Tag Archives: talent management

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. 

Procurement Needs People: How To Nurture Your Top Talent

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

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

Applying the 80/20 Rule In Procurement

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

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

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

Purchasing Vs Procurement

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

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

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

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

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

Is Purchasing Only About Getting The Lowest Price?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Hold On Tight To Prospective Procurement Talent

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Procurement Talent Pool

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

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

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

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

Understand key motivators

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

Get clarity on the full package

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

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

Offer a healthy balance

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

Ensure that people want to join your people!

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

People join people more than they join companies.

A competent recruitment process

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

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

Make your offer compelling

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

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

What Does Procurement Agility Mean in 2016?

Discussing the term ‘Procurement Agility’, and the ways in which procurement organisations can become more agile in their activities.

Procurement Agility

In various reports and papers published over the last few years the phrase “procurement must be agile”, appears on a constant basis. Indeed, there is even a regular publication called ‘The Agility Agenda’. It’s an excellent read and well worth subscribing to.

This article will try and give some practical takeaways for procurement professionals to consider when applying in their own environments.

When considering procurement agility, we need to consider internal and external environments for the two main themes that are emerging in 2016.

Procurement Talent

With the release of the recent Deloitte CPO Survey, attention has once again fallen on talent, and the acquisition, developing and retaining of it. According to the report over 60 per cent of CPOs feel that their teams do not have the skills needed to perform their roles. What is also interesting in noting that the report suggests that these CPOS are not looking to change their teams, but to develop them.

The report states that training budgets have largely stagnated, if not fallen. So how can CPOs develop their teams without a large training budget.

The answer could be an agile programme that blends the theories and methods of procurement with an increase in workplace based development. These programmes, sometimes called Active Learning Programmes, are a mix of short classroom based sessions, which are then immediately applied back in the workplace. When those skills have been applied, it’s time to move to the next set of skills.

These activities are supplemented with desktop video learning. Again, the importance is on the quick application back in the workplace. The idea here is to utilise more of the 70-20-10 learning methodology. Writers such as Tough (1979) and Kajewski and Masden (2012) have argued that the majority of adult learning (about 70 per cent) takes place outside institutional frameworks, while 20 per cent is supported by those who are not professional helpers, such as supervisors, colleagues, parents and friends. Professional helpers, such as teachers, trainers and counsellors, account for only 10 per cent.

For example:

  • 70 per cent – informal, on the job, experience based, stretch projects and practice
  • 20 per cent – coaching, mentoring, developing through others
  • 10 per cent – formal learning interventions and structured courses.

The application of this theory into development platforms has gained momentum in recent years, and this has impacted how people put together formal programmes. For example, according to Kajewski and Masden (2012), an Australian firm has 70 per cent of learning as experience on the job to integrate, practice and master new skills, knowledge or changes in behaviour.

20 per cent of learning is from exposure to others, such as learning through the observation of others (mentors, coaches), and reflection on the impact of this behaviour on one’s own practice. Just 10 per cent of learning is from formal programs designed for the acquisition of knowledge or skills through carefully programmed instruction.

Alternatively, an Australian public sector programme has been set out in a more simplistic way, in that 70 per cent of learning is experiential, 20 per cent of learning is relationship based and 10 per cent of learning is formal.

What is clear is that despite the differences in application the methodology allows multiple ways for practitioners to develop their skills as opposed to formal training alone.

Responsiveness

One of the constant gripes about procurement is the time it takes to “get things done”. Procurement therefore needs to be agile in responding to its stakeholders, both internally and externally.

The fundamentals of Just In Time suggest a review of the non-value and value-adding activities as a means of eliminating waste. If we apply this to our process and procedures, we may find that the need to ask the same question multiple times adds to the turnaround time in procurement, and frustrates suppliers.

Many procurement organisations decide, for a number of reasons, that they need to deal with a set of suppliers who have already passed the hurdle required to supply to an organisation. This could be supply chain transparency, insurance requirements, past history. The ‘barriers’ are yours to set.

Pre-qualification allows these questions to be answered once, and also will allow procurement to have pass/fail rates for areas such as supply chain transparency and accreditation. Ultimately this will also help to develop better relationships with those critical suppliers, to reduce lead times, allow for innovation, and allow procurement to focus on other value adding activities.

When considering the matter of procurement agility, it is imperative to understand the multiple ways we can be agile in meeting the changing needs of our organisations. From building better teams, equipped with the skills and knowledge our organisations require for the future, to ensuring that the suppliers we work with can help meet the objectives of the organisations, procurement agility comes in many shapes and sizes.