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Procurement recruitment: Generation Z and beyond

Gen Z, entering the workforce now, represents a challenge for procurement recruitment, but there are ways to attract this talented group of future leaders.

The digital transformation of procurement will not only demand a new skills profile, it will also require organisations to reconsider where they will find this talent in the first place. Of course, relevant skills are found in every age group and in non-procurement functions. Organisations would do themselves a disservice if they were to bypass the potential of experienced managers from other disciplines such as sales, operations or engineering. And even of experienced procurement people who have the desire and capability to reinvent themselves and learn new skills as we have seen in the previous section.

But any recruitment and upskilling strategy must include looking to Gen Z, those born from the mid-1990s, who are either at an early stage in their careers or have not even started yet, but before long will constitute a significant portion of the workforce. The question is how to attract and retain this new procurement talent.

Our research found there is a clear divide between how organisations believe they can attract and engage young talent. Respondents are clear that to pique the interest of the next generation, their prime strategy is to utilise financial incentives. A quarter of our sample (25%) identify ‘salary and remuneration’ as the number one factor that attracted prospective young talent, while a further 20% indicate they would offer other financial benefits, such as pensions, or routes to cutting student debt.

CSR is no longer a nice to have; it has become a vital advantage in the war for talent

It’s unsurprising that remuneration is a prime recruitment strategy. Many in Gen Z will start their career loaded with the debt of further or higher education and have had their attitudes shaped by the financial crisis of 2007-8 and years that followed, with salaries below the level recruits believe their qualifications are worth.

The social conscience of tomorrow’s supply chain talent

Yet money isn’t everything. Gen Z, and even more so millennials behind them, are emphatically socially conscious and in turbulent geopolitical and environmental times wish to leave the world better than they found it. Our research highlights that procurement leaders are clearly aware of this as 21% of respondents say they believe ‘procurement’s role in sustainability and CSR’ was the most attractive element to prospective young talent. 

Arguably, procurement is uniquely placed to offer the younger generation the opportunity to make this difference. Organisations are right to emphasise procurement’s role in selecting products and suppliers that comply with policies on sustainability, biodegradable packaging, waste, carbon emissions, fair pay, modern slavery, corruption and other issues. They could even make more noise about procurement’s role in developing these policies, promoting alternatives and calling out unacceptable practices. CSR is no longer a nice to have; it has become a vital advantage in the war for talent.

Procurement talent needs a growth environment

Our respondents recognise this, with two thirds saying their number one plan to engage and retain this new and highly skilled talent is to ‘provide clear and structured training opportunities’. 

Yet, as we have previously identified, organisations have not yet mastered the art of providing effective and structured procurement training and without this they may struggle to retain talent. Likewise, respondents also recognise that clearly communicating internal growth opportunities (37%) is vital to keeping hold of future leaders, as is offering flexible working (34%), which allows Gen Z the workplace flexibility they expect.

It’s also worth recognising the challenges that obstruct recruitment of fresh talent. Our research found that the top three challenges are a lack of strategic value attributed to procurement (23%), general misconceptions about the procurement function (21%) and lack of development opportunities (18%).  In other words, procurement has an image problem. Yet remuneration is rising, CSR is growing in importance and self-development opportunities are being placed front and centre. Organisations clearly understand what matters to the next generation of leaders, but they need to shout it out loud.

We believe a forward-looking procurement function should be able to satisfy most Gen Z needs. It should lead in CSR issues, offer early responsibility for sometimes large corporate decisions, enable relationships to be built across the organisation, and offer training that empowers talent to develop real, transferable hard and soft skills in an environment where using those skills brings feedback and reward. What’s not to like?

To find out how your organisation can amend your procurement recruitment methods and attract these future leaders, download the full report

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