Attracting the best talent to Procurement

Rich Sains
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Procurement - a profession that many know little about until they fall into, and in love with, it.

Traditionally, this has appealed most to those of us who are more detail-oriented, analytical, organised and passionate about doing the right thing for our organisations by ensuring they are lean, mean and risk-free.

But with Procurement developing into a more strategic function, with greater focus on value and innovation, we need more diverse teams.

So how can we go about attracting the right talent?

And not just someone who ticks the right boxes:

  • A degree
  • CIPS qualified
  • 5 years experience in the sector
  • Category specialism is essential
  • Strong track record of delivery
  • Drivers license
  • Wants to work in an office

How much does this narrow the field? Someone who has fallen into procurement and has these attributes and is looking for a new role and interviews well.

Procurement will never embrace diversity as long as this is the approach to hiring.

So - what should we be looking for? How can we attract talent out of university (or college, or school)? How can we get the best talent from other business functions to 'fall into' Procurement?

The following six tips will help:

1. Highlight the strategic importance of procurement.

Many people outside the profession (and some inside) still see procurement as a transactional function, but it is becoming increasingly strategic. Procurement can have a significant impact on the bottom line, and also play a key role in driving innovation and improving efficiency. By championing the strategic importance of procurement, we can attract candidates who are looking for a challenging and rewarding career.

Communicate in the language of your organisation, visualise your impact and link value to the wider strategy.

2. Promote the diversity of your procurement team.

A diverse team is a more creative and innovative team. By promoting this, we start a virtuous cycle, attracting candidates from different backgrounds and disciplines. This gives us a wider range of perspectives and experiences to draw from, which in turn will make the team more successful and attractive to join.

We cannot face the next challenges with the teams of the past.

3. Offer competitive salaries and benefits.

We must offer competitive salaries and benefits in order to attract the best talent.

And not just 'competitive' in the procurement market. Be wary of HR benchmarking that conflates procurement with purchasing, setting salaries 30-40% below the right level. I've seen so many teams that cannot find the right people because salary levels are set too low - only to have to pay a contractor even more to fill the gap.

Deliver at a strategic level for your organisation and you will have greater flexibility on salaries.

4. Provide opportunities for professional development.

Procurement is a constantly evolving field, so it is important to provide opportunities for professional development. This is the one thing that I am consistently told is not happening. Budgets are non-existent or handed back unspent.

Investing in your people demonstrates that you are committed to their growth and development.

5. Create a positive work culture.

A positive work culture is one where employees feel valued, respected, and supported. It's also 'how we do things' - one where smart work, delivering to promises and doing the right thing are valued. Working flexibly is also key to retaining a diverse team - we are not all able to commit to 9-5 in a specific location 5 days a week. And we don't need to.

This is so important for attracting and retaining top talent - without it, your best people will quickly leave.

6. Be open to non-traditional candidates.

In today's market, there are many talented people who do not have a traditional procurement background. These candidates have skills and experience that are transferable to the procurement function, even those that may not be immediately obvious.

To get procurement to the next level we must expand our talent pool to find the best people for the job.

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