Ten Ways to Improve Your Procurement Team’s Capability (part 1)

We commented recently on the Deloitte CPO Survey which contained the worrying statistic that 62% of CPOs felt their own teams do not have the skills and capability needed to met the procurement function's objectives. That indicated, we surmised, a profession in crisis. ,

We also suggested that unless a CPO was very new in their job, they have to take some responsibility for the situation. Having said that, it is easy for us to criticise from the sidelines – so let's be constructive today (and later this week) and suggest some actions that can be taken to address this situation.

Let's also assume that there isn't an unlimited pot of money. If there was, then one answer is simply to go out and recruit the very best people money can buy, of course. Even that tactic is not fool-proof – it will certainly take time, and the best people might not want to join you anyway, however much you pay. More importantly, few of us have ever had or will have that luxury, so here are some actions that might help but don't necessarily cost a fortune. Today, they're around recruitment; in part two, we will look at development and retention.


1. Make sure your process is effective and slick. How many organisations complain about the difficulty of recruiting, yet run, a slow, unfriendly recruitment process that turns off good candidates? As Edbury Daley has commented more than once in their very good quarterly reports and in other articles, too many organisations lose good candidates through the process. Getting to the final stage then saying "oh, we have to wait three weeks until HR sign off on the offer" is not going to inspire any potential recruit, neither is the CPO postponing the interview at short notice because "something's come up". That will really not make people feel that you take recruitment and people seriously.

2. Think and look outside the box. Yes, I would prefer someone to be CIPS qualified, I might prefer them to have a relevant analytical degree and five years’ very relevant experience, but there are very good people who may not have any of those things on their cv. Just remember that the more you restrict your pool of talent, the harder it is to catch the proverbial fish. If you narrow the field too much too soon in the process, you will make life difficult for yourself.

3. Look in other functional areas - we've seen plenty of excellent procurement people who came into the profession from other functions. So your own business is often the best place to start that sort of search. The IT manager who gives that outsourced service supplier a really hard time in the SRM meetings; the brand manager who is creative but also very much into the data from the media agencies; might they turn into excellent category managers on "our side of the fence" with the right support and training? And they often have the advantage of course of deep category knowledge and credibility with the relevant stakeholders.

4. Apprenticeship or graduate trainee schemes don't have to be just for the larger organisations. I work with one organisation of around 60 people that has successfully taken and developed apprentices for a number of white-collar functional areas. We hope to see more procurement apprenticeship schemes spring up in the years to come.

5. Offer flexible working - being able to offer flexible or variable working hours, part-time or similar can give the recruiter a competitive edge over organisations that can't or won't do so. Returning parents for instance can really value that and may well swap some income for the greater flexibility.

And we’ll be back in part two with some thoughts on developing and retaining staff once you’ve captured them!

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