QOTW – can public procurement people make it in the private sector?

We didn't get a huge response to our QOTW to be honest. So thanks for Dan for this to the point and high quality response;

As always, it depends on the personnel involved. A public sector buyer is more likely to have more transferable skills, as they tend to be involved in a far wider range of purchasing.

On the other hand, there are a number of public sector buyers who are only really comfortable when following the mandated procurement procedures, and are a little lacking in commercial sense and flexibility…

So should private sector procurement directors be looking to pick up public sector professionals? I know that voluntary redundancy offers were received by a lot of ex-OGC people last week for instance, so there will be some experienced people coming onto the market soon.

My simple answer is "yes, but..."

I recruited around 30 people when I was CPO at NatWest, including quite a few from the public sector. And two or three were quickly amongst my very best managers. Public sector procurement people often have very strong technical skills (category management, eSourcing). And at more senior levels, they may have strong stakeholder management experience as well; if you can deal with Ministers....

The negatives? They probably won't have done much real negotiation (unless they're got contract management experience as well as procurement).  Attitude is the other point to consider; they may not have worked with the same sense of urgency and time pressure that the private sector is used to.  So as a recruiter, you need to assess whether they can adapt to your environment.

I don't subscribe by any means to the school of thought that says public sector people don't work hard. But the culture is one where days off for personal reasons, and flexible working are taken as read. Volunteering to help the 'Big Society' is now another encouragement to get out of the office and away from that urgent tender.

Now we might argue that it is the public sector that has it right in terms of work / life balance.  But someone who has been used to that for 20 years might struggle in some of the more aggressive private sector organisations I can think of.

So if you're interviewing, you need to test that; and if you're being interviewed, bear in mind that you may need to make it very clear that your work ethic is just as strong as anyone from Tesco or Unilever.  And of course private sector firms vary hugely; some have a similar work/life balance philosophy as many public organisations.  Others are somewhat more red in tooth and claw...

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