Training a Procurement Team

Special thanks to Charles Dominick, SPSM3 of theĀ Next Level Purchasing Association for this guest post.

In the previous post of this series, I covered how to determine the competencies in which each of your procurement team members should be trained. Today, I will cover the options for procurement training.

Specifically, I’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of these five options:

  1. Internal Training
  2. On-Site Seminars
  3. Conferences
  4. Online Courses
  5. Certification Programs

Let’s begin …

Internal Training

Internal procurement training is when seasoned members of a procurement team provide classroom-style instruction to less senior members of the team.

Advantages: The main advantage of an internal training approach is that the training can be customized to be laser-focused on the issues specific to the organization. Also, no travel is required, making internal training convenient and low cost.

Disadvantages: There are many disadvantages to internal training. First, just because someone is a good procurement professional doesn’t mean they will be a good trainer. They are two separate professions. And it can be painful to listen to a less-than-expert public speaker drone on for hours at a time. Second, a valuable outcome of training is being exposed to new ideas that can be adapted to the organization. Internal training does not provide for such new ideas. Third, preparing a training event is more time consuming than many non-trainers think. When a procurement professional is spending hours upon hours preparing for training, they are not doing what they were hired to do: deliver value through excellent procurement performance. Fourth, taking an entire procurement team away from its regular duties to sit together at the same time in a classroom could lead to delays or disruptions in business operations.

On-Site Seminars

Holding on-site seminars involves hiring a trainer to deliver live training right at the facility where the procurement team works.

Advantages: Like internal training, on-site seminars do not require the staff to travel, offering convenience. But, unlike internal training, on-site seminars are conducted by expert trainers, which makes a high quality training experience much more likely.

Disadvantages: Like internal training, taking an entire procurement team away from its regular duties to sit together at the same time in a classroom could lead to delays or disruptions in business operations. Also, not all on-site trainers are available for questions after their time on-site is over. Finally, if you want the best trainer in the country or world — not just the best local trainer — it can be expensive as you will have to pay the speaker’s fee and his/her travel expenses.


Conferences bring together procurement professionals from multiple organizations and multiple geographies, exposing them to a wide variety of educational sessions and providing them with networking opportunities.

Advantages: Attending conferences is a great way to be exposed to a wide variety of new ideas in a very compressed period of time. The opportunity to network with ambitious procurement peers is a benefit that is arguably just as important as the education.

Disadvantages: Sometimes, conferences have such a variety of topics presented that you don’t get as deep an education in one topic as you’d like. Also, having to be out of the office for two, three or more days is difficult for some procurement professionals.

Online Courses

Online courses provide procurement professionals with on-demand access to educational content. Learners access these courses via computers or mobile devices.

Advantages: This option removes the geographic and time-related barriers to learning from the best procurement training organizations. Procurement professionals can participate on their own and progress at their own pace. Questions can be asked at the time answers are needed most — when learned techniques are being implemented. The education can be consumed in small increments, serving as less of a distraction from normal business activities.

Disadvantages: Unlike conferences, where face-to-face networking is a top benefit, the benefits of online courses are more education-related.

Certification Programs

Certification programs take education to the next level by awarding a credential after the successful completion of training and testing.

Advantages: While many procurement leaders struggle to figure out the best topics on which their teams should be trained, certification programs are based on years of already determining that, providing a turnkey plan for procurement staff education. By successfully completing a certification program, a procurement professional will be awarded the privilege of using a credential — like SPSM — after his or her name. Credentials help procurement professionals prove their value and generate respect among peers, management, internal customers and suppliers.

Disadvantages: The best certification programs are designed to confirm that the best and brightest procurement professionals are, well, the best and the brightest. That means they may be too challenging for lesser performers.

As you can see, procurement professionals have a lot of options for training. The good news is that all of these options have merit. Any time that there are a lot of options, there is a chance of being overwhelmed and getting wrapped up in “paralysis by analysis.” My advice is to choose at least one option every year. Because when it comes to activities designed to increase your procurement knowledge, doing something is always better than doing nothing.