Trending in Talent: The Top 3 Factors for 2017

Spend Matters welcomes this post by Nick Lazzara, executive search lead at MRA Global Sourcing.

Attracting top performers continues to be a key area of focus for most procurement leaders today. We’ve seen firsthand the steadily increasing demand for strong supply management talent throughout 2016 and early 2017, although the supply has remained relatively unchanged. What’s also evolving is the way in which companies approach hiring and retention of these individuals, as well as the makeup of modern-day procurement groups. In this post, we explore the top three trends affecting supply management talent.

Rise of the Machines

Technology is a vehicle through which much corporate change is driven and enabled, so it’s no shock that we should expect to see a heightened focus on applying new tech to optimize talent acquisition strategies. Data is king, and the HR function is no exception. Using data to measure and improve talent acquisition practices will become more widespread as pressure mounts to mix traditional recruiting approaches with actionable, data-driven intelligence, according to MRINetwork, a global recruitment organization.

Unfortunately, there is much headway to be made in this arena, as many HR organizations feel underwhelmed by their internal measurement tools. Among hiring managers, 70% believe that recruiting programs need to be more data-driven, and more than half (well over half, in some cases) think that helpful metrics like long-term success of candidates, long-term impact of recruiting and time-to-hire are hard to assess, based on a survey from Visier, a workforce analytics firm. As new tech advances, and applicant tracking systems from companies like Taleo and iCIMS capabilities evolve, so too will spending in this arena.

Earning Through Learning

Another interesting trend is the significance of helping employees in their quest to improve their skills via learning. As more and more professions are requiring that workers gain new skills while past ones are rendered obsolete, workers are being asked to perform what are called “hybrid jobs.”

For instance, coding skills are no longer just in the realm of technology jobs. According to the consulting company Burning Glass Technologies, 49% of postings in the quartile of occupations with the highest pay are for jobs that frequently ask for coding skills. Of course, this means that new jobs will also be undergoing dramatic changes. Case in point: Over the past five years, data analyst positions have seen a 372% increase in demand.

This also brings to the forefront another less discussed notion. As career spans increase, a mere college degree to begin one’s career doesn’t suffice for ongoing skill enhancements for today’s workers. Ever since the Great Recession, companies continue to pinch pennies when it comes to investing in training their employees. We find this sadly ironic, as company-wide training has continued to remain one of the top draws for attracting and retaining talent.

Companies will be quick to retort that they must protect their investment, and with the labor market churn, they hate to see these workers get trained and leave. We are often asked by our clients to determine skills proficiency for top candidates they seek, but the skills are hardly consistent. Similarly, the top candidates we interact with will cite the prospect of their skills becoming obsolete as one of the things that keeps them up at night, and their frustration increases when it’s not clear how they can stay atop of ever-changing skills. 

Blended Procurement Resources

To build off of our previous point, just 38% of execs feel highly confident that their supply chain group possesses the competencies it needs to succeed today, according to a study by Deloitte. Furthermore, the same study found that only 43% considered their supply chain group to be very good or excellent in the arena of solving problems and thinking strategically.

With the aforementioned evolving landscape and growing skills gaps, many companies’ procurement leaders are tasked with finding creative ways to solve this dilemma. As a result, we’ve noticed a growing trend of companies placing more emphasis on blending their procurement resources between full-time employees (FTEs), contractors, procurement services providers and group purchasing organizations. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and typically this takes quite a bit of tweaking until an optimal combination is found, but a blended procurement organization can be an impressively effective unit.

To put this in sourcing terms, think “make vs. buy” in terms of “hire FTE vs. outsource.” In one-off sourcing projects or areas of non-critical spend, it doesn’t make sense to hire and train an FTE. Rather, outsourcing to a reputable procurement services provider or hiring a subject matter expert to a contract gig are quick, trustworthy alternatives that allow you to allocate your resources to more mission-critical areas of focus.

This concept is nothing new, but what’s needed in the blended workforce are leaders with well-developed soft skills who are capable of seamlessly integrating new providers and resources, developing proven partnerships with consulting suppliers and the know-how to discern when the time is right to outsource.

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