Over the past few months, Proxima has been looking in detail at the issue of talent, where we have been trying to identify new trends as well as the skills and individual traits future leaders of the function need.
During this period, we have sat on a panel discussion at Procurement Leaders’ World Procurement Congress, hosted a webinar, as well as compiled findings from discussions with CPOs, recruiters, academics and experts in the field.
We have heard a number of things but we realised we hadn’t asked or tested those findings on a wider audience. So, armed with a few short questions, we polled a global group of procurement professionals, asking who they are, what traits they admire in themselves and their peers, and the traits that differentiate “rising stars”.
Over half of our respondents were in the 35-42 age bracket while around 75% were male, which we’ve found to be consistent with the overall demographics of the function.
Our first question was: “What have you found to be the three most important skills in your career?”
We presented a range of choices, including soft and technical procurement skills. Out of 15 or so options, those that received major support were:
Grouping these into four larger buckets (engagement, critical thinking, technical skills, and strategic planning) we found a clear trend with over 80% indicating engagement-based skills – which include stakeholder engagement, communications, influencing and teamwork – were the most valued. From these answers, we found that while the technical training procurement professionals have is important, the soft skills are the ones most valued as they move through their career.
The next question we asked was: “What skill do you wish you had in your toolkit that you don’t have today?”
This was open-ended. Our responses included similar skills to those presented above but had a few others mixed in.
While engagement skills were the most valued in the first question, there was an equal split in this question between technical and engagement skills. It could be that respondents felt confident they had engagement ’down’ and wanted to develop in different areas. On the other hand, the even split might indicate that while they may feel confident in one area, they had room to grow in other areas, such as stakeholder engagement.
After this, we asked: “What are the key qualities of a great procurement professional?”
Our findings were telling: communication was mentioned 33% of the time, but listening only came up once. There was an interesting mix of answers that seemed to lend themselves to both confidence and humility. Self-assurance without self-inflation isn’t as challenging as it sounds. The answer might be authenticity and curiosity: knowing what you do well, sharing it with others, being open to new ideas and acknowledging when you don’t have all the answers.
Unsurprisingly, people mostly admired skills in others that they wanted to develop themselves.
And finally, we asked the all-important question: “What makes a rising star?”
The clear message here was that skills can be learned and potential can be seen – but this alone isn’t enough.
It’s curiosity, drive and determination that will continue to set people apart: the ability to go for it where others hesitate and take a chance where others play it safe. And above all? Take time to communicate, balance confidence with humility, and connect with people on a human level.
It’s never too late to learn – while you might only get one chance to be a rising star, you always have an opportunity to shine.
Simon Geale is VP client solutions at Proxima.
This contributed article has been written by a guest writer at the invitation of Procurement Leaders.