sourcing and purchasing of goods and services for business use from an external source. All businesses use a variety of products, services, and supplies in their day-to-day operations, but most of them don’t manufacture or create those things themselves. Instead, they buy them from other businesses, and procurement specialists are the people who oversee this process.

Take Apple, for example. Apple “produces” millions of devices per year, but manufactures very few. Instead, the company relies on a complicated web of supply chains from which it gets goods and labor. Woven together, these various supply chains create the things we recognize as Apple products and services — everything from iPads to Apple TV+. It’s not just electronics and technicians that Apple needs, either; it also has to have desks and chairs for its employees, paper and appliances for its internal business services, security guards and parking lot attendants for its headquarters, and the list goes on.

Procurement is obviously a big part of doing business. But what makes it one of the most desirable fields for younger workers to target?

In 2019, the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work boldly predicted that “Today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete.”

While the future of many jobs is unknown, procurement is one that’s here to stay. Aspects of the profession will undoubtedly change, and it will certainly be bolstered by exponential technologies like artificial intelligence and data science, but overall, the skills that underpin successful procurement practices today will remain relevant throughout the foreseeable future.

Largely, those skills consist of cognitive flexibility and critical thinking, good decision-making, emotional intelligence, and an innovative mindset. And those (surprise) are among those that experts and employers alike say will be most important during the next decade.

X-Factors that make procurement so dynamic

The desirability of procurement as a profession goes beyond job stability. As much as anyone else, the people overseeing where goods and services come from have a unique opportunity to influence a company’s profitability, sustainability, and ethics.

Environmental impact

Green, sustainable, or eco-procurement is a growing part of the field, and it centers around building supply chains that cause minimal damage to the environment. This can mean identifying opportunities to work with providers who are conscious of waste reduction or energy conservation, for example. In the case of individual suppliers, the impact might seem marginal, but as procurement policies increasingly reflect our collective push toward sustainability, providers that aren’t eco-conscious will slowly get pushed out in favor of competitors that are. It’s the procurement professional’s privilege to lead that charge.

Diversity and inclusion

It’s not feasible, in most cases, to force an equality mindset onto a business or other organization — nor would it be effective. The pathway to lasting change involves creating an environment in which the businesses that already embrace equality rise to the top, and those that don’t are required to face the organic consequences. This, too, is something procurement professionals have a special ability to influence. Just like with sustainability, a company’s procurement department can create a ripple effect in the industry at large simply by giving preference to suppliers that embody the company’s own ethos regarding diversity and inclusion.

Powerful trajectory

Much of the reason that Apple has achieved such amazing success even following the death of Steve Jobs lies with the fact that Tim Cook is intimately familiar with the importance of procurement to the business model. Cook was hired by Jobs as Apple’s Chief Procurement Officer in 1998; by the time he took the top executive office in 2011, Apple’s supply chain was widely held to be the best among big tech firms. The skills and knowledge that make a good procurement professional, in other words, serve as a strong foundation for success on an even bigger scale — in Cook’s case, it was the biggest scale in the world.

Looking ahead

As jobs disappear, consumer needs evolve, and the work paradigm shifts, the ability to “go with the flow” is becoming increasingly important. Not only is procurement an area that benefits from that ability — it can also impart it. In return for bringing their skills to the field, professionals who choose procurement will be rewarded with the chance to usher in large-scale change, guiding not just companies but entire industries and economies in worthy directions.

Stephen Day is Chief Procurement Officer at Kantar and an accomplished International Executive, with expertise in operations management, supply chain, and more.

5 Simple Ways to Make Recruiters Love your LinkedIn Profile

If you want to make great connections and open yourself up to new career opportunities, you need to be on LinkedIn. Here are proven ways to attract recruiters and hiring managers on the platform.


If you want to make great connections and open yourself up to new career opportunities, you need to be on LinkedIn.

But you must go beyond just having a profile on the business networking platform. You need to have a presence. 

It’s not enough to log in once a year to update your job title. You need to be far more involved if you want to build your personal brand.

And why does your personal brand matter? It’s your key to attract attention and build credibility with your peers and industry.

Every time you post, you are telling the world (and potential employers) who you are, explains Amy George from George Communications.

“Your profile, or lack of, is your brand,” George wrote in a recent post. “What you present on LinkedIn, or anywhere, is your story and your brand – and it speaks volumes.”

So if you are on LinkedIn, you should really be on LinkedIn says George. “Having sparse information isn’t helpful to your audience, and you are passing up important career storytelling opportunities.”

Can you really get hired by being on LinkedIn?

Yep, people really do get hired just by having an active presence on LinkedIn. Stats show 122 million people received an interview through a connection on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is excellent for your career prospects, says Andy Moore, Digital Marketing Manager right here at Procurious.

“When you build a strong personal brand, you’re rarely short of career development, mentoring or employment opportunities,” Moore explains.

So how can you use LinkedIn to get attention from recruiters and hiring managers?

1) Get active

Apparently, only 1% of LinkedIn users post regularly

Are you part of the 99% who don’t? And what’s stopping you from taking advantage of this free, simple way to reach people?

Maybe you’re worried about what to post, which Moore says is a common concern.

That’s why you should write something that is authentic to you. “This can be your opinion on an issue, an article that speaks to you, or even proposing a simple question to your connections,” Moore advises.

“Writing from a place of sincerity can really reduce the social angst in deciding ‘what’ to post or ‘when’ to post. When we do something often, we feel less nervous about it as we have acclimatised.”

Moore suggests making it part of your routing by blocking out 15 minutes in your calendar each week to post something. Also use that time to ‘like’ and comment on other people’s posts that you find interesting.

Recruiters like to see candidates who use LinkedIn regularly, says Martin Smith, Managing Director at Talent Drive – a UK procurement recruitment specialist.

“We look for people that are…clearly active on their LinkedIn whether that’s someone that has written blogs, engaged in webinars or just generally engaged with their audience,” Smith says. 

“This allows them to stand out from their peers and if you can put some personality and authenticity behind that engagement that’s the key differentiator.”

2) Make it personal, but not too personal

A mistake Smith sees is people who blur their personal and professional lives on LinkedIn.

“Your LinkedIn is a professional network and there is nothing wrong with every now and then posting a day’s leave or a picture of your kids to show your human side,” Smith says. 

“[B]ut LinkedIn is a professional social media platform and should be used for work-related content, not what you had for breakfast or what your favourite 80s band was. Keep that for Facebook, TikTok and Instagram!”

If you’re stuck on how to balance human and business, have a look at this list of 80+ post ideas.

You should also aim to strike a human yet professional tone in the way you interact with other people on the platform, says Andrew MacAskill, Founder of Executive Career Jump.

“Pay into the ecosystem by providing comments, taking on mentees, appearing on podcasts and sharing valuable insights,” says MacAskill.

