What Do We Really Mean When We Talk ‘Talent’ In Procurement?

Depending with whom you speak, you get very different views on the subject of talent in procurement.

What do we mean when we talk 'talent' in procurement?


When we say talent, we don’t mean the ability to sing, dance or unicycle down the street whilst juggling flaming swords (although that would be a useful skill to have…), but having the skills and knowledge necessary to cope with the expanding role of procurement in organisations.

In some sections of the procurement profession, authors and business leaders believe that procurement is ‘doomed’, with procurement struggling to attract the right, talented individuals into the profession, while simultaneously limiting itself by not developing the right skill sets to deal with the changing role.

On the other side, some business leaders believe that the next generation is key and that, with a bit of effort, procurement can turn this around and attract the key talent it requires. By using social media, CPOs can understand how to stay ahead of the game and attract good procurement professionals, while strides can also be made by investing time and effort at university level students.

The Bad News

Spend Matters Editor, Jason Busch, argues that procurement skill sets are not changing with the times, or at least not changing as quickly as the skill sets in other parts of the organisation. A further argument is that the people who you have in procurement now, are not necessarily the people you need to take the profession that next step.

It has been widely quoted that 70 per cent of companies in the UK feel they have a shortage of skilled staff. The story is the same across the world, with similar results being posted in Australia and North America.

CPOs are expecting and demanding more from their teams, but have concerns that individuals are missing the crucial skills required for success. Among the ‘missing’ skills are some biggies too:

  • Negotiation
  • Stakeholder Engagement
  • Strategic Thinking
  • Adopting of Technological Enablers

However, for some, the issue is being able to combine all the basic procurement skills with subject matter expertise, something that is becoming less common in an age where the workforce is more mobile and less likely to stay in one place for an extended period of time.

What’s the Problem?

For a while now, associations such as CIPS and ISM, and organisations like Procurious, have been trying to change the perception of procurement as a career. However, old attitudes and perceptions are proving hard to shift.

The next generation coming through education now are looking at procurement and not seeing the potential for advancement and a perceived limited career path is dulling the attraction. It’s only recently that procurement or supply chain heads are taking up executive positions at major organisations in the public eye (think Tim Cook at Apple).

Financial compensation at the top level of the profession is also not keeping with pace with other functions. While CFO compensation has gone up by double digits on average each year, in some cases CPOs have been lucky to see a 3% to 4% increase.

The Good News

If that all sounds pretty bleak, there is light at the end of the tunnel. In the first 6 months of 2015, organisations have been making very public efforts to attract new talent and showcase procurement.

The UK Government has launched a new public sector procurement apprenticeship scheme, highlighting the experience to be gained working on high profile, high-value projects that affect millions of people. You can find out more about the scheme here.

Other organisations, like NHS Procurement and Skills Development Scotland, are actively working with universities, realising that by recruiting these fresh minds, they are also accessing a valuable source of innovation, new strategic viewpoints and thought processes.

How to Do It

There’s no sure-fire way of attracting the ‘right’ talent to your organisation as different people always look for different things. But we’ve pulled together some good tips for you to think about:

  • What is Procurement? – Define it well, offer prospects, tell the wavering students why this is a great opportunity
  • Pass on Skills – Around 60 per cent of procurement uses mentorship; ensure that skills are passed on and not lost
  • Professional Development – A big one for the ‘millennial’ generation, but critical for helping to retain talent too
  • Interesting Roles – Being able to be mobile, work on different projects and gain experience across the function
  • Grow Talent – Make sure you hire the right people. Assess things like cultural fit and personal values
  • Social Media – Don’t underestimate the power of social media and learn how it can benefit you

Procurious founder Tania Seary is travelling through Australasia in the next few weeks and will talk about procurement talent. Why not let us know if Tania is visiting your organisations, or contact us if you’d like to get her to come and talk to you.

Meanwhile, here are the big news headlines that should be catching your eye in procurement and supply chain this week.

Key takeaways from George Osbornes’s summer Budget

  • The government announced plans for a new apprenticeship levy, which would be paid by all “large employers”. Eddie Tuttle, senior policy and public affairs manager at the CIOB, said: “The government has set itself an ambitious target of delivering 3 million apprenticeships over the next five years – equivalent to 600,000 new apprenticeships a year. The introduction of a new apprenticeship levy is a big ask for business, but one that recognises the acute skills shortages industries such as construction will face in the future unless significant investment is made in training. And if the government is to deliver on its ambitions, more needs to be done to promote construction as a viable career path.
  • An increase in the national minimum wage, now branded the “National Living Wage” that will rise to £9 by 2020, should help some low paid workers. Iain McIlwee, chief executive of the British Woodworking Federation, says: “And looking at the direct impact on SMEs in the construction supply chain, while an increase in the minimum wage for the lowest paid is welcome, we cannot ignore the fact that such increases have a knock-on effect throughout a business, creating inflation in a firm’s total wage bill.“Our latest State of Trade survey among Britain’s joinery manufacturing firms already reveals that 73 per cent of respondents had seen a sharp increase in labour costs, and this is fast becoming a constraint on business.
  • The government is inviting bids for a new round of Enterprise Zones, which will encourage towns and districts to work with local enterprise partnerships to develop bids.
  • And finally: Public sector pay will increase by 1 per cent a year for four years from 2016-17.

Read more at Construction Manager

Nordic report calls for less fast fashion

  • A new report which has mapped out a more sustainable road-map for the Nordic textile industries recommends that replacing fast fashion, reducing resource inputs and encouraging local sourcing should become key priorities.
  • The report was commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers and includes work from the National Institute for Consumer Research, the Sustainable Fashion Academy, the Nordic Fashion Association/nicefashion.org, the Swedish Environmental Research Institute and the Copenhagen Resource Institute.

Read more at Ecotextile [subscription site]

India’s Snapdeal to invest $200m in strengthening supply chain services

  • India’s largest online marketplace, Snapdeal, is planning to invest around $200m in bolstering its supply chain services including warehousing, logistics and training and sale assistance.
  • The company aims to be able to host around 1 million sellers over the next three years.
  • In March, Snapdeal had acquired a 20 per cent stake in Gojavas that helps it with last-mile delivery. Following the acquisition, Snapdeal had committed to invest between $150 and $200m over the next one year in logistics and supply chain.

Read more at LBR