One Recipe for Attracting Top Talent Into Procurement

At the IACCM event last week, I had the chance to talk to one gentleman who recently retired from the profession, and had spent his career performing a variety of executive roles both inside and outside of procurement (including serving as a CPO). Somehow, our topic of conversation migrated to the subject of attracting and managing talent -- a favorite subject of mine. I shared with him my story of how I got into the profession and that when I was completing my graduate studies, an extremely small percentage of my classmates would have even considered procurement. In fact, it was well known at the time that AT Kearney, who did quite a bit of recruitment on campus, followed a recruiting bait and switch model, promising grads the chance to work on strategy, but then locking them up on a client site to maneuver pivot tables as part of a sourcing project.

He suggested to me that most companies went about finding young procurement talent the wrong way. His model -- which he had deployed at a handful of organizations -- was to find the most promising recruits and rising managerial talent and tell them that they could only work in procurement for two years. Within that two year time frame, he told them that the very best could earn themselves a place to stay on for longer (if they were good enough and wanted to). And within that period, he promised them a chance to learn skills they would need as they progressed in their careers as executives such as negotiation, change management, performance management and how best to manage global business relationships.

As important, he also let it be known that procurement was not the be-all, end-all of his career. He had higher ambitions as well to run a business unit or the overall operations of a company. When his recruits caught wind that they could potentially ride the coattails of a rising star in the organization -- who was also treating procurement as both a learning experience and avenue on which to rise in the company -- they were much more likely to sign on the dotted line for a job they never thought they’d tackle. And much to their own surprise many not only thrived in procurement -- and enjoyed it. They decided to stay on after their initial two years.

- Jason Busch

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