“The best way to get what you want is to help other people get what they want!”

3) Keep it clear and simple

When it comes to your own profile, MacAskill advises describing yourself with keywords that match the kind of role you want.

These keywords are unique to your skill set and make you more searchable on LinkedIn.

“Above everything else, candidates need to ensure they have the right keywords in their headline, ‘about’ box, and job detail to be found,” says MacAskill.

Recruiter Martin Smith adds another way to catch a recruiter’s attention: have a clear overview on your profile of what you do and where you are working at the moment.

“We see too often now people have very over-complicated LinkedIn profiles with grand titles such as ‘Procurement Leader/ Top 100 Procurement Influencer/FTSE 100 leader/ Thought Leader and engagement consultant,’” says Smith.

“This can make it confusing and can dilute the message on who they actually are and what they do.”

So drop the multi-hyphenated-super-title in favour of clarity.

4) Reach out to recruiters

Ideally, the recruiters come to you with suitable roles. And they likely will, once you spruce up your profile and get active on LinkedIn.

But if they aren’t chasing you yet, is it ok to approach them directly? Especially if they often post roles that seem ideal?

Of course, says Smith. But brevity is key. 

“Recruiters don’t want you sending them a 10-page document via LinkedIn on why you feel you are appropriate for the job,” Smith points out.

“The market is tough right now and is very candidate-rich and job-light which can be a challenge.

“But if you really want to stand out, send a personal yet succinct message to the recruiter on who you are, what you do and why you want the job with a follow up number and that will get the best engagement.”

Smith says recruiters are very busy at the moment trying to manage candidate expectations in a challenging market, so be considerate. You can still be persistent, but always be courteous.

“A recruiter will see every approach they have and if you look right for a role they will follow up,” Smith advises. 

And it doesn’t hurt to make connections with recruiters long before you need a job.

“Build your network, reach out to businesses that interest, build relationships with recruiters to help you with your search but ensure it’s a targeted and measured approach without too much distracting noise around the message you want to give,” Smith says.

Emphasis on the word ‘relationship.’

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to potential hiring managers and build a relationship with a soft approach,” says Imelda Walsh, Manager at The Source – the Melbourne-based procurement recruitment firm.  

“Don’t start the conversation asking about job opportunities of course. Don’t just connect with someone without following through with an introduction message to kickstart a relationship that can add value to both parties.” 

5) Ask for recommendations

You can also improve your chances by identifying the right people in your network to ask for LinkedIn recommendations, Walsh says. 

“Be strategic about who to ask for recommendations – professionals that are well connected and respected in your industry and that know the value you bring to a role/organisation,” Walsh advises.

And it’s ok to guide the people who are writing you a recommendation. 

Obviously don’t force words on them, but you can give some pointers to help them write something truly unique to you.

Aimee Bateman from the Undercover Recruiter suggests these guidelines:

  • What is my key strength (include an example) 
  • What did you enjoy about working with me the most (include an example) 
  • What word would you use to describe me and why (include an example) 
  • One problem that you had, which I helped you overcome and how (include example, their feelings, and your action points)

These can help your recommendations stand out from the generic but ever-popular: “Joe is a team player.”

Attract job opportunities to you

This might sound like a lot of work, especially if you’ve not spent much time on LinkedIn before. 

But in strange times like these, you’ll want every advantage you can get your hands on, adds Imelda Walsh.

“If you don’t have an online presence, it’s not a matter of ‘you might be missing out on roles,’ it’s a case of you will be missing out on opportunities,” Walsh warns.

So it’s worth investing the time to make your LinkedIn presence shine. 

And think of the possible rewards. “HR, hiring managers and recruiters will bring opportunities to you instead of you having to apply for roles through various company pages and job boards,” says Walsh.  

So if you’re tired of throwing your CV into the job board black hole, you might want to try the LinkedIn route to your next role.

7 Key Supply Chain Leaders’ Skills and Why You Need Them

What are the essential skills you need to possess or develop if you want to become one of tomorrow’s supply chain leaders? Is it enough to have a business-related degree and a little supply chain experience, or is supply chain leadership a vocation for which you must work hard to acquire specific qualities? Rob O’Byrne from The Logistics Bureau shares his expert advice.


In reality, it’s probably a little bit of both. Indeed, many elements of supply chain leadership can’t effectively be learned through academic channels alone.

In any case, an excellent place to start is by knowing what the most vital supply chain leaders’ skills are and, of course, why you need them.

That’s what you’ll find in this article, so you can check which essential skills you already have, and which ones you might wish to enhance with some pragmatic supply chain education.

These Are the 7 Supply Chain Leaders’ Skills You’ll Really Need

1. Information Technology and Automation Knowledge

Before getting into this first section proper, I want to make one essential point, which I’ll expand on later in this article. Supply chain leadership is all about people using technology as a tool. Nothing is more important than working on your people skills if you want to be a successful supply chain leader.

Nevertheless, few supply chains run successfully today without the support of sophisticated technology tools, like warehouse management and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. For that reason, you need at least a modicum of IT understanding to work in a supply chain environment, particularly if you intend holding a leadership position.

To be a supply chain leader, you will need to be familiar with the use of enterprise software applications like WMS, TMS, and ERP, not to mention analytics software, which is increasingly becoming a staple source of leadership decision support.

Enterprise IT Skills at User-level

There was a time when supply chain leaders could rely on subordinate employees to do the hands-on work with business information systems, and be content to receive reports and Excel spreadsheets containing data for decision-making.

Those days are gone, however. Today you’re expected to find your way around the modules of your company’s ERP and business intelligence applications on your own. Furthermore, your need for technology understanding extends beyond hands-on use.

Understand IT as a Buyer

As a supply chain leader, your input into IT procurement will be crucial, and you must know enough about your company’s technology needs to discuss them with vendors. You’ll need to understand the relationship between ERP workflows and physical processes, for instance, to help prevent classic mistakes from being made, such as applying new technology to outdated, inefficient processes.

It will help if you know automation technology, too, since more and more companies are applying automation in distribution centres and warehouses.

Ultimately, strong interpersonal skills still trump technological expertise as a supply chain leader’s forte. However, a career at the head of your company’s supply chain is not one to consider if you don’t have some affinity for technology and its application in business.

2. A Grasp of Economics and Market Dynamics

The supply chain world is changing rapidly and sometimes unpredictably, in line with the market dynamics across many industries, all of which are being affected by rapid shifts in customer and consumer buying-behaviour.

Many markets that used to be purely local or regional have become global, as have the supply chains that serve them. As a supply chain leader, you will need to focus on what lies ahead and, to some extent, predict it. That can only be possible with a thorough understanding of the market dynamics relating to your industry and your company.

