3 Big Changes Driving Procurement Hiring Trends in 2018

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Spend Matters welcomes this guest column from Naseem Malik and Nick Lazzara of MRA Global Sourcing.

There’s never a dearth of excitement in the world of procurement, and 2018 has been no exception.  The business effects of several new Trump administration policies are coming fast and furious.  Fluctuating economic and political conditions are presenting a host of new challenges and opportunities for businesses.

Because of these factors, procurement professionals now more than ever need to stay abreast of the latest developments and master in-demand skills. To help, here are the three key areas we’ve seen driving procurement hiring in 2018, as well as our recommendations for where professionals should focus in the coming months.

The Tax Bill Cometh

The December 2017 tax bill brought a welcome reprieve for business leaders. Now that the corporate tax rate has dropped to 21% from 35%, we’re starting to see companies reinvest that windfall into one area in particular: technology.

Savvy procurement practitioners know that digital capabilities are critical to staying ahead of the competition. That’s why organizations are boosting investment in cloud and mobile data infrastructure and resources, artificial intelligence, the internet of things (IoT) — any kind of technological resources that enable them to react more nimbly to changing global conditions, process large amounts of information more efficiently and better connect the far-reaching components of their operations.

Because of this increased technology investment, procurement groups are on the hunt for candidates with more advanced analytical and quantitative skillsets. This makes sense: even artificial intelligence systems require a capable tech head to operate them.

Additionally, procurement groups are seeking out talent that actually understands what blockchain is and how it impacts their business. While use of the term has spread like wildfire in the past couple of years, the truth is that the average business professional doesn’t truly grasp what blockchain is. Those who get blockchain and how it can be applied in various procurement and supply chain-related scenarios have thus become all the more attractive to employers.

(Editor’s note: If you want to become that person, Spend Matters has a guide to get you started.)

At the same time, the advancement in technological resources and talent appears to be tempered by a reduction in transactional workers. Professionals watching the procurement workforce should expect fewer openings with tactical job descriptions and limited roles, in favor of employees with more strategic responsibilities.

Changes in H1-B Visas

While the Trump administration’s rhetoric on tax reform eventually produced a significant policy change, the H1-B visa limitations announced last year have not yet produced similarly drastic shifts. Because of this, businesses across several industries have effectively managed the changes.

The 85,000 cap number is the same, and as before the demand has exceeded supply for this year . Since some have criticized the lottery system, the government is working toward creating a merit-based system that looks at qualifications and salary. The other major change is the restriction of spouses of H1B applicants from working in the U.S., which may deter potential workers, as it cuts off an income stream for them.

Since more than two-thirds of current H-1B holders work in tech-related positions, we see two areas of implication for procurement professionals.

First is in the procurement outsourcing space. As more and more companies continue to utilize the services of the likes of GEP, Infosys and Genpact, it will be incumbent upon procurement to ensure service quality isn’t affected, since a significant number of resources come from overseas.

The second aspect comes from a stakeholder perspective. Working with their IT and finance partners, procurement teams need to monitor these strategic relationships when it comes to large-scale outsourcing or offshore operations. These partners need to maintain continuity of operations in terms of adequate onshore resources, particularly for areas such as application development, business process management and accounts payable outsourcing.

Salaries

The final change driving procurement hiring trends this year is the all-important money question. Procurement professionals are observing that salaries in the field are increasing. According to the past two annual ISM Salary Survey reports, average salaries have grown by 8% and 5% respectively, and we expect a similar trajectory for this year.

While this is positive for individual workers, it does create challenges for companies. The pool of procurement talent continues to be scarce. This means companies that aren’t willing to aggressively seek qualified people to fill existing and newly created positions will find themselves struggling to fill the gaps.

Another interesting wrinkle created this year: a new law prohibiting employers from asking about current salary levels from prospective candidates. This will change how companies approach compensation negotiations. In general, we expect they will become even more dynamic and perhaps more data-driven. But beyond this, eliminating the current salary question from interviews could also help narrow the gender gap in the U.S. workforce has wrestled. Women typically ask for less than men regardless of experience, and when the company broaches the subject of salary range with no gender distinction, that discrepancy disappears.

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