Being a CPO – five things I’m pleased I did (part 5)

We recently featured a series about my time as a CPO and regrets around things I could have done better. But now we’re onto tings I feel good about... And if you think this is a bit arrogant, you can go back and read the negative stuff to balance it! Here is number five...

I’m pleased... I got personally involved in recruitment

As Procurement Director in both Dun & Bradstreet and the Department of Social Security, a combination of the nature of my roles and a stable workforce meant that I didn’t get involved in very much recruitment – the odd person here and there but nothing major.

But at NatWest we were growing the team and it was also boom time in financial services procurement. Organisations like Barclays and Royal Sun Alliance were building their teams by poaching from NatWest, who had probably been the first big financial services outfit to focus on procurement.

So, lots of recruitment. And although I had plenty of other things to do, I got personally involved with every role we filled from Buyer upwards, being part of the interview process for everyone we recruited. And I’m pleased I did. There is simply nothing a CPO can do which is more important to the long-term performance of the function than recruitment. It’s such a cliché – “people are the most important asset” – but it’s true, so why would you not want to have input into making sure that asset is as strong as possible?

I did once interview a young lady on the terrace of a pleasant hotel on the Thames which I did think afterwards was perhaps a little... unwise. I don’t think she doubted my intentions, as Jane Austen would have put it. And on another occasion, we had a fire alarm evacuation and I ended up finishing an interview in the local coffee shop – but I remember that because it was someone who proved to be an absolute star!

Now that doesn’t mean the CPO should or can be the sole decision maker. The immediate line manager should usually be the most important voice in terms of any recruit. But I reserved the right to veto, or occasionally perhaps to suggest a different role if the line manager wasn’t sure, and I liked the person.

It’s also great PR in terms of attracting people. If a really good person has a few options, being interviewed by the CPO should count positively in terms of how they perceive the organisation and the commitment it is showing to its recruits. (I joined Mars on the graduate milk round in the main because their HR people running the process were miles better than any others I met).

And most of the people we recruited back then have done OK – there’s a fair few CPOs amongst their ranks these days. Some of them even still talk to me...!

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