Procurement is finally starting to get some of the recognition it deserves, but we need the right talent to make sure it keeps evolving. The challenging economic climate that we have experienced for the past few years has seen procurement make the step up from being a cost saver to a strategic partner. Whereas the function was once viewed as a ‘penny-pincher’, many now acknowledge the overall value it can deliver to an organisation.
From risk management, to fostering innovation and refining supply chains, procurement professionals have arguably never been as valued as they are today. Despite this, there remains much to be done for the function to secure its position at the board table.
Firstly a new type of professional is needed. People able to tackle problems strategically and see beyond short term savings. However, attracting this type of talent remains difficult. Procurement may have a wider remit than ever before, but ask any graduate what the function does and ‘cut costs’ is likely to form the entirety of the answer.
The function needs to shout about its success and the breadth of its contributions to business if it is to attract the talent it needs to stay at board level. In this piece, I consider the type of professional procurement needs to keep its strategic place, as well as how to retain them.
Identifying the right people
Procurement’s wider involvement in the business means the skillset needed by those within the function has evolved.
At 4C Associates we are constantly on the lookout for top procurement talent, particularly those who can blend the traditional procurement consultant skillset with the ability to build relationships and take a holistic approach to problem solving. It is this type of professionals which not only get the job done, but also elevate the function as a whole.
We’ve designed our interview process around identifying this type of candidate and really focus on case study approaches. We usually give them a scenario and a variety of data to see how good they are at spotting opportunities. They then present their findings. The best candidates are able to demonstrate communication skills, as well as analytical thinking, dynamism and a strategic mind-set. This type of professional is the future of the function.
This type of approach also lets us target non standard candidates who may not be able to demonstrate the full compliment of procurement capabilities, but who show a breadth of commercial experience that will translate at a later date. Having this breadth of talent within the organisation is important and lets us work with and understand out clients better.
Of course once you identify the right person and make a hire, you need to keep them. A recent gathering of the Food & Drink Procurement Industry Forum found that many procurement departments saw better remuneration as pivotal to retaining top talent. This should be no surprise given that the 2014 CIPS Salary Review found that procurement heads’ salaries are generally higher than equivalent roles in marketing, HR, finance, IT and sales.
A recent study by employment agency Reed, found that 54% of companies offer training opportunities to their procurement staff as part of their retention programme. A further 39% promote people internally and 38% offer flexible working hours.
In contrast, a 2014 survey by recruitment consultancy Michael Page found that 69% of procurement professionals do not think their organisation does enough to retain talent. The equivalent cross-industry figure is 60%. A sure sign that more needs to be done.
Procurement as a career path is still in its infancy compared to other more established functions, such as accounting or finance. Yet, the function has enjoyed a substantial boost in terms of importance within most businesses in the past few years and must use this momentum to establish itself and publicise its success.
At the end of the day, the burden of building up the profession should fall to the more experienced procurement professionals. Talk up your achievements, both internally and externally and do not be afraid to go beyond savings when discussing your triumphs. Procurement now plays a key role in the strategies behind many leading businesses and this needs to become public knowledge.
Only by highlighting the latter will the profession be able to attract the type of talent which will keep procurement in the limelight.