Stop trying to hire better procurement professionals; build them instead

The Procurement “Talent Gap”

When CPOs are asked about issues facing procurement, “Talent” is always near the top of the list. It’s usually suggested to be a mix of procurement failing to attract the right individuals, the fact that consultancies siphon off the best talent or 15 other reasons to do with the individual.

The truth is that procurement is extremely difficult due to the diverse range of skills and expertise required in the field; finding the perfect procurement professional is impossible.

The “perfect” procurement professional 

In an ideal world, this person is:

  • An incredible project manager and facilitator, able to bring the business and supply base along on the journey
  • A category expert who is up to date with the latest trends affecting the area, and able to challenge the requirements of the business
  • A procurement process expert, who knows how to conduct an excellent process
  • A superb analyst who can take increasingly big datasets and turn them into actionable insights
  • A tough negotiator, who can drive the most value out of a competitive engagement
  • An expert in understanding and writing contracts to ensure that value doesn’t leak at that stage
  • A specialist in implementing change within the organisation
  • Able to juggle multiple projects effortlessly

At Efficio, we hire the best talent we can find and we take their training very seriously – even after that and several years of procurement only experience, the above individual does not exist.

Building the perfect procurement professional 

Instead of expecting an individual to become this “ideal”, we understand each person’s specific strengths and weaknesses, and build the correct support network around them. We pride ourselves on the quality of the people we put on the ground, but what our clients don’t always see is the work that goes on in the background to ensure that the individual is perfect for the job. 

This support network is usually a mix of subject matter expertise, research services, analytical assistance or trainings aimed at specific weaknesses. 

With this approach, we don’t need to find perfect procurement professionals. By coupling each person’s skills with their own specific support network, we can build them.

Where to start; the core procurement skill

When hiring your procurement team of the future, there is one skillset that should be prioritised above others. This is the ability to communicate effectively, to facilitate conversation and to persuade. 

At its core, procurement is about bringing people together, collaborating and edging them towards a better solution for the company. Everything else can be added or supplemented. 

Furthermore, as technology disrupts procurement, the need for these skills will remain while others might vanish, be made considerably easier/cheaper to access or become commoditised. 

Which kind of procurement organisation do you want to be?

The overperforming procurement departments of the future will invest in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their employees and build the right support network around them. They will prioritise making strong relationships within their business and they will have a partner network that allows them to tap into specific expertise when they need it.

Many others will continue to bemoan the lack of talent in the industry and continue their wild goose chase for a team of perfect procurement professionals. Which will you be?