Gone are the days when your generous corporate employer or government department would pay for you to get a degree. Training funds are tight, so nowadays it’s often all up to you. If you want to take an expensive course to upgrade your skills or change direction in your career, you may have to fund it yourself; so choose carefully.
What are employers looking for?
Company recruiters and agencies are looking for transferable skills, those that can transcend industries and procurement categories. They search for keywords in your CV such as: stakeholder management, supplier relationship management, e-procurement, analytical, negotiation and sustainability. The focus is on how well you can adapt to changes in the business landscape and use your knowledge and experience to help organizations achieve their goals, i.e. get better value from their procurement efforts.
What are the areas that are in demand?
The more complex procurement categories such as I.T. and technology, marketing, professional services and media are hard to fill and pay well. This is partly because applicants need to understand the category and the supply market but also because of the need for strong stakeholder management and communication skills.
There are job openings now that didn’t exist 5 years ago. You can command a premium in the market if you can home in where there is a shortage of suitable applicants. Employers complain that there is a skills shortage in some of the newer areas, why not identify one of them?
This is a catch-all term used loosely to cover a whole range of “green issues”. It is not all about reducing carbon footprints. Companies are hiring specialists to focus on sourcing and managing utilities including alternative sources of energy. Initiatives include reducing the cost and usage of fuel, water and power, recycling and waste management and thereby improving their overall environmental impact. These areas are where the effect on brand image is very high and where there is real risk to reputation.
The implementation of new contracts and the resulting supplier changeovers have always been a headache in large organizations. The satisfaction of the end-user is not always considered or managed well. There is a need for individuals who can explain the need for new initiatives and manage the “human side” of change when implementing projects. An understanding of cross-cultural differences and having well-developed interpersonal skills are basic requirements for this role.
Although financial and statistical analysis is a backroom sort of job, it is vital to the success of a procurement organization. “Big data” is a hot topic, how to cleanse it, how to slice-and-dice it and tweak it for reporting and decision-making. Spend categorisation is the first step in strategic sourcing and category management. Further down the line, measuring and tracking savings is an area that is in great need of expertise. Business analysts with these advanced skills will attract a premium. Here’s an example of a recent job advert:
“We currently have an exciting opportunity for a Procurement Finance Lead. This individual will partner with the Global Procurement Lead to develop sourcing strategies, improve quality of supplies and services, and deliver economic efficiency.”
Employers like these look for evidence that a candidate can focus on profitability and cash flow and not just manage down current costs.
This is about seeing the big picture and is rated as one of the biggest skills gaps in procurement today. Successful applicants will have a more developed and integrated view of the overall business gained by an openness and developing a curiosity about the outside economic environment. The move is away from tactical activity towards research, innovation and ideas that create value and even challenge the corporate strategy.
An effective supply market analysis for a product or service starts with an overview of the global market and industry trends. The outcome is a comparative analysis of the major players and an industry report on which you will base your sourcing decisions. This is skill that can be learnt.
Supplier relationship management (SRM)
The big discussion here is about partnering with key suppliers. Companies that have strong relationships with their top suppliers reap many cost benefits from continuous improvement to new product innovation. What is clear is that many large organizations are recruiting for this role rather than assuming that it just happens within procurement categories and at operational level in the business.
Project management skills are particularly useful, and therefore desired, in categories such as real estate, facilities management and technology.
Routine tactical and transactional procurement jobs are being outsourced to low-cost countries and outsource platforms. Generalists doing three-bids-and-a- buy activities are being replaced by data entry clerks working with e-procurement catalogues. The best jobs are those where skills are in short supply.
This article was first published in the Bespoke Bulletin.