Of course, each industry and the niches within them are subject to unique and specific market dynamics. Supply chain leaders can work in any industry as long as they know their stuff, but this does mean that a change of employer can require some in-depth study, especially if the market is unfamiliar.

As a basis to quickly adjust to supply chain career moves, it will help a lot to be familiar with economics’ basic concepts.

To see ahead and lead a supply chain team effectively, you’ll need to understand what drives demand, supply, and pricing for the goods and services provided by your organisation and its competitors. These forces impact a variety of supply chain management elements, including the cost of goods sold and the cost to serve your company’s customers.

3. Understanding Cost-to-serve

Supply chain leaders play a very active role in the profitability of their employing companies. If you’re running a supply chain operation, your decisions impact the costs involved in supplying your organisation’s customers.

You will have a huge advantage and the potential to shine as a leader if you can quantify how your supply chain leadership decisions affect your bottom line. For instance, too few companies focus on the real costs involved with serving customers.

The result of this inattention is often a one-size-fits-all approach to service, inevitably leading to the over-servicing of some customers and the under-servicing of others. A single service offering can even impair profitability, perhaps creating a situation where logistics costs cause some sales to generate losses instead of profits.

If you understand the cost-to-serve concept and can apply it to your company’s supply chain activity, you’ll be able to identify unprofitable customers and products.

By developing a thorough cost-to-serve understanding, you’ll even be able to make decisions that improve the profitability of those customers and products instead of taking knee-jerk measures to cut losses.

Every company wants supply chain leaders who can make direct and positive impacts on the bottom line—but not every company has such leaders. That’s why familiarity with cost-to-serve is one skill that can help you stand out as a competent supply chain professional.

4. The Skill of Flexibility

The one thing you won’t find on this list of supply chain leaders’ “must-have” skills is innovation. You don’t have to be an innovator to be an outstanding supply chain leader, but you do have to support and drive innovation. Flexibility is the skill that will help you to do that.

Flexibility gives you the ability to let others do the innovative thinking. Your flexibility will give those creative thinkers the confidence to present their ideas, since they know that you will adopt them if it makes sense to do so.

Flexibility will keep you from feeling too comfortable in the status quo ever to let it go. Flexibility will ensure that change (often termed the only constant in supply chain management) will not faze you or cause you undue stress. In turn, your team will be encouraged to embrace, rather than resist, change.

Flexibility is one of the soft skills that differentiate successful supply chain leaders. That’s not only because of the changing nature of supply chain operations, but also because things don’t always go to plan—far from it if truth be told.

For example, during supply chain improvement projects, it’s not uncommon for things to crop up, requiring plans to be changed. An inflexible leader may doggedly try to drive through with the original strategy, becoming ever more frustrated in the process and hampering, rather than helping the situation.

Inflexibility often manifests in the belief that changing a plan is an admission of poor planning, but in many cases, that is an erroneous presumption.

Don’t fall into this trap. Work on your flexibility as a leader. Accept that plans should always be work-in-progress, and adapt your approach when required. You can’t plan for every eventuality, and while flexibility is a virtue for supply chain leaders in general, it’s an absolute essential in project management.

5. Project Management Skills

Aside from flexibility, there are many other project-management skills that you’ll need as a supply chain leader. Of course, a lot depends on what leadership role you are in, but if you are headed to the top, you’ll probably hold several management positions on the way up, most of which will see you leading projects from time to time.

If you make it to the C-suite or, indeed, to any senior leadership position, it will help you and your managers do a better job if you understand the fundamental principles, pitfalls, and challenges inherent in project management.

The most crucial project management skills to acquire as a supply chain leader are as follows:

  • The ability to negotiate successfully for resources, budgets, and schedules
  • A high degree of personal organisation
  • A proactive approach to risk management

Of course, the above-noted skills are also valuable for supply chain leaders generally, not just as part of a project-management skill set. I’ve simply noted them here because they are the carry-over skills most likely required in a supply chain leadership role. To elaborate:

  • Personal organisation will be vital for keeping track of numerous projects for which you are likely to be a sponsor and meeting your obligations toward them.
  • You may sometimes be called upon to support project business cases, hence the need for negotiation skills.
  • When deciding if you’ll approve a requested project, knowledge of risk management will help you ask the right questions about the proposal and business case.

6. The Ability to Get the Best from People

So how about those people skills I briefly mentioned earlier?

I can’t put it any more plainly: the ability to lead, manage, influence, and inspire other people is the number one fundamental, essential skill that all supply chain leaders and managers should possess.

It is entirely possible to learn the necessary skills, but a word of caution is due. If you don’t enjoy team building and developing professional relationships with lots—and I do mean lots—of other people, don’t choose a supply chain leadership career.

On the other hand, if you love working with people but just don’t see yourself as a great leader, you probably have exactly the right mindset to succeed in a supply chain leader’s role.

There is nothing wrong with being self-critical, as long as you have the will to learn what you need to learn, and the energy to commit to your personal development. Being passionate about teamwork and enjoying interactions with others is half the battle in succeeding as a supply chain leader.

The 3 Cs of Supply Chain Leadership

Communication: First and foremost, you need to communicate well … to articulate sometimes complex concepts in a way that anyone within your company can understand, regardless of whether they have supply chain knowledge or not.

Dependent on whether your company operates internationally, you might benefit from communication skills that extend beyond your native language. It’s becoming ever more common for enterprises to give preference to bilingual or multilingual leadership candidates.

Collaboration: Secondly, you will need to be able to foster collaboration, a critical element in any modern supply chain.

It won’t always be easy, because sometimes you’ll be asking teams inside and outside of your business to collaborate and work together despite competing priorities and expectations. To ensure these parties collaborate, you’ll need to draw on communication, persuasion, and relationship building skills.

Change: Change management is another people skill in which you might wish to receive some special education or training. If you are planning to graduate from a role where you’ve been used to participating in, but not leading change efforts, experience alone may not be sufficient to help you take people through challenging changes. Resistance to change can be hard to overcome.

The impact of changes within your supply chain can affect employees on a very personal level. You’ll need to know how to empathise and to listen actively to what people are telling you. Without these skills, your leadership can quickly be rejected during periods of change, purely through fear of the unknown and a sense that you don’t appreciate employees’ concerns.

Get the Best From Yourself

Finally, while the need to interact effectively with other people might seem obvious, you shouldn’t neglect the development of the person most impacted by your skills and abilities—yourself.

Supply chain leaders should be able to conduct regular self-assessments and identify their areas of weakness.

We never stop learning and developing, but by having the ability to self-appraise your skills honestly, and work on those areas that need it, you can acquire new expertise at a rate that keeps pace with the ever-changing supply chain environment.

Getting the best from yourself also means having the ability to curb your ego. Learn to recognise when somebody else in your team exceeds your aptitude for a specific task or responsibility.

