Procurement Talent – We Need to Be Smarter About Education and Training

Our hot topic this month is drawing a lot of interest in terms of guest posts, but I thought it was time I contributed something to the debate on procurement talent. Let’s talk about skills and development in the profession.

We don’t want to focus on CIPS training and qualifications (or the equivalent in other countries and from other Institutes) today, even though there are interesting debates to be had there. Let’s take it as read that the MCIPS syllabus and education provides what we might define as a solid grounding in procurement thinking and practice. I’m not a supporter of the idea that we should push for a medical type “licence to practice” for procurement people - but all things being equal, as a CPO, I would rather recruit someone who had been through MCIPS than not. It should at the very least mean I can assume that they do have those basics of procurement in place (and a bit more maybe).

However, the question is: what comes next? CIPS is introducing its Chartered status, and we need to look further at exactly what this will involve. But the fundamental challenge here is the sheer diversity and complexity of the skills needed so that procurement professionals can move to the top of their performance ladder.

The difficulties arise as much as anything because the procurement profession has become a very broad church. There always was a big difference between, for instance, a buyer of ladies clothing in the retail environment and a construction industry buyer. Or between a supplies manager in a small hospital and a cocoa trader for Cadbury. But now, the range of different roles is greater than ever, as is the range of skills that are needed in the “profession.”

So a category manager in a large corporate requires, probably above everything else, a really deep insight and understanding into the particular category. That is perhaps for them even more important than good commercial sense and an understanding of procurement tools and techniques.

But other procurement people in the same organisation may need highly developed analytical skills, or to be expert in running market informed sourcing exercises. Others might be focused on major one-off projects with a procurement component (like a major BPO outsource), where skills in project and programme management are way more important than an ability to analyse markets. The growth in the various forms of technology supporting our industry is also playing a part in that diversity, with a greater need for skills in that area too.

What this all suggests is that line mangers and CPOs need to be smarter about determining training and development programmes for their staff. Post MCIPS, a one-size-fits-all approach just won’t work.  Putting everyone through the same negotiation (or whatever) training just isn't enough. Leaders need to segment their teams – down to the individual level at times – and look hard at what each professional really needs in order to do their job better (and their next job better too, ideally).

Luckily, along with that greater complexity, we have also seen a growth in the options available for delivery of training and education, which does enable it to be more personalised and tailored to individual needs. And we’ll come back on another day to that topic, and look further at some of those options.

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Voices (2)

  1. Trevor Black:

    Peter, you make some very good points. However, I hold the view that the most successful procurement professionals are self starters and take responsibilities for their own development and not leave it to their line managers to decide on the most appropriate training. They should be there to support them. The profession is cursed by those who took an examination donkey’s years ago and whose line management are not interested in development of their employees. I have worked with brilliant procurement people who were not qualified but the reality is that our profession needs to step up and become more professional, not only in the individual responsibility of it’s members but also those who employ them. I am sick of organisations where key commercial decisions are made by the risk averse professions of accountants, lawyers and worse civil servants whereas those with commercial skills are lost within the second tier level of those organisations. If we don’t raise the standards nothing will change.

  2. David Little:

    Good article, Peter. As a marketing procurement enthusiast, I’m met with blank expressions from my direct-spend counterparts when I discuss things like the ‘value proposition’; industry certification doesn’t guarantee category expertise at all.

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