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Written by Ohanes Missirilian

Why organizations must think laterally to fill procurement skills pipelines

In today’s competitive talent landscape, organizations struggle to attract the procurement talent they need. Recruiting a seasoned procurement professional can take eight months to two years. In line with the scarcity of talent, CIPS Salary Guide found that UK procurement salaries grew 4.9% this year, from a 5% increase the year before. As a result of the lack of talent, employers are falling back on pay increases to get people through the door. 

However, the talent shortage is not new and the problem with combatting it through salary inflation is unsustainable in the long-term. Organizations must start thinking more creatively about how to overcome the huge process of talent resigning and ways to access the procurement skills they need now, but also in an uncertain future.

One often underused approach to accelerate recruiting skilled people is to hire from within. This can be difficult for some specialist functions, but procurement professionals use so many transferable skills that making a side-step into the function is possible. Of course, not everyone will want or suit a role in procurement, but organizations can take some simple steps to start laying the groundwork for a successful internal recruitment program.  

  1. Get your procurement function ready

Internal recruitment can be a great way to find new talent for your company as they know the business and its needs. However, before attracting people to a procurement role, organizations must create a systemized department that welcomes outsiders and enables them to digest and learn the technical aspects of the role immediately.

It’s worth investing in intuitive IT systems that will support employees and ensure that, for example, existing RFPs and contract templates are thoroughly up to date and accessible. It can seem like a lot of administration but putting this groundwork in place before new people join the department will help them succeed and feel engaged with the organization.

  1. Create a procurement function with ‘pull’

A role in procurement can be incredibly varied and allow professionals to develop a raft of transferable skills. Committed procurement professionals can become masters at negotiating favorable deals, managing complex contracts, and building strong relationships – all capabilities that will serve them well into their careers. It’s no coincidence that some of the world’s most revered CEOs, from Tim Cook of Apple to Mary Barra of GM motors, have risen through the ranks via a period in procurement.

Organizations need to get better at talking about the importance of skills development in progression and making employees aware of the opportunities that can follow a period in procurement. They also need to be clear that going into procurement doesn’t necessarily mean staying in procurement; it can be a beneficial, temporary side-step on the way to achieving an existing career goal.

  1. Look for the right people

When looking to recruit from within, leaders should keep an eye out for people with the necessary skills to thrive. These include thinking strategically yet empathetically, negotiating, analyzing data, and making informed decisions based on their findings. While these skills can exist anywhere in the organization, they’re common in the IT and R&D departments.

Stakeholder engagement is also an important aspect of the job and a key challenge today. The advantage of recruiting from within is that candidates have a good knowledge of the company culture, the stakeholders, and processes, which will help them to easily (or faster) build their creditability to play the role of a Procurement Business Partner. Professionals in these areas often need to develop commercial or managerial skills to build trust with stakeholders and in the long-term, harness these skills to progress to the next level – making a move into procurement is advantageous for them and the organization. 

  1. Provide training for better progression

While it’s imperative to find people with the right baseline skills to succeed in procurement, training them once in the function is equally important. Organizations need to invest in a comprehensive training program that equips recruits to deal with the day-to-day of their roles confidently.

Personalized learning journeys are particularly useful in this scenario, as organizations can build programs to fit the specific needs of individual learners. What’s more, with eLearning learners can complete courses at a time of their choosing, enabling professional development to fit seamlessly alongside their role.

Recruit internally for a win-win

It’s easy to throw money at the procurement recruitment problem. However, taking the above approach to tackling the shortage of talent internally can be far more beneficial in the long term. Professionals who want to make a horizontal move already possess an appetite to learn, credibility and step out of their comfort zone. They’re committed to developing in their organization and are therefore gold-dust to any employer. Giving these people the opportunity, tools, and training to develop further is a win-win for organizations and their people.

Ohanes Missirilian Learning and development leader in Procurement ByAction