Let that individual take the lead, and be happy to follow and learn from her. Not only will that free you to play a part in which you can use your strengths, but you’ll also be empowering the other person and helping her to reach outside of her comfort zone.

7. The Know-How to Negotiate

As a modern supply chain leader, it won’t only be your reports and colleagues that you need to interact with effectively and skillfully, but also those outside your organization. Moreover, both internal and external interactions will often involve the need to negotiate.

Supply chain leaders must negotiate often, and even if you’re not doing so on a one-to-one basis, you’ll probably find yourself in scenarios where you’re part of a team of people trying to broker a deal or arrangement.

Negotiation Scenarios for Supply Chain Leaders

Some examples of possible negotiation situations that you might get involved in, and in many cases, lead, include:

  • Procurement of IT services and solutions
  • Contracts for logistics services
  • Brokering deals with product vendors (for direct or indirect supplies)
  • Putting together contracts or service level agreements with customers
  • Negotiations with employee groups or trade unions
  • Business merger/acquisition negotiations

Why do Negotiation Skills Matter?

Negotiations are typically transactional, but often take place between entities or teams engaged in long-term business relationships. Whether you are the lead or a mere participant in the negotiation, your skills will influence the transaction’s outcome and the trajectory of the broader relationship.

It’s easy to make mistakes during negotiations, but with relevant training and education, you can hone your skills to avoid some of the most common errors.

For example, skilled negotiators know that the process does not have winners or losers. They don’t go into a negotiation aiming to win as many concessions as possible, and they don’t feel that they have failed when they have to give ground to arrive at a settlement.

A win/lose type of attitude will lead to negotiating mistakes. Even if you come out of a negotiation feeling that you have won, you might find further down the line that your “win” has done nothing to strengthen what might be a vital partnership.

Mistakes that Skilled Negotiators Avoid

If you have developed your negotiation skills, you will always enter into discussions looking for an outcome that will satisfy both parties. You’ll also be able to avoid other common mistakes such as:

  • Failing to prepare by identifying what the deal-breakers are, which outcomes are essential, which ones are useful to achieve, and which ones don’t matter in any concrete way.
  • Asking only for as much as you expect… It is better to ask for more than you expect.
  • Modifying an offer you have made before getting a response to the original. It’s important to understand that the other party may use silence to bait you into relaxing your conditions.
  • Offering compromises before you have heard all the demands of the other party. By getting all the facts first, you can be selective in identifying where compromise may be possible.
  • Focusing too much on your party’s input and achievements. Strong negotiators pay close attention to the opposite party’s behaviours, ask plenty of questions, and take time to understand and analyse the answers.

How to Boost Your Supply Chain Leader’s Skills

Your business degree and/or hands-on experience in a supply chain role will undoubtedly help you gain and maintain a supply chain leader’s position in your current company—or in a new organisation if you should be planning a move.

However, supply chains have become so complicated that an extensive toolkit of required skills is required if you want to thrive and make a difference as a supply chain leader.

Some of the skills in that toolkit can be difficult to attain without many years of supply chain experience, simply because they are rarely taught outside of the workplace. Your best option might be a program of specialised supply chain and logistics education.

Our Supply Chain Secrets program, for example, was developed and designed by people who work in the industry. It can help you learn about each supply chain area pragmatically, using real-world problem-solving and relatable examples of commonly made mistakes—and methods to avoid them.

If you’ve read this blog post, perhaps you’ve been searching online for ways to enhance your supply chain leader’s skill set. If so, you don’t need to look much further. Join Supply Chain Secrets today, and access the skills you need to be a supply chain leader of tomorrow.

This article was originally published here and is republished here with kind permission.

Five Simple Ways To Make Recruiters Love Your LinkedIn Profile

If you want to make great connections and open yourself up to new career opportunities, you need to be on LinkedIn. Here are proven ways to attract recruiters and hiring managers on the platform.


If you want to make great connections and open yourself up to new career opportunities, you need to be on LinkedIn.

But you must go beyond just having a profile on the business networking platform. You need to have a presence. 

It’s not enough to log in once a year to update your job title. You need to be far more involved if you want to build your personal brand.

And why does your personal brand matter? It’s your key to attract attention and build credibility with your peers and industry.

Every time you post, you are telling the world (and potential employers) who you are, explains Amy George from George Communications.

“Your profile, or lack of, is your brand,” George wrote in a recent post. “What you present on LinkedIn, or anywhere, is your story and your brand – and it speaks volumes.”

So if you are on LinkedIn, you should really be on LinkedIn says George. “Having sparse information isn’t helpful to your audience, and you are passing up important career storytelling opportunities.”

Can you really get hired by being on LinkedIn?

Yep, people really do get hired just by having an active presence on LinkedIn. Stats show 122 million people received an interview through a connection on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is excellent for your career prospects, says Andy Moore, Digital Marketing Manager right here at Procurious.

“When you build a strong personal brand, you’re rarely short of career development, mentoring or employment opportunities,” Moore explains.

So how can you use LinkedIn to get attention from recruiters and hiring managers?

1) Get active

Apparently, only 1% of LinkedIn users post regularly

Are you part of the 99% who don’t? And what’s stopping you from taking advantage of this free, simple way to reach people?

Maybe you’re worried about what to post, which Moore says is a common concern.

That’s why you should write something that is authentic to you. “This can be your opinion on an issue, an article that speaks to you, or even proposing a simple question to your connections,” Moore advises.

“Writing from a place of sincerity can really reduce the social angst in deciding ‘what’ to post or ‘when’ to post. When we do something often, we feel less nervous about it as we have acclimatised.”

Moore suggests making it part of your routing by blocking out 15 minutes in your calendar each week to post something. Also use that time to ‘like’ and comment on other people’s posts that you find interesting.

Recruiters like to see candidates who use LinkedIn regularly, says Martin Smith, Managing Director at Talent Drive – a UK procurement recruitment specialist.

“We look for people that are…clearly active on their LinkedIn whether that’s someone that has written blogs, engaged in webinars or just generally engaged with their audience,” Smith says. 

“This allows them to stand out from their peers and if you can put some personality and authenticity behind that engagement that’s the key differentiator.”

2) Make it personal, but not too personal

A mistake Smith sees is people who blur their personal and professional lives on LinkedIn.

“Your LinkedIn is a professional network and there is nothing wrong with every now and then posting a day’s leave or a picture of your kids to show your human side,” Smith says. 

“[B]ut LinkedIn is a professional social media platform and should be used for work-related content, not what you had for breakfast or what your favourite 80s band was. Keep that for Facebook, TikTok and Instagram!”

If you’re stuck on how to balance human and business, have a look at this list of 80+ post ideas.

You should also aim to strike a human yet professional tone in the way you interact with other people on the platform, says Andrew MacAskill, Founder of Executive Career Jump.

“Pay into the ecosystem by providing comments, taking on mentees, appearing on podcasts and sharing valuable insights,” says MacAskill.

