Talent vs Behaviour vs Skill – What do we really need? Thoughts from ProcureCon Indirect

At a previous ProcureCon Indirect event, we witnessed a discussion panel on hiring procurement talent featuring Robert Turner, transformation lead at John Lewis, Kevin Will, exec director international strategic sourcing at Warner Bros, and Robert Semethy, CPO at Erste Group Bank – so a fair bit of diversity in industries. The ‘Procurement talent – how to source, support and train talent that can support and respond to a changing world’ discussion began with a good argument between panellists over the semantics or terminology used.  Top Talent, Will said, is a term that doesn’t reflect the requirement. What we need is an engaged team, not top talent, he argued. This made quite a few ears prick up in the audience and quite a few eyes to roll - had many of us really thought about hiring 'talent' that way? Although it is becoming more of a recurring theme - see the article we published on Hire for Behaviour - Train for Talent.

But it was very convincing, because acquiring, supporting and retaining talent requires an understanding of what the individual wants from the role as well as what the business needs. That might be flexible working conditions, or further training, or the desire to work for a firm that is sustainably and ethically sensible - which is becoming more of a driver in recruitment. The question is, can you afford to ignore these requirements in favour of hiring just for skill – after all, it will cost more to the business in the long run to re-recruit and re-train if they end up leaving.

Semethy agreed in that we need to be able to scale appropriately; while we face inflationary pressures with possible costs and tariffs rising, and we are talking about colleagues, not suppliers, there’s no negotiating downwards! And – we all want to be the company of choice, with decent salaries, training and ethical standing. We want to be attractive to staff, current and new, to increase engagement. Turner added that sometimes churn is important and healthy too. He made the point that striking the right balance between recruiting for skill and for behaviour is important, because there’s a distinction between candidates (and existing staff) who want to progress to the next level, and those who want to achieve excellence in their field.

Another position taken was that while larger organisations have different levels of roles depending on the size of the firm, in smaller teams, everyone has to be able to be more flexible in their abilities and roles. Will talked about how in his industry skill requirements are very diverse, they must span from construction to making chocolate frogs. The most important thing is people who can interact with each other. We in procurement have to be able to a) talk to them in plain English – not procurement speak, and b) apply the procurement process to a problem without them even knowing. It’s not sufficient to be a good practitioner, we need to be able to build relationships, and build bridges between the business and us. At the end of the day, we are here to support the business.

You can’t recruit ‘talent’ (in terms of being good at something without the need for training) – just skills and behaviour, then you train them – was the overarching conclusion.

The conversation then turned to bringing in more diversity, in terms of people, thoughts, backgrounds, gender. And the point was made that diversity in thinking is probably most important – and it’s not always procurement thinking you need. One member of the audience recalled taking on a good sourcing manager from a product supply background who didn’t particularly have procurement skills. So it’s good to look across the business, sometimes you need a skill that isn’t necessarily associated with procurement – another valuable message.

ProcureCon Indirect for CPOs and Heads of Indirect takes place this year 31 March to 01 April in Berlin. If previous events are anything to go by, it should bring more interesting and thought-provoking discussions that audience members can get involved in.

Registrations are now open and if you book soon you can save €400.

See more details here and the agenda here.

 

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