Whenever I travel to Asia, I hear a huge amount about the talent challenges that procurement executives operating there face. CPOs are being forced to pay premium salaries for talent which, to put it bluntly, is below par. And when I say premium, I mean higher - much higher - than western standards.
In this, there isn’t so much of a problem - it’s a simple matter of supply and demand, after all. But the real problems begin with retention.
Finding the right person can be a difficult and expensive exercise in its own right. Developing them more so. The reality is that at the lower levels, it’s probably a couple of years before an employee starts to deliver a significant amount of value. But then, after all of the work has been done it’s at about this stage that the job offers come flooding in.
At last week’s Procurement Leaders’ roundtable event in Hong Kong, it was a topic discussed in detail. Every one of the executives expressed frustration with the difficulties they face staffing their functions, and a few went beyond that, saying the problems they encounter with staff being poached once fully developed has reached critical proportions.
So, what to do?
The most simple response is to pay more. This can work, but is unlikely to satisfy staff in the long run - financial reward is only one part of a complex algorithm that underpins job satisfaction.
Rather, CPOs should be looking at more creative ways of keeping employees engaged. Greater autonomy is one way, but I believe that the single best way to get staff bought in for the long run is to create a cross-functional culture where the procurement team is fully engaged with the business, involved in specification discussions, outsourcing decisions, and so on.
By doing so, even junior buyers will have visibility of what their day-to-day activities are helping to achieve. And staff who can see the impact of their work are far less likely to have their heads turned.
This, however, just one tactic - I’d be interested to hear what CPOs are doing to keep hold of key employees...
David Rae is editor of Procurement Leaders. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.