“The best way to get what you want is to help other people get what they want!”

3) Keep it clear and simple

When it comes to your own profile, MacAskill advises describing yourself with keywords that match the kind of role you want.

These keywords are unique to your skill set and make you more searchable on LinkedIn.

“Above everything else, candidates need to ensure they have the right keywords in their headline, ‘about’ box, and job detail to be found,” says MacAskill.

Recruiter Martin Smith adds another way to catch a recruiter’s attention: have a clear overview on your profile of what you do and where you are working at the moment.

“We see too often now people have very over-complicated LinkedIn profiles with grand titles such as ‘Procurement Leader/ Top 100 Procurement Influencer/FTSE 100 leader/ Thought Leader and engagement consultant,’” says Smith.

“This can make it confusing and can dilute the message on who they actually are and what they do.”

So drop the multi-hyphenated-super-title in favour of clarity.

4) Reach out to recruiters

Ideally, the recruiters come to you with suitable roles. And they likely will, once you spruce up your profile and get active on LinkedIn.

But if they aren’t chasing you yet, is it ok to approach them directly? Especially if they often post roles that seem ideal?

Of course, says Smith. But brevity is key. 

“Recruiters don’t want you sending them a 10-page document via LinkedIn on why you feel you are appropriate for the job,” Smith points out.

“The market is tough right now and is very candidate-rich and job-light which can be a challenge.

“But if you really want to stand out, send a personal yet succinct message to the recruiter on who you are, what you do and why you want the job with a follow up number and that will get the best engagement.”

Smith says recruiters are very busy at the moment trying to manage candidate expectations in a challenging market, so be considerate. You can still be persistent, but always be courteous.

“A recruiter will see every approach they have and if you look right for a role they will follow up,” Smith advises. 

And it doesn’t hurt to make connections with recruiters long before you need a job.

“Build your network, reach out to businesses that interest, build relationships with recruiters to help you with your search but ensure it’s a targeted and measured approach without too much distracting noise around the message you want to give,” Smith says.

Emphasis on the word ‘relationship.’

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to potential hiring managers and build a relationship with a soft approach,” says Imelda Walsh, Manager at The Source – the Melbourne-based procurement recruitment firm.  

“Don’t start the conversation asking about job opportunities of course. Don’t just connect with someone without following through with an introduction message to kickstart a relationship that can add value to both parties.” 

5) Ask for recommendations

You can also improve your chances by identifying the right people in your network to ask for LinkedIn recommendations, Walsh says. 

“Be strategic about who to ask for recommendations – professionals that are well connected and respected in your industry and that know the value you bring to a role/organisation,” Walsh advises.

And it’s ok to guide the people who are writing you a recommendation. 

Obviously don’t force words on them, but you can give some pointers to help them write something truly unique to you.

Aimee Bateman from the Undercover Recruiter suggests these guidelines:

  • What is my key strength (include an example) 
  • What did you enjoy about working with me the most (include an example) 
  • What word would you use to describe me and why (include an example) 
  • One problem that you had, which I helped you overcome and how (include example, their feelings, and your action points)

These can help your recommendations stand out from the generic but ever-popular: “Joe is a team player.”

Attract job opportunities to you

This might sound like a lot of work, especially if you’ve not spent much time on LinkedIn before. 

But in strange times like these, you’ll want every advantage you can get your hands on, adds Imelda Walsh.

“If you don’t have an online presence, it’s not a matter of ‘you might be missing out on roles,’ it’s a case of you will be missing out on opportunities,” Walsh warns.

So it’s worth investing the time to make your LinkedIn presence shine. 

And think of the possible rewards. “HR, hiring managers and recruiters will bring opportunities to you instead of you having to apply for roles through various company pages and job boards,” says Walsh.  

So if you’re tired of throwing your CV into the job board black hole, you might want to try the LinkedIn route to your next role.

Is Now The Right Time To Ask For A Pay Rise?

Should you ask for a raise during a pandemic? It depends on how well you perform, and how your company is doing.


You consistently deliver, you always exceed your targets, and your boss is thrilled. 

Does that mean now the right time to ask for a raise – despite everything going on in the world? 

Actually, now could be the perfect time. 

It might seem counterintuitive, but economic downturns often mean steady wages, says Dr Michael Gravier, Professor of Marketing and Global Supply Chain Management at Bryant University.

“Layoffs and workforce reductions are done partly to preserve the salaries of remaining workers, and companies know that they must keep up the morale of remaining workers,” Professor Gravier says. 

Since recessions don’t last forever, businesses have an incentive to make sure their best employees stick around to ride out the economic storm.

“Companies that are most well prepared tend to come out of economic downturns stronger than competitors,” adds Gravier. 

“This means that workers who haven’t been furloughed are, on average, well-positioned to request reasonable pay raises, especially if they’ve shown a talent for doing more with less or improving operations or succeeding despite the odds during these difficult times.”

Where to start

Are you a high performer? Then it sounds like you’re ideally placed to ask for a raise.

Start by understanding how well your company is doing, and its priorities for the next several months.

And don’t be put off by reports that overall wage growth is weaker now. Professor Gravier points out that supply chain industry wages have remained fairly robust. 

Bottom line: go get that raise.

Build your case

Start by assembling proof that you deserve a raise. Remember, the topic of your paycheck might be deeply personal and sensitive to you, but it isn’t to your boss. All they want are hard facts that prove you meet and exceed expectations.

For that reason, it’s smart to get in the habit of jotting down this evidence regularly. For example, Professor Gravier set aside time every Friday to write about what had happened during the week, and how key performance metrics were going. 

‘“You must first know thyself,” as the old saying goes,” Gravier says. “If workers cannot justify their performance, clearly there is not much need to entertain their request [for a raise].”

So what sort of accomplishments should you record? Anything that proves how valuable you are, says Scott Dance, Director of Hays Procurement & Supply Chain.

“[W]rite down all the things that you’ve achieved individually or contributed to significantly as part of a team, [and] back up these achievements with real, measurable evidence,” Dance says.

“Your fundamental objective is to prove that you’re an asset to the business and that you have made a significant contribution during what has been a particularly challenging time for many organisations.”

Know your market value

The next piece of evidence you need is your market value, says Jacqui Paterson, Director of Supply Chain and Procurement at UK recruitment agency Drummond Bridge.

“I would advise [employees] to look at all of the factors associated with their current role, [like] ease of location, job satisfaction, working conditions and then research what the current market rate would equate to for the role they deliver,” Paterson says.

A good way to benchmark your salary is using a guide, like the one recently published by the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply. That way, you can see averages for your experience level and geographical region.

Paterson also recommends asking yourself questions like:

  • How long ago was my last pay rise given?
  • Can my company accommodate a rise right now? 
  • Are my skills in high demand?

It’s all about doing your homework first so you’re prepared, professional, and ready to make a strong case.

Choose your timing

People often ask for a raise during a performance review. But that’s a mistake because many other employees are asking for a raise then too, Paterson says.

When is a better time, then? Paterson advises to “time the conversation strategically – perhaps after a series of successful, valuable contributions have been delivered.”

And don’t forget to approach your discussion diplomatically. “A confrontational or “expectant” pay rise conversation doesn’t usually end positively,” Paterson warns.

What if they say no?

Even if you make a convincing case, you might still get rejected. 

What should you do next? Find out why you were turned down, says Paterson. “No to a pay rise just now does not mean never.”

“If the [employee] is generally happy where they are, this can be the trigger to initiate conversations in writing that if certain savings, KPIs etc are met that the raise will be reviewed after a three-month period.” 

After all, “[n]ot all businesses can afford to consider a salary rise in the current market conditions, or they may want to review how business is moving when the economy shows signs of improving before committing to any salary rises,” Paterson adds.

Another possibility is your boss can’t give you a raise, but they can sweeten the deal by giving you other benefits. 

These could include a job title change, extra time off, or the ability to work from home permanently.

So before your conversation, you should consider if you’ll only accept more money, or if you could be satisfied with recognition in other ways.

Is it time to leave?

Only you can decide if you’re happy sticking around without a pay raise. If your top priority is a bigger salary, leaving may be your only route.

“If your current employer can’t meet your requirements in terms of salary or otherwise, it’s certainly worth testing the waters and seeing what you could be getting elsewhere,” says Scott Dance from Hays.

“Despite ongoing uncertainty, there’s no reason why you should hold off looking to the future and considering how you can make your professional ambitions a reality.” 

Dance advises updating your CV/ resume with any new skills or expertise you might have learned over the last few months of lockdown.

“Refreshing your CV might open up new avenues which you thought weren’t possible before,” Dance says. That’s why you should be open to trying something new.

“The long-term reality of the Covid-19 crisis may mean that we see surges in demand, industry shifts and emerging trends that impact the jobs market,” Dance adds.

“Being flexible and open-minded about your career may help you secure that pay rise you’re after and take your career in an exciting new direction.”

Do you have any tried-and-true advice? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

10 Critical Skills Your Procurement Team Needs Right Now

And how to get them in less than ½ an hour, with a $0 training budget

As procurement leaders or influencers, we all know that upskilling is critical to our success and that of our team. And with the skills required to succeed in procurement rapidly shifting from a technical focus to more soft skills, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by what’s required and how to achieve it. Common concerns we all experience are: 

Where do I even start with training? 

Who will pay for it? 

Can I (or my team) afford the time away from our day jobs right now – or ever? 

One of the world’s most celebrated thought leaders on human performance, Sir Clive Woodward, believes he has the answer to all of these questions – and it isn’t as complex as it seems. Sir Clive, who shot to fame after coaching England’s rugby team to their infamous victory over Australia in the 2003 World Cup, believes that when it comes to training, we get it all wrong. Instead of focusing on a few areas intensely, he says, and diverting all of our resources to them, we should instead focus on doing many things, 1% better. For example, instead of putting your team through a technical training course that might take months to complete, you could focus on a number of short, soft-skill focused sessions that will lift your team’s capability in a number of areas in a short amount of time. 

But what might this look like? We surveyed a number of influential procurement leaders and managers, and gave them an interesting challenge: How would you upskill your team in half an hour or less, with a $0 training budget? 

Here’s the skills they told us were most critical – and more importantly, how they’d rise to Sir Clive’s challenge and do multiple things that 1% better. 

1. Customer focus skills

The problem

In days gone by, procurement was seen as an internally-focused, cost-saving function only. Not only were customers not our focus, but in many ways, we sometimes felt we worked against them; with the finance team putting relentless pressure on us to slash costs, regardless of the impact on our end customer. Now? This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Yet still, given that the focus on cost and risk is ever-prevalent, it can still be hard to step outside of our own perspective and put ourselves in others’ shoes, says Keith Bird, former CPO and General Manager – Commercial of Queensland Rail and Managing Director of The Faculty, a procurement management consultancy. 

‘A customer focus is critical,’ says Keith, ‘Because in procurement, a customer focus equates to increased value delivered.’ 

The quick upskill solution 

But how do you get your team to see that? One great way is to do an empathy mapping exercise, where you map your customer’s experience with your service, and try to understand their pain points (and what you can do about them). 

There’s tonnes of empathy mapping exercises available on the internet that can be completed within half an hour or less. Here’s one from Atlassian you can try right away.

2. Category management skills 

The problem 

Keith Bird, Managing Director of The Faculty and lifelong procurement specialist, acknowledges that category management remains a critical skill within the procurement profession. And, according to Keith, it certainly is one that requires honing: 

‘We all know there’s a lot of work that goes into managing any given category. From industry reviews to spend analysis, it can be a time-consuming – yet critical – exercise.’ 

The quick upskill solution 

Yet when it comes to upskilling, says Keith, the secret may not be what you think. Instead of focusing on developing the skill of category management itself, some quick wins can be gained from how category management is discussed with anyone outside of the procurement team: 

‘Many procurement professionals that I’ve seen feel the need to extensively detail their category management activities to their stakeholders. This is not only not necessary, but stakeholders find it confusing – it isn’t what they want.’ 

According to Keith, one of the best skills that can be gained from a category management perspective is how it’s presented to stakeholders: 

‘When you’re speaking with stakeholders, you need to talk their language, which, usually, is in commercial outcomes. How is your category management going to deliver them the outcomes they need?’ 

‘Discussing your activities, or rather, not discussing your activities and talking in outcomes can be a monumental win from a category management perspective.’ 

3. Problem solving skills 

The problem 

Problem solving skills are an attribute often left off job descriptions, but with procurement only increasing in complexity, they shouldn’t be. In fact, so critical are problem solving skills, that the World Economic Forum rates them as the number one skill we all need to thrive in 2020 and beyond. 

Acquiring them doesn’t have to be difficult, says Euan Granger, Senior Strategic Buyer at Soil Machine Dynamics and key contributor to Procurious, the world’s largest procurement professional network. In fact, sometimes it’s simply better to take a break from the professional nature of our workplaces, and step outside our comfort zones with a fun activity. 

The quick upskill solution 

One that Euan has used many times and recommends is the simple ‘marshmallow and spaghetti’ challenge. For this exercise, you’ll need to purchase 20 sticks of dry spaghetti, a roll of tape, a ball of string and a marshmallow. Then, set your team a challenge: Build a free-standing tower using the materials provided! 

Whenever Euan has used this activity for his team, he always recommends that they go away and think about how they can use the skills they’ve learnt in their job. 

‘It’s not so much about who does it or doesn’t do it, but more about working together to solve a problem, and thinking about things in a different way. We always need that approach when solving new problems.’ 

4. Negotiation skills

The problem 

As procurement professionals, we all know that negotiation is both an art and a science. In any given negotiation, we’re always delicately balancing the needs of our organisation, risks, costs, sustainability and the expectations of the supplier. It certainly isn’t easy – and it certainly requires great focus and dedication to execute. 

The quick upskill solution 

Even if you’re already a skilled negotiator, there’s always more you can learn, says Ron Brown,’ former General Manager at MMG Mining and lead consultant at The Faculty. One great way to upskill your team on this is to do the ‘Price of $1’ exercise, a simple exercise that shows how important preparation, communication and a solid command of facts is in a negotiation.  

Here’s how to run the exercise: 

  1. Have two people/players sit back to back, but far enough apart that they can’t hear each other
  2. Select a third person as a ‘go between.’ This person goes to the other two players and asks for their bid (the problem being neither player knows what they’re bidding for). 
  3. Bidding starts. Bidding can start at as little as 1 cent. Each player has three bids in each round if they want, and they can decide not to bid higher than the other player. 
  4. At the end of three bids, one player is awarded the round. Complete three rounds. At the end of three rounds, explain to players that they were bidding for $1.

‘The results of this exercise are always pretty interesting,’ Says Ron. ‘In that often, people end up bidding far more than $1, for that $1. The actual winner is the one that has spent less over the three rounds.’

‘What it teaches you, really, is that a desire to win can drive us, and how crucial information can be to overcome this.’ 

5. Commercial acumen 

The problem 

Commercial skills, or more accurately, commercial acumen, is one of the most essential attributes for any procurement professional or leader, says Keith. There’s a few reasons for this, he believes: 

‘Over the years, we’ve had a lot of shrinkage in companies, meaning that pretty much every procurement team is now expected to do more with less.’ 

‘This means that there’s an increasing pressure on every single person, from those at the top to new graduates, to show they’re adding commercial value in everything they do.’ 

But what does ‘commercial value’ mean? Keith says that it’s far more than just simply an ability to understand financial basics: 

‘Commercial value is way beyond simply profit and loss. It’s an ability to understand the whole value chain more broadly, for example, it’s not simply the “cost of acquisition” from a procurement perspective, but the value of that acquisition or product to the whole business.’ 

The quick upskill solution

Given the broad and complex nature of commercial acumen, Keith believes this can be a hard area to train. A great place to start, though, is to align your job, and more broadly, the strategic priorities and activities of your function, to those of the organisation’s C-suite. ‘If what you are doing wouldn’t matter to the CEO,’ Says Keith. ‘Why are you doing it?’ 

One great way to put this into action is what Google calls ‘OKRs’ (Objectives and Key Results). When creating OKRs, you create a set of audacious, measurable goals that put your stakeholders/customers first, and align those with your organisation’s priorities. You then follow up your OKRs regularly; checking in monthly to see how you’re going. 

There’s lots of templates and tools on the internet that can help you set up OKRs. Atlassian have developed some great downloadables on this, or you can try these ones from Rework.

6. Supplier relationships

The problem

With supply chains becoming more and more complex, relationships are now not just important, but critical, in everything we do in procurement. Yet managing them has never been more challenging – we’ve got to coordinate tens, if not hundreds of moving parts that may include multiple vertical and horizontal dependencies; all poised to break at any minute if we don’t get things right. 

The quick upskill solution

Given the complex and often personal interdependencies between supplier relationships, often learning from others with experience is the only upskilling solution, says Keith Bird, Managing Director of the Faculty. To do so, joining an industry networking program can provide unparalleled benefits. 

One such program is The Faculty’s own Roundtable program, which connects and facilitates collaboration between the top CPOs across Australia. 

‘Using our program,’ Says Keith. ‘I’ve seen some of our partners begin, and also navigate exceedingly complex supplier relationships that wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.’ 

The Faculty’s roundtables are free for member organisations. 

7. Stakeholder management

The problem

Every single person in procurement has come across issues with stakeholder management at one stage. While it’s easy to blame individuals, though, often issues arise from a lack of information – and ultimately, it’s easy for a stakeholder to get frustrated and hard for them to see the value procurement add when they simply don’t know what’s happening. 

The quick upskill solution

The issue with stakeholder management, says Ron Brown, lead consultant at The Faculty, is that often, it’s just impossible to know who knows what. ‘So you’ll often find that there are people hiding in plain sight that are clueless and getting frustrated, yet you assume they know everything. Or worse, you assume they don’t need to know.’ 

One way to overcome this is to build out what’s called a RACI board (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed). To do this, you’ll need to: 

  1. Select one of the big categories for your procurement team
  2. Write a list of stakeholders on post-its. Remember to include everyone who will be involved in the category from beginning to end, no matter how tenuous the link. 
  3. Then map out the board, moving everyone around to create a map of whose involved, who knows what, and critically, who needs information and might not be getting it. 

‘Keeping stakeholders appropriately consulted and informed is a great first step in stakeholder management,’ says Ron. 

8. Digital skills 

The problem

In 2020 and beyond, there’s simply no hiding from digital. In our personal lives, we’re using it every day, and more and more, we’re doing so in our work lives as well. Increasingly, all large organisations are undergoing massive digital transformations, if they haven’t already, and procurement will need to play a big part in these, from a supplier to an implementation perspective. In short: if you haven’t got digital skills, you need to get them, pronto. 

The quick upskill solution

But what is ‘digital’? Where do you ever start?!? While the prospect sounds daunting, it needn’t be, says Euan, Procurious contributor. There’s literally millions of free resources online, and a great place to start is with a brand that’s synonymous with the internet itself: Google. 

Google’s Digital Garage provides a plethora of free, expert-level training on digital, on a range of topics that include everything from the digital business security to the basics of coding. You can check out their entire offering here.

Keith Bird, Managing Director at The Faculty, also believes that seeking out a digital mentor can be a great way to upskill: 

‘Admittedly, digital isn’t my forte, so I’ve expressly sought out a digital native in our business who can teach me. A mentoring relationship can really be between anyone; it doesn’t have to be an older person mentoring a younger person’ 

‘It’s more about a person with expertise mentoring someone who doesn’t yet have that knowledge.’ 

9. Technology 

The problem 

We’ve been hearing the same message for some years now: technology is fast replacing jobs! Artificial intelligence (AI) is coming! But those that usher these warnings are in fact a bit behind: there’s already a significant amount of AI in most systems we use, so the challenge now is to learn how to work with it. 

There’s no doubt that technology is evolving – and fast. We all need to keep up to date with the latest, but what’s the latest? And how do we keep up with it?

The quick upskill solution 

For all the latest in technology, says Keith Bird, Managing Director at The Faculty, you can’t go past industry podcasts. 

Keith recommends joining Procurious to keep up with the latest, or alternatively, listening to The Art of Procurement podcast.

10. Finance

The problem

Many outside of procurement might say that procurement and finance work in tandem – but from inside procurement teams, things often look quite different. In fact, when we’re trying to focus on strategic value, our relationship with finance can look a little strained, especially if the value we’re adding can’t immediately be quantified on the bottom line. 

The quick upskill solution 

For some skills, Euan Granger, Procurious contributor, says, ‘there’s no substitute for some good, old-fashioned peer-to-peer learning. And when you’re trying to learn about finance, there’s no better place to go than, well, finance.’ 

If you haven’t facilitated such a session before, Euan recommends, then try the following: 

  1. Get finance and procurement in the same room – this is key. 
  2. Get finance to do a toolbox talk on the key terms and metrics that matter to them – and how procurement can impact these. 
  3. Ask any questions and air any concerns – build the relationship and agree on ways of working moving forward. 

‘You’ll be surprised at what can be achieved in one simple meeting,’ Says Euan. Often being in the same room talking about what matters to each other is all that it takes for walls to come down and bridges to be built.’ 

 More skills, more solutions 

With procurement increasing in complexity, we all need to focus on rapid upskilling to continue to add value and stay relevant. To hear from the greatest minds in our industry, plus hear more of Sir Clive Woodward’s game-changing performance suggestions, join us at Procurious’ Big Ideas Summit 2020 on March 11 in London. 

Can’t make it? We’re currently offering digital delegate passes for free. Grab yours here now.

Contributors

Keith Bird, Managing Director of The Faculty. Connect with Keith on Linkedin here.

Ron Brown, Principal Advisor at The Faculty. Connect with Ron Brown here.

Euan Granger, Procurious Contributor. Connect with Euan here.

Want more? 

Want to learn more about in-demand skills in procurement, and all the other exciting developments and big issues our industry is facing this year? Join us to hear from Sir Clive Woodward and a stellar lineup of other speakers and industry leaders at our Big Ideas Summit. Digital Delegate tickets are currently available at no cost (for a limited time). 

If you’re interested in accessing market-leading industry insights and networking, express your interest in joining The Faculty’s Roundtable Program here. 

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…

By jamesteohart/ Shutterstock

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.

Want to get your wheels turning towards a supply chain career one could only dream of? Then don’t miss our upcoming Career Boot Camp with IBM – a free 5-part podcast series with some of the very best of the best. Check it out here: https://www.procurious.com/career-boot-camp-2019

5 Soft Skills Procurement Pros Should Be Developing…NOW!

If you want to hold on to your procurement career  in the long term, you ought to be worrying about mastering your soft skills!

Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here.

We got wind of the fact that IBM, arguably the world’s most robotically advanced procurement team,  is focussing on its employees’ soft skills.

As Justin Mcbryan, Learning & Development, Strategy, Communications Manager- IBM, explained,  why would IBM need a high volume of data scientists in their midst when they have Watson!?

Technological advancements will soon permit the automation of our processes; handling the sourcing and the market intelligence. In this environment, it’s the softer skills procurement professionals must master to ensure a long-term career.  That’s the real skills gap procurement should be worried about!

Ahead of next week’s webinar Beat The Bots – How Being Human Will Win The Day,  we outline the specific skills procurement pros should be mastering to prepare for the post-cognitive age, with the help of Justin and our second webinar speaker John Viner Smith, Principal-Mercer.

1. Design Thinking

There are some “incredible and transformative technologies that offer solutions to problems that were unimaginable just a few years ago ,but they’re just half of the puzzle.” begins John.

“Subject matter experts will have a role to play in framing  [these problems] in the most efficient way.”  It’s important that the solutions aren’t simply “sticking plasters but fundamental root cause fixes”.

This is a role for procurement’s best and brightest, and the skill needed to fulfil this role is Design Thinking; “the process of being at the forefront of bringing new technologies to bear on business problems.”

2. Thinking at the speed of digital!

Joh asserted that procurement must recognise that “thinking of digital solutions requires some understanding of new processes and ways of thinking.”

“Procurement people should be learning about methodologies like Google’s Design Sprint or Eric Ries’ concept of Intrapreneurship as defined in the Lean Startup that are used in other types of digital business.

“Too often procurement thinking is slow, bound in process and incredibly risk averse. Technology problem solving is experimental, iterative and views failures as key to learning. The idea of developing hypotheses, testing them, failing fast and iterating or pivoting in the course of a week, as per Google’s Sprint methods, would be alien to many Procurement people.”

Procurement has worked at a certain pace,  thus far. And it’s going to  have to get faster!

3. Active questioning and listening

This wouldn’t be a piece about soft skills without a mention of communication! We already know how important this skill is for procurement people but it’s going to be all the more valuable in a post-cognivite age.

Justin reminded us that communication is vital for everything “from presentation skills to phone etiquette and how to ask probing questions to your suppliers.”

In a post cognitive world you’re “going to become more of an owner and less of a process facilitator” asserts Justin, which is where active listening comes in.

When it comes to managing negotiations with suppliers, clients and colleagues, “We all have scripts e.g. How many widgets do you need, when do you need them by etc.”

“Every now  and then, you’ll have  been in a situation where a client has given a little bit more than you asked for. This is where the active [and critical] listening comes in.” How do you use that information to do the best job possible?

4. Negotiation

“We rely on the threat of competitive pressure to do our negotiating for us” says John.

“We source the spec and don’t always listen to challenges from Suppliers. When we’re engaging them to help solve complex problems, we will need to be more commercially empowered and highly skilled negotiators; able to get the best from our suppliers by offering the best of ourselves while optimising value.”

5. Imagination

“The future role of procurement can be solved in one phrase: problem solving” says John.

But procurement’s problem solving needs to take on a more innovative and imaginative approach.

“Not every situation is going to call for an RFX” explains Justin. “That speaks directly to the change we’re looking for [at IBM].” Too often “we see a need and our reaction from a process point is let’s go and do the RFX.”  Instead professionals “should take a deep breath and start understanding the client and exactly what they need,” and approach the problem in alternate ways.

John concedes, arguing that “running tender might be the solution (increasingly rarely!) but collaborative innovation with the suppliers we have is important.”

Procurement peoples’ jobs will largely focus on bringing innovation to the supply chain in the first place and really helping the business to understand their demand.

In short, Procurement needs to have a relationship with the organisation that is much more strategic and puts the function in a partnering and consultative role.  As Justin sums up, ‘ [at IBM] We’re still looking for the procurement experts, we’re still looking for people who can do the job. But we’re adding to the soft skills portfolio.”

Our webinar, Beat The Bots: How Being Human Will Win The Day, takes place at 1pm BST on 24th October 2017. Register your attendence for FREE here.