How To Hire, Manage, And Retain The Elites Of Procurement Talent

Changes in the procurement field over the last ten years have become more and more pronounced, with ever increasingly complexity in supply chain management. New candidates are expected to not only have traditional skills like contract management and negotiation, but also a variety of abilities like business strategy, process efficiency know-how, data analysis, and knowledge of financial markets.


These skills, along with service provider abilities, are imperative for anyone in the procurement field.


What does this mean when it comes to acquiring new talent? Since candidates are now expected to possess more diverse abilities, the field has become more competitive. Recruiters no longer seek people with the previous linear skillsets, but rather seek out procurement’s most elite candidates. They undergo much stricter, and often less fruitful screening processes to ensure capability in all the right areas.


In order to create a thriving future in the procurement field, we must observe how elite talent can be correctly sourced, allocated and retained.


1. Create a procurement talent structure that attracts the best to you


First and foremost, it’s important to thoroughly understand the business’s needs. Which skills will be most useful to the company? By figuring out the qualities your most desirable candidate should have, you can narrow the pool. A good way to find the most useful skills is to look at what specializations will be useful.

Technical skills like category management, project management and negotiation are requirements across all sectors. Communication is another important skill for nearly any position, but it’s especially critical for a procurement specialist. Maintaining strong relationships between the businesses and the suppliers is one of the primary duties of the position, and they also need to be able to improve working processes between the two groups. Additionally, someone with a market-specific knowledge base will be favorable and can more effectively promote the growth of the business.

Candidates with the correct market-specific expertise can seem difficult to come by, and there’s a simple reason why: Many businesses fail to find the best candidates simply because they aren’t looking in the right places. Unconventional talent pools are sometimes where you’ll find the best, most qualified, interesting candidates for the procurement field.


2. How to find the elite talent


You already know what you can offer the candidate, but consider what they offer to you and your business. Great talent has the capacity to develop current initiatives, aid sourcing, and inspire strategies for supply chains and market engagement. And as we’ve mentioned, that great talent may be hiding where you least expect it. People with no background in procurement can possess traits that will allow them to flourish in the field regardless.


For example, people with a background in sales have great potential to perform well in procurement. An aptitude for selling tends to translate well to acquisition, based on both commercial understanding and a knack for establishing good relationships. Another group that tends to do well are people who have studied manufacturing. Their experience with supply chains lends itself well to success in the field.


Looking for candidates outside of the expected areas helps provide businesses with people who are extremely well-suited to certain functions. By hiring people from other areas, your business can be the first to teach them procurement skills and assist with integrating them into the field. Creating this kind of value prevents turnover and instills company loyalty.


But don’t stop at headhunting. You also want to appeal to candidates who already have an invested interest in your company. Your business’s ethos can play a big role here.


What exactly does that mean? By developing a framework to draw in procurement specialists, you’ll attract many of the best candidates. This framework should include things like rewards, benefits, a clear path for progression and advancement, and opportunities to take on more responsibilities as appropriate. This can turn moderately interested candidates into people who are willing to put in the extra effort to work for your company. Everybody wins.


In a perfect world, the right candidate would be knocking down your door as you read this. But realistically, that person doesn’t exist, or has loyalties elsewhere. That’s the reality of business. Fortunately, this forces you to get innovative. An alternative solution is enlisting a team of people that covers any weak spots in procurement the company may have.


It might seem counter-intuitive to invest resources in multiple candidates. But consider this: would you rather have a small team that excels in every area, or a single employee who performs all the same duties at a lesser capacity?  


3. Developing & Retaining Talent

So let’s say you’ve found an ideal candidate who meets all of your requirements. They have a market-specific knowledge base and a background that will serve them well in procurement. You like them, but so do all the other companies in your field. Good candidates are hard to come by, and they’re usually spoilt for choice when it comes to finding work. This means that part of your job in recruiting is to find a way to win their loyalty, whether through competitive compensation or tangible opportunities for progression and development.

While some people will be drawn in by an above-market salary, you mustn’t assume this is the case for all candidates. Job satisfaction is almost always one of the strongest forces for employee motivation. Therefore, it may be beneficial to offer new career advancement opportunities.

Assigning employees new projects can be both liberating and demanding, while having the added bonus of being a tool for expanding or developing skillsets. Dedicated training and mentoring is an attractive option for employees, and is particularly popular among younger individuals.

That doesn’t mean you should discount the interest of older individuals as well.

In fact, mid-level supply chain managers can often be an organisational challenge, and there are many at this level who would appreciate the opportunity to sharpen their skills and knowledge through adequate training programs. Options that could be considered range from communication and behavioural-based training to formal qualifications prominent in the industry, such as CIPS and ISM.

An interesting option for both younger and older employees is the integration of a mentoring system. It allows managers to engage in cross-functional duties and increase their knowledge, while newer individuals can learn the ropes of procurement through hands-on experience.

Managing procurement talent is critical to the successful function of many organizations. Hiring new recruits fresh out of university and throwing them into the deep end isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Companies need to follow the steps above in order to identify and attract the best procurement talent. After developing a management structure, it’s crucial that you continue to attract high-value rising stars so that your talent pool is rich in talent.

You must exercise judgment on the existing personnel's’ strengths and identify both where they can be best utilized in the procurement function and what training would be beneficial to them.