How to Become an Employer of Choice for Procurement Superstars


Spend Matters welcomes this guest post from Naseem Malik of MRA Global Sourcing.

We’ve all heard how difficult it is for companies to attract and retain top procurement talent, and there’s no dearth of strategies on how best to deal with that. What isn’t discussed nearly as much is the other side of the equation: how to ensure you become an employer of choice.

When it comes to the “A players,” there is a criterion they follow that we like to call the CLAMPS discussion. This acronym stands for challenge, location, advancement, people, money and security. Each category represents a motivator professionals use to evaluate a position and company.


This factor is cited more than any other when it comes to the passive superstars’ company seek. While these top players are continuing to perform, they feel they’re ready to take on more and want to expand their scope.

Procurement talent is attracted to companies that are on the cutting edge of technology and empowers their employees by adopting these tools. Whether it’s e-auctions, advanced spend analytics or even risk assessment resources, to have such tools at their disposal is a big draw. This can also be attributed to the fact that a growing proportion of the workforce is made up of tech-savvy millennials, and they generally thrive in such places.

Companies that exemplify this approach are not just the usual suspects like Apple, Amazon, Facebook or Google. Depending upon where they are in their career, talent could be interested in working for a consulting firm or a PE portfolio company. Make it a challenging tour of duty and they will accept.


As employment demographics continue to change and certain types of employment cluster in specific geographies, this is becoming a bigger consideration than it once was.

Sure, you have the tale of the two coasts and their respective biotech and Silicon Valley corridors. But to show how a candidate-driven market shapes company strategy, look no further than General Electric, which recently moved its headquarters from pastoral Fairfield, Connecticut, to the hustle and bustle of Boston. The manufacturer cited talent as one of the key motivators for the move, particularly its difficulty attracting applicants who wanted to work at the old location.

While the competition for talent will be brutal, at least the pool will be bigger, and GE will take their chances. We have personally witnessed how some of our world-class clients, which are great brands in their respective industries, struggle to find the right talent. Whether it’s their HQs in the middle of nowhere Indiana or rural Ohio, regardless of how lucrative they make it, filling positions is an uphill battle.

We have to get creative and find talent that has former roots or some ties to the area and can be lured back to familiar territory. One of our biggest successes was bringing a dynamo marketing procurement leader from the San Francisco Bay Area to a household name consumer packaged goods company in the Midwest.


This is one of the more touchy topics, as many candidates feel that they have been underemployed and are ready to make their next move, either internally or externally. However, due to their current company’s bureaucracy, lack of growth or weak succession planning, their careers are stunted.

This isn’t limited to lower levels only, as we find that the “A players” will have some keen questions on their next employer’s career pathing opportunities. Our chances for success increase when we can show tangible growth/promotion at the companies they are considering. For example, a Fortune 500 global financial services client of ours was top grading their team, and it really helped that the hiring manager was a vice president that climbed the ranks from manager and director to his current role, and thus the opening.


We expect this to be part of the equation, just not the most important part. While there are some companies that are known to pay top dollar, like Caterpillar, there are plenty that use their brand name as a hook. Amazon is legendary for having a fixed base salary and then making up for it on the equity side.

Procurement salaries have been steadily rising over the past five years, and there’s no sign this trend will be reversing. The progressive companies that stay abreast of this are well positioned to grab top talent, since they understand that the five or six qualified candidates for every opening we found a few years ago is closer to two or three now. Since procurement practitioners are taught to think in total cost, they will consider total compensation (i.e., base, bonus, equity and benefits) as well. Candidates do not want to regress on any component of their compensation package, but deficiencies in salary can be made up for in variable comp (both STI and LTI).


Another important draw is company leadership. Professionals today want to work for a leader that is accomplished and has had a successful career. They want to learn and have a mentor they can respect.

Culture of the company is closely tied to this factor. It’s not just hiring managers that ask informally about potential hires, as we have had many a candidate tell us they did their reconnaissance on the company (Glassdoor) or asked about the hiring manager and decided to forego a certain opportunity.

Perception of top leadership is also important, as a renowned CPO that has led his or her organization successfully and been recognized by either ISM or Procurement Leaders for exemplary results is attractive. Candidates will know that this is a company where they will be challenged, trained and mentored.


While this may seem moot, there are still certain demographics that place a premium on security. These may be Gen X or young Baby Boomers who value career continuity and consider it a badge of honor to have longevity in their current company. We find P&G is a good example of this, and of course some of the Japanese firms — not just the auto makers but even pharma (Takeda) and other industries have a culture that promotes career stability.

When taking the next step in becoming an employer of choice, consider the “CLAMPS” model to figure out how to improve your attractiveness to potential candidates. This can also be a strong guideline in formulating your employer brand to the marketplace to help separate from the pack.

Stay tuned for our next column, where we will discuss the most desirable companies and industries straight from the mouths of procurement professionals!

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