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Spend Friends podcast: CIPS’ CEO Malcolm Harrison on the ‘fantastic’ profession of procurement

08/05/2021 By


One of the biggest impacts of the Covid pandemic on procurement departments has been in the increasing demand for professionals that are skilled in the fundamentals. Malcolm Harrison, the CEO of the Chartered Institute for Procurement and Supply (CIPS), said that the profession is in extreme demand right now and that it’s a great opportunity for specialists to rise to the top.

Harrison was the latest guest on Spend Friends, a monthly video podcast hosted by Bill Michels, the VP of Operations — Americas at CIPS USA, and Pierre Mitchell, Spend Matters’ Chief Research Officer. Its goal is to focus on all procurement matters under the sun, like spend management, supply chains and other topics.

Harrison joined Michels and Mitchell to discuss findings from the CIPS’ annual salary survey, which has results for regions around the world. It found that North American procurement professionals saw a salary increase of 4.6% last year, compared to 3.3% for the national average of professions. The survey indicated that procurement as a profession is very much growing across the world, and talent is in high demand. Click the link to see results by global region.

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“This is a fantastic profession, and it’s always been a fantastic profession,” Harrison said. “People that have spent much of their careers in procurement and supply who have had great training will recognize the importance of really understanding your supply chain in depth, having real transparency of your supply chain. But also the thing that gets procurement professionals excited is finding solutions to complex supply issues.”

Harrison said much of this demand is coming from broader trends in the economy. Things like inflation will bring salaries up. Supply chain shortages are leading to more hiring. And more hiring is leading employees to have more driving power and say in what they’re looking for in a company.

Many employees are looking for flexibility in their jobs — things like continuing to work from home. Harrison said employee well-being is an important component of this.

Diversity and inclusion is a very large portion of well-being, Mitchell said. It’s important for supply chains to have diversity efforts just as much as the makeup of the employees behind the decisions.

“There are other really big benefits of diverse suppliers as well, particularly bringing in small suppliers, they tend to be more agile,” Harrison said. “They tend to be more innovative and they’re more flexible. So we’ve always been fans of having a diverse supply base. And I do believe that the agility required to work through the pandemic and the resilience that organizations are now saying they need coming through from the pandemic. Both of those things are going to point toward a more diverse supply base.”

As the demand continues to rise for strong procurement talent, Harrison isn’t sure if it’s just a short-term phenomenon. He said a lot of the impacts of the post-pandemic economy are still too early to be seen. For now, Harrison advises employees to continue growing their skills to remain competitive.

“The fundamentals will always be important, and the fundamentals have always been about negotiation and sourcing,” Harrison said. “I would argue that supplier relationship management, change management and communications have always been really important as well. What I think you’re seeing now is that you’ve got some more really important issues that come in.

“A lot of those brands who are driven by their users are really important to society. So climate change and some of the challenges around sustainability. I was talking to an organization last week that said, ‘Yeah, we’ve looked at our organization. We’ve looked at our manufacturing operations. We’ve looked at our supply chain, and we’ve decided that 90% of the issues in terms of climate change are in our supply chain, not inside our own operations.’ So that then brings another huge pressure on that organization, which is a very big brand owner and the brand in the eyes of the consumer.”

Harrison and Michels said that the fundamentals are part of all of CIPS’ training sessions, which helps develop strong procurement and supply chain leaders in the future. The network is strong, and the talent is only growing. The time to join procurement is now, he said.

Spend Friends will return next Tuesday, Aug. 10, for more intriguing procurement discussions with the CPO of Bayer! Register here to attend the next live Zoom session. And listen to the episode featuring CIPS’ Malcolm Harrison below!