Milan Panchmatia considers whether procurement departments should be focussing on recruiting candidates with soft skills over those with academic credentials.
Few would argue that hiring a candidate based purely on their academic achievements is a good idea. Anyone who has managed a team knows that multiple elements need to be taken into account before recruiting someone. This is especially true within procurement, where an ever-evolving remit requires a broad and adaptable skillset.
Prospective employees need to be a good match for the company’s culture, but also possess the skills needed to perform. In this context, qualifications are a good way to assess an individuals’ ability to deliver value, but by no means the only indicator. This is especially relevant in a world where soft skills are increasingly valuable.
A hybrid function
The importance of soft skills has been magnified by the uncertain economic climate many organisations are evolving in. While optimising spend remains a priority for businesses, numerous suppliers are simply unable, or unwilling, to cut prices further.
This situation has opened the door for numerous SRM initiatives. While these projects offer valuable opportunities, they also require a more collaborative approach between procurement and suppliers. At 4C Associates, we have seen many of our clients effectively reduce their costs through workstreams that have proved beneficial to suppliers and buyers alike.
That is not to say that qualifications should be overlooked. Someone who holds a qualification has been trained to deliver results across a range of situations. Few people will be able to work out what constitutes best practice in any given circumstance and training means they are prepared to tackle a wide range of challenges. Some skills can and need to be taught.
A shortage of soft skills
A recent survey of hiring managers in the USA, carried out by LinkedIn, found that 59% believe there is a shortage of soft skills on the market. Further research into their online database found that ‘communication’, ‘organisation’ and ‘teamwork’ were the top three most in-demand soft skills amongst employees. ‘Social skills’, ‘creativity’ and ‘adaptability’ also made the top ten.
This dearth of candidates with soft skills means that those with matching qualifications are ever rarer. Organisations have more to gain by recruiting talent which already possess the required soft skills and providing them with opportunities to develop a more technical skillset. This is particularly true in procurement which, for a multitude of reasons, is a category which many people end up in by chance rather than by choice.
Taking the wheel
Some would argue that historically procurement has been over-reliant on technical know-how and to some extent I would agree. Don’t get me wrong. Anyone looking for a successful career in procurement needs to be an excellent negotiator, a skilled analyst and someone who understands the ins and outs of contract management.
However, as procurement morphs into a more strategic function and takes a more collaborative approach to working with suppliers, soft skills will become ever more important. Procurement is now in a position where it needs to take on a leading role within businesses and this requires people who can inspire others to follow their lead.