Eye-For-Procurement Technology For Procurement Highlights II: John LaPorta’s Presentation

John LaPorta’s (Procurement, IBM) presentation on “It’s not just about the technology: How to accelerate procurement skills and gain a real competitive advantage” was one of the best presentations at the Technology for Procurement Forum in San Francisco, put on by EyeForProcurement last month, and my favorite.

In this presentation, John tackled a favorite topic of mine, the talent crunch and how the most severe shortage of skilled labor in history is nearly upon us. ( Now might be a good time to start getting on your leading’s blogger priority customer list, before it’s too late. ) In this presentation, he reminded us of the following frightening statistics:

  • 25% of the world’s population will reach retirement age in the next three (3) years
  • employers estimate that 39% of their current workforce and 26% of new hires will have basic skill deficiencies

In other words, you could lose a quarter of your workforce in the next few years, but with the increasing skill requirements of knowledge requirement jobs, even if you can find a replacement (which is not guaranteed in an economy where the unemployment rate has dropped below the lowest rate during the recent IT bubble), he or she is not likely to have all the skills you need.

To this end, John is recommending that you, like IBM (and you can never go wrong with IBM, right? – well, okay, you can argue that sometimes you can, but they’re right on the money this time), develop or adopt a Procurement Capability Accelerator program to teach new hires the skills they need to have in months, and not years, using tailored development and coaching programs that compress two-to-three years of experiential learning into six months through heavy use of mentoring. I know you might not think you can spare your senior employees for these large buckets of time, but just think about how much worse this problem will be when they retire and take their knowledge with them.

John notes, rightly so, that one of the keys to this approach is finding the right tools and technologies that your employees can learn and adapt to quickly as well as identifying any tools and technologies that you can use to make the learning, and specifically the e-learning, process more efficient. It’s all about the right people, processes, and technology and the key is not to overlook any one of these focal points and attack all three with the appropriate level of attention and rigor.

I know you’d rather be an ostrich and stick your head in the sand then truly contemplate the magnitude of the talent problem sneaking up on you, but the sooner you realize that the only way to tackle the problem is to act now and turn your procurement officers into performance officers, the better off you’ll be in the long run. Moreover, if you’re prepared for the coming workforce turnover, you’ll have a significant competitive advantage. While your competitors are unsuccessfully scrambling to find talent that just isn’t available, you’ll have it in place.

And remember, as Deming said, if there’s a problem on the floor, it’s management, not the people. So act now.