There shouldn’t really be a talent crisis in procurement. Sometimes I can’t help but roll my eyes a little when I hear a well-meaning utterance of ‘it all comes down to people’ when team leaders talk about their own plans: until the singularity arrives, any strategy is mostly about and dependent on people. So, if we agree that quality talent is central to any transformative effort, it’s still a surprise that procurement teams struggle so much to hire the right people for the right roles.
It’s time to reject the victim mentality that runs along these lines: ‘If only high-potential candidates understood what procurement was – it’s not our fault we’re trying to hire for roles no one has heard of’. Anyone you would want in your team would know the importance of supply chains, the decisive effect they have on a business’ fortunes – it’s not procurement you have to sell, it’s the influence of the function and the roles within it.
It’s here where I think many are failing to be effective, because they’re sticking with old ideas. Within the Procurement Leaders network, the functions that are getting ahead in their talent programmes are inverting old ways of thinking about skill sets and roles, focusing on bringing a much more business-focused set of individuals to the fore.
Here’s a few ideas that stood out from recent conversations about how these leaders are changing the way they think about and attract talent.
One of the common complaints from procurement teams in a phase of recruitment is that they can’t compete with big name corporations, or their compensation packages don’t match up against other functions. But in both cases, we’re underselling prospects’ potential to see procurement as a way to change the world. Being able to implement true sustainable sourcing in a smaller organisation, or being able to see yourself heading up a supplier diversity initiative can represent a huge draw for an individual who values impact over financial reward.
Procurement Leaders’ competency model (available to members here) does a lot of things, but what it does really well is identifying attributes where procurement and business skills overlap. That works two ways: in assessing talent, it’s vital for teams to define and assemble those skill sets that allow teams to become an influential force within their organisation. But in terms of attracting talent, if we only look for a narrow, limited skill set, this becomes self-fulfilling: boring, limited roles attract bored, limited staff. We should be looking for creative people to fill roles that emphasise their best attributes – and if that means throwing away the conventional approach to those roles, maybe we need to be a bit more creative too.
At the risk of ranting: why is procurement so bad at branding itself? In my experience the function has extremely smart people in it, who are willing and capable of empathising with stakeholders and suppliers. But why does that stall when it comes to prospects? Most likely it doesn’t completely, but there is some kind of disconnect between HR, procurement and the market. For me the solution is a more deliberate approach and a willingness to do things differently. Effective automation is supposed to unlock possibilities for the function, so articulating those to all the talented people waiting for a more fulfilling job should be a much greater priority for procurement chiefs.
I’d love to hear your own views on what procurement can and should do differently – and maybe any way that Procurement Leaders can help!
This article is a piece of independent writing by a member of Procurement Leaders’ content team.