Tips For Attracting And Retaining The Brightest Talent

Leadership Staff developmentTalent and Leadership

In this guest post, the third in a series, Procurement Leaders invites author Gerard Chick to identify what he thinks procurement functions need to do in 2015 in order to attract the best and brightest individuals to their team. Gerard shares his manifesto on procurement talent in the recently released Issue 54 of Procurement Leaders Magazine.


Contemporary procurement’s role is continuing its progress from decision support to one requiring a predictive capability; and increasingly there is currently demand for procurement professionals who can demonstrate that they are both commercially focused as well as capable of analytical work.


The emergence of the need for people equipped with these skills seems to rests on three factors. Firstly the success that many procurement departments have had in increasing their influence on indirect spend in the business. As their influence has grown in respect of spend management, it seems that the requisite number of staff to manage that spend has not been recruited in line with the growth.


Another factor relates to the volatility of commodity prices. In an attempt to manage the risk today’s uncertain economic environment has generated, senior managers have been looking to procurement to use its teams to hone in on the issue. Yet it is not uncommon for CPOs to have people in their teams who are woefully lacking the prerequisite skill sets mentioned above to fulfil the need.


Finally, we have witnessed changes in both in procurement and business over the last thirty years and along the way the skill sets of many in the procurement function have remained tactical because qualifications or learning have been either under-utilised or ignored whilst the growing strategic influence of procurement has created a demand for something different.


Clearly some people can be retrained to meet these new demands. Whilst others, unable to adapt to today’s more strategic skill sets, will need to find jobs elsewhere in the business or be transitioned out completely. These drivers have both increased demand and changed the fundamental requirements of what being talented and professional means.

There is, therefore, an imperative to get the right talent, right now. Listed below are a few indicators regarding the potential attractiveness of a business to smart candidates:

  • Where are you based in relation to other top employers inside or outside your industry sector?
  • Has your business been through hard times?
  • Is the salary you are offering attractive in the current job market?
  • Is the scale and scope of the role appealing enough to attract top talent?
  • What kind of relationship do you have with your HR department?
  • Can you articulate the skills and abilities you want well enough?
  • Who is the final arbiter regarding the job specification?
  • Who will choose the successful candidate?

Without a clear expectation of the type and quality of the people you want and how you will position the role to attract them you are setting yourself up to fail. In particular the best procurement organisations want people who can make sound commercial decisions. The traditional transactional skills of procurement on which the function was built, are changing with increasing importance on people who are culturally aware. Look for people who are collaborative, innovative, diligent optimisers with strong leadership skills.


Developing a strong relationship with your HR department is essential. One area where there is a great deal of room for improvement is in the dynamic between HR and procurement. If you want top people don’t get out your standard job description template, fill it in and advertise.

When it comes to your future stars you need to accelerate their potential to rise within the business or create opportunities for them to gain breadth. For example if someone is very good at procuring a particular commodity, advancement may take the form of growing laterally as opposed to vertically - moving into different categories or leading special projects.


Finally it is better to recruit for talent, than background. It is critically important to differentiate between your requirements and your preferences so you don’t waste time searching for the "nice-to-haves" rather than essential requirements.


To improve recruitment and retention levels in procurement, it is crucial to create a deeper working relationship between procurement and HR. Building strong partnerships that will allow talent management to succeed, functional and procurement executives need to go beyond their comfort zones and adopt a much more creative, candidate-centred approach to recruitment and retention.


Procurement managers can no longer rely entirely on HR, and must instead shoulder some of the responsibility for recruiting the best and the brightest. By investing time and resources, developing clear and appropriate job roles and setting out clear paths for professional growth and advancement you will find, develop and retain the talent your organisation deserves.

Gerard Chick is chief knowledge officer at Optimum Procurement.

His new book, ’The Procurement Value Proposition: The Rise Of Supply Management’ is available from Kogan Page here.


Jonathan Webb
Posted by Jonathan Webb

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