Tag Archives: teamwork

Team Approach: How Procurement Pros Can Procure Talent Better

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

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

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

Team Players

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

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

Subjective and biased candidate selection process

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

Conflict amongst team members

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

Superior collaboration

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

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

You Don’t Have To Be A Procurement Genius

So you think you’re some kind of procurement genius? In this day and age, there ain’t no such thing and that’s ok!

We all like to think we’re geniuses, that we can single-handedly solve all the procurement problems of the world.

We now know that the concept of the ‘solo genius’ is largely a myth. True creativity comes from collaborative partnerships such as Jobs and Wozniak, Lennon and McCartney, or the Wright Brothers. Even the most famous ‘solo’ geniuses – Einstein, Newton, Mozart – didn’t operate in a vacuum, but built upon the work of countless others. Today, we’re lucky to live in a world where all the answers and ideas we need are only a click away.

Let’s face it, procurement’s most pressing issues (slavery, child labour, unsafe work practices, exploitation, neglect for the environment and copyright) are too big for any one person, or even any one company, to solve alone.

Even at the best of times, working in procurement can be a lonely place, even when we’re working as part of a team. You might be the only person managing your category in your company, in your industry, maybe even in your whole country!

Clambering out of Einstein’s basement

If you have a problem that you can’t fix and need some breakthrough thinking, don’t be like Einstein and barricade yourself in a basement waiting for genius to strike.

Remember that you are part of a vast, virtual, global procurement team full of millions of talented professionals with ideas – help is only a click away.

Get yourself out of isolation, onto the global playing field and ask the universe for inspiration.

Solving the world’s problems, together.

Over five thousand Procurious members visit our discussion board every month to share ideas and offer advice to their peers. Our blogs spark debate, with members feeding their own commentary and ideas into the global community.

The three hottest topics on Procurious in the past two years have been the Tianjin Port disaster, the Trump election and, most recently, the Grenfell Tower fire.

We are still seeing the ripple effects of these events with high levels of member engagement and interaction within the community; the feeding back of vital intelligence on alternate sourcing, suppliers, freight, logistics, on-the-ground contacts and changing regulations.

The hurried and helpful responses to these challenges by the global procurious community has proven that many hands make light work of disruption.

It’s clear that we want to talk online about the issues affecting procurement and are keen to help each other. It would seem that global “team procurement” is alive and well – but are you part of the flow?

Leveraging the Power of 23,000

There are now 23,000 Procurious members across 145+ countries, all with different strengths, weaknesses and experiences. Somewhere, out there, is someone who has had the same experience as you and some wise words to share.

Leveraging the wisdom of the crowd is the beauty of social media. By building your online presence and contacts you can craft a network of thought-leaders, influencers, and experts around you, to provide fantastic ideas and insights.

Even if you have a truly unique problem, there will be someone who can provide a fresh perspective that creates a lightbulb moment for you.

Take the lead

As a successful leader, you don’t have to have all the answers – but you do need to have the best questions….and know who to ask for the answers!

Whichever business icon or “genius” you admire – whether it be Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Elon Musk………you know they are not the only person providing the brain power to conjure their vision, there are teams working day and night to deliver the dream.

Like me, you’re probably “blown away” (pardon the pun) by the rapid progress of the SpaceX program. But as you admire Elon’s vision, just remember this is not solo genius, no one talented employee finding all the answers – there have been thousands of people working over decades to get these game-changing rockets to the launch pad who have been collaborating globally online to solve a millions of small and large challenges on the journey to space.

It’s exactly the same story in procurement. Behind every apparent genius (aka Global CPO), there’s a team of procurement pros behind the scene helping come up with solutions. Even if you don’t have a real team helping you – you have a secret weapon – you can consult your global team of procurement buddies to help you find the answer.

Be the smartest guy in the room

To shockproof our profession and become the smartest guys in the room, we need to move out of our silos and work together.

Procurement needs to be ahead of the curve – to be agile, to be savvy and to be bold. We are the avengers, the rock stars, the movers and shakers negotiating the deals that guarantee supply, quality, cost, ethics and sustainability. But we can’t do it on our own.

When you’re next faced with a challenge or struggling with the beginnings of a great idea. Don’t just sit there. Do Something. Get online and ask questions. The answer is only a click away.

Collaborate to proliferate!

Make it happen!

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.