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How CPOs can attract high-potential talent

Three procurement leaders explain how they win the ‘war for talent’.

Talent management is often identified as one of CPOs’ biggest barriers to success. More than two thirds (73%) of employers in general are finding it more difficult to attract suitable candidates for vacant positions, according to a recent HAYS/CIPS survey.  

This has created an environment where procurement specialists not only expect to receive competitive financial compensation for their efforts, but also to have jobs that are challenging, rewarding and help develop them professionally. 

Laura Faulkner is Head of Supply Chain Services at RBS, a primary retail bank in the UK and Ireland. She has held the position since January 2015, after 13 years in the organisation. Despite the difficult restructurings that followed the 2008 crisis, attracting the best talent has always been an important area, she says. “

At RBS we are very fortunate that we have a very structured framework that we work to, and we are well supported internally by HR with talent management and identification.” 

Faulkner says they target internal recruitment, and sell RBS Supply Chain Services (SCS) as a function that has influence across the whole organisation. “As a supply chain function, we play an active role and have always been interested in bringing talent into the organisation. My leadership team and I take a personal role in ensuring we get our brand out there, personally attending university career fairs and other recruitment events across the UK. 

“We also offer ‘final year’ internships and we’ve been very successful there, with a high return rate into graduate roles. We are increasingly looking to bring younger talent into the organisation as well and ensuring that we are considered as one of the best places to work within the organisation.” 

Internal recruitment

Diageo – the world’s leading alcoholic beverage company – also has a well-developed career progression and planning process. The company has no real problem attracting external talent, but it only does so to acquire specific skills or experience, says CPO Thibaut Eissautier*.  “Where possible, we try to recruit internally as this creates the fluidity required to satisfy our staff’s career development ambitions.”  

Diageo has a target to fill approximately 70% of its positions internally, which has enabled it to recently fill six of seven Director level roles by internal promotions.  

The company actively markets the Procurement function as a great place to develop commercial skills, working closely with HR to ensure high-potential candidates from across the business understand what Procurement does, and what it has to offer ambitious, passionate individuals.  

“We look for passion and energy, together with a strong set of values. We can train the more technical elements of procurement, but we do require recruits to have a natural commercial acumen,” says Eissautier. 

We look for passion and energy, together with a strong set of values. We can train the more technical elements of procurement, but we do require recruits to have a natural commercial acumen.

Thibaut Eissautier, CPO, Diageo

Building the function 

A different challenge faces ARYZTA. The global specialty baker and food service group is in the early stage of building its global Procurement function.  

To accelerate momentum and bridge the skills and language gaps, the function initially deployed a team of interims and consultants. But gradually over the last 12 months it has moved to backfill capability by recruiting high calibre individuals, via external searches in the market, explains Jennifer Kirkwood, Global Procurement Head of Capabilities at ARYZTA. 

Kirkwood, who led the recruitment process, adds: “Building a new team has brought opportunities as well as challenges. We have had the opportunity to establish a good brand for ARYZTA Procurement, and ensure that the people we hire share our excitement for the three year transformation journey that ARYZTA wants to go through. 

“We have attracted people to roles where there is the chance to make a real impact, to shape and drive change, with room for personal growth, great variety of content and  travel. We are looking for top performing talent that’s agile and can transfer into broader roles within the business.” 

In addition to external recruitment, Kirkwood is working closely with HR to establish Procurement within the internal career development process, starting with the development of a graduate programme, which encourages cross-functional and regional rotation. This has not been easy, as there is often little understanding of the Procurement function and the exciting roles on offer. 

The need to actively market the function is a common theme across most companies. Procurement still has a long way to go to clearly communicate the strategic nature of the function and compete adequately for high-potential internal talent, who are often inclined to target Sales and Marketing roles.  

In marketing the Procurement function, Kirkwood has emphasised the opportunities to make a real difference and drive change across a multinational stakeholder base. 

*Thibaut Eissautier has since left his role as CPO for Diageo. 

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