Category Archives: Talent

Recruiting Top Procurement Talent is More than Just Standard Best Practice Recruiting …

A recent article over on the Supply Chain Management Review proclaimed to offer 9 Ways to Recruit Top Procurement Talent in Today’s Competitive Market. So of course it caught our attention. However, the tips it offered were just standard Best Practice Executive Recruitment, and it was quite disappointing. According to the article, the best way to recruit top procurement talent, which is the rarest talent out there right now, is to:

  • Personalize the Recruitment Process
  • Optimize the Candidate Experience
  • Clarity and Transparency on the Role
  • Tangible Opportunities for Growth
  • Flexible Work Arrangements
  • Holistic Compensation Packages
  • Consistent Employer Branding
  • Empowered and Inclusive Workplace
  • Understand and Act on (Current) Employee Priorities

… and absolutely, positively NOTHING here is specific to Procurement talent. It’s the basics you should be employing when recruiting for ANY role as you are seeking out the talent (which is NOT coming to you). If you want Procurement talent, you have to do more than this. For starters, we recommend

  • Parity Compensation with Sales … in an average company, if that company is lucky, 10 cents of every sales dollar goes to the bottom line but the sales person, on top of a nice baseline salary, will get a 10%, 20%, and even 30% of the sale; in comparison, every dollar of spend reduction achieved by a Procurement professional goes straight to the bottom line (i.e. 10X the ROI, or more) and their commission is a pat on the back and maybe a trip to ISM … they should be incentivized to go above and beyond baseline expectations if you truly want the best (of the best)
  • Adequate Technology Budget … as almost half of organizations don’t have any modern sourcing and/or procurement technology solutions/platforms and the majority that do have not yet digitized the full Source-to-Pay+ process to maximize Procurement productivity and profits
  • Adequately Sized Procurement Department … while technology will allow the team to do more with less, as per the Hackett Book of Numbers, there’s still a minimum number of personnel you are going to need to sufficiently analyze and monitor the spend, strategically analyze and source all the necessary categories, keep the tail spend under control, improve sustainability, support the brand, etc. etc. etc.

… but what we really recommend is not trying to lure away more than one high talented Procurement individual (to be your Director / CPO if you don’t have one) but instead lure away top talent with the potential to become Procurement Rock Stars because they have deep category expertise in multiple categories the organization needs to source; outstanding project management, technology/math, and management skills; and the right EQ to be both a team player, team leader, and supplier development professional.

In particular, you should consider looking for:

  • new age logistics leaders (who can model supply chains, complex landed / ownership costs, and understand lead times and extended supply chain risks);
  • astute supply chain modellers and designers from consultancies who have particular expertise in your domain
  • engineering leaders (who know their categories inside and out, do complex modelling on a daily basis, have been trained in project management and managed projects, and have leadership and people skills
  • corporate / supply chain insurance actuaries and professional economists who have the expertise to appropriately predict, cost, and manage risk and create proper risk-aware sourcing events and risk mitigation plans

… and then training them on your Procurement processes, which will be easy-peasy for them to learn compared to the complex logistics, supply chain modelling, science/technology/engineering/math knowledge, and actuarial science and econometrics they had to learn to do the job they’re doing now.

Moreover, depending on your domain, you may also be looking for chemists (chemical manufacturing), biologists (pharmaceuticals), lawyers (if you do a lot of contracting / contingent labour / outsourcing), etc. The reality is that the best of the best for your organization likely aren’t in Procurement yet (because, as we pointed out in our recent article on how If You Want Good Procurement People YOU NEED TO TRAIN THEM).

Need Some Procurement Principles? Balfour Beatty Published a Great Starting Point.

Google sometimes digs up the strangest things when you ask for Procurement News. One thing it recently dug up was the Balfour Beatty “Procurement Strategy” page, which wasn’t so much a strategy, but a set of principles that every organization should subscribe to. (Regardless of what industry they are in.)

So, if you’re wondering what principles you should adopt before you set your Procurement organization strategy, you can start with these seven principles:

  1. Become the customer of choice
  2. Ensure that we have the right, skilled people for the job