Bridging the HR and Procurement Gap: An Interview with Henry Murphy III of Shire Pharmaceuticals

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What a pleasure it was to sit down with Henry Murphy III, senior global manager of human relations, benefits and contingent labor at Shire Pharmaceuticals, after hearing him speak last summer at the 2016 VMS Professionals conference.

There’s no denying that relationship building is central to Murphy’s thinking and reputation in global change management. His tools? Active listening, negotiation, solutions orientation, data utilization and recognition/appreciation for another’s expertise. His results? A burgeoning and effective network of talent, strategic partnerships and tremendous cost reductions/savings for both suppliers and buyers. In all, this has meant millions of dollars saved for every company he has worked at.

Murphy’s reach as a strategic leader in procurement, sourcing and solutions development at Shire Pharmaceuticals extends well beyond geographical borders and across industry lines. His “win-win” approach to contract negotiation and collaborative solutions development is equally effective in both HR sourcing and procurement — and in positively impacting the company’s bottom line.

Murphy’s career began in HR as a benefits specialist with Allstate Corp. and then as a vendor manager with United Airlines. Then, the HR world changed in the late ‘90s. Consultants and data began to populate the HR landscape.

Murphy embraced this “new” landscape and redefined his own career as one of talent sourcing, finding and utilizing consultants for specific, targeted tasks that require “special knowledge” and aptitudes. On his path to Shire Pharmaceuticals, Murphy worked with Amedisys Healthcare, Zurich Financial Services and Tyson Foods.

As today’s labor force becomes increasingly contingent and as more companies are being acquired and spun off, Murphy sees HR as the bridge between chaos and stability regardless of the pace of company evolution. Approximately one-third of today’s labor force is contingent workforce. According to Murphy, HR departments must develop better core employment processes, better tracking systems and more clearly defined institutional knowledge of its total workforce in order to know who is working on what and where — and to organize all available talent and capabilities strategically. Procurement departments also need to demonstrate that they can be strategic partners in achieving HR’s business goals, not just a function of contracting and pricing.

No matter the industry or scale of the company, Murphy concentrates on building long-term, strategic partnerships in relational procurement.

“Think about designing these relationships, these strategies with meaningful conversations that well represent both the suppliers and the services. Strive for a happy medium among the stakeholders. There is no ‘we’ and ‘they’ any longer — it’s about solving problems together, it’s about spending less time fixing problems and dealing with fires and more time on building “our” success.

“Use industry intelligence and data. As W. Edwards Deming said, ‘Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.’ Keep that data current. Stay ahead of the game so you’re able to prepare for new areas of talent (e.g., the gig workforce) to build new contingent labor programs.”

Concurrent with his work at Shire Pharmaceuticals, Murphy is the founder and President of Relational Procurement Management, a consulting business that makes available Henry’s “special knowledge” to HR and procurement departments throughout the world. Additionally, Murphy is a member of the board of directors of ParentsWork and a mentor with the Spark Program, nonprofits effecting change for parents in the workplace and for middle school-aged kids in apprenticeship programs.

If and when you encounter an HR situation involving multiple needs and multiple people representing multiple skills, talents, points of view and turf issues, think like Henry Murphy. Think of ways to build strategic relationships and think of collaborative solutions that builds on “our” success.

Murphy’s perspective and philosophy of relational procurement is one that will likely come of age in procurement organizations sooner rather than later. As more information becomes available and shareable in a digital and networked economy and information asymmetry is reduced, the more performing business functions and reaching deals with suppliers will rely on collaborative problem solving rather than an adversarial model.

Interested in attending next year’s VMS Professionals? Contact Cynthia Moore at cmoorevmsprofessionals [at] yahoo [dot] com.

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