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Procurement's soft-skill puzzle


07-Mar-16 12:52
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It’s a common answer to a common question: what procurement chiefs often want most in their staff is interpersonal skills. But is this becoming an unhelpful cliché?

Procurement Leaders recently launched the Leadership in Procurement report, an inspiring piece of research that projects what is expected of procurement leaders, and consequently, the modern procurement function.

 

Having worked closely with the procurement community in the last three years to diagnose their most pressing strategic talent and leadership issues, it’s no surprise that strategic thinking and commercial awareness come up as the biggest skills gaps the function as a whole is facing nowadays.

However, this finding truly took me by surprise: 88% of procurement staff we surveyed in our new report believe that the procurement function has a leadership skills shortage. And these, as you might have guessed already, are by no means any technical skills, but all soft skills. In fact, according to procurement professionals, the largest leadership skill gaps lie in being visionary, ability to build a team culture, communication, and openness to change.

 

But, I ask myself, wouldn’t these types of skills be expected of any leader, regardless of industry, business function, and geography? And why don’t have procurement leaders these skills to begin with?

 

I cannot help but think that historically, we have been focusing too much on developing technical skills such as negotiation, spend analysis, contract management, etc. and not done enough about the people element of it.

We often forget that a large portion of the work procurement should do is persuade, challenge and influence – for the better of the business. And for that to happen, we need to build confidence to communicate and engage with other parts of the business.

Indeed, one of our survey participants we spoke with perfectly summarises the, what I would call, ‘ideal’ skill profile of a procurement leader: “Procurement needs to take its input and go out to the marketplace to sell the company and excite suppliers. It has to get those ideas from suppliers to sell back to the marketing team – it’s sort of internal consultancy and sales person role. You need to be dynamic; you need to be on your toes.”



To see what Procurement Leaders does to support companies with talent transformation please visit our Academy page. Also, we are running our Americas Congress in Miami this week (March 8-9), covering talent across two days. You can follow us on Twitter using #plcongress.

This article is a piece of independent writing by a member of Procurement Leaders’ content team.


Maggie Slowik Maggie Slowik joined Procurement Leaders in 2009, working closely with members to carry out research initiatives which address the function’s most strategic issues, in particular sustainability and talent development. In 2013, Maggie helped launch the Academy and has supported the development and delivery of the programmes ever since. Follow Maggie on Twitter: @maggieslowik

 
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