Acquiring and maintaining talent requires fundamental changes from the procurement community.

Take a look at any recent CPO survey, and among the issues that keep procurement heads awake at night will undoubtedly be the war for talent. Recruiting and retaining talent is a challenge irrespective of the maturity of a firm’s procurement function.

To get talent management right, the procurement community needs to go through the organizational equivalent of rebuilding a golf swing – in other words, we need to fundamentally change our approach.

Changing a golf swing means unlearning poor muscle memories, and feeling uncomfortable while learning new ones. The same might be said of many procurement functions if they’re to improve their talent management. A shift in mindset is required: it’s time to come out of our comfort zone.

The war on talent can’t be won simply by buying up all the best people. Even if an organization had deep enough pockets, the depth of talent, with all the necessary knowledge and capabilities, isn’t there.

Recognising the fundamentals

The war on talent can’t be won simply by buying up all the best people. Even if an organization had deep enough pockets, the depth of talent, with all the necessary knowledge and capabilities, isn’t there.

Not only should we be building up our procurement teams with the workforce we already have, but we also need to get significantly better at bringing in and nurturing young talent.

To achieve this, procurement needs to be more effective at the three ‘Rs’ of talent management: recruitment, retention and reward.

Winning the talent war

1. Getting more talent through the door

Our profession doesn’t market itself well. Prospective employers need to do more to make procurement stand out as a career of choice to young, talented individuals. We know how compelling our work can be, but new graduates may not.

Here at Efficio, changing our strapline to ‘The procurement experts’ a while back prompted an interesting debate among our junior consultants. Some preferred to be seen as management consultants, which they considered more glamorous. It was only as they became more experienced that they realised how fulfilling procurement work can be.

There’s a perception challenge at play here. We need to act to change that perception as early on as possible.

There have been significant improvements in bringing procurement and supply chain to the forefront of university courses, but this isn’t enough. We need to be more proactive in promoting the profession to universities, and even internally within our own companies.

This promotion could take the form of social media campaigns or a greater presence at recruitment fairs to demonstrate how rewarding a procurement career can be. Procurement professionals could also establish better relationships with recruitment agencies to help increase the numbers of talented candidates applying for procurement jobs.

When recruiting, we need to keep in mind that we’re not just competing against procurement departments in other companies, we’re also competing against other functions. The challenge this presents cannot be underestimated.

Winning the talent war

2. Keeping the talent we recruit

Recruiting more talent is only the first part of the equation; the second stage is to hold onto it.

We continually talk about how attractive procurement careers can be: working on total cost of ownership, conducting sophisticated analytics, using advanced technologies, engaging with cross-functional stakeholders – and, ultimately, making a difference.

The danger is that we do too much talking without actually doing.

If we invest in making these propositions happen, rather than just talking about them, new talent will be more motivated to come on board and stay on board. If we don’t, all our good work will come undone.

Continuous personal development is another crucial aspect to talent retention. The procurement space is constantly changing. We need to invest in the right training to update people’s skills and ensure they stay motivated and effective.

3. Rewarding talent adequately

This is probably the most difficult challenge of the three. Salary levels in procurement have significant room for improvement. Yet we continually face resistance when trying to improve them to hold on to the best talent.

One way to change this may be to communicate the value proposition of the procurement function better internally – by presenting remuneration in terms of the return on investment.

There are also more radical solutions worth considering. For example, a variable reward model, with fixed salaries, and highly attractive bonuses based on the value and returns we deliver as a function. Surely procurement is worth a bigger cut of the savings we generate?

Much like correcting a golf swing, changing the way you approach acquiring and retaining talent may initially feel uncomfortable. But the results will be worth it when you start winning the talent war.

To find out more, please contact Christo Zeller using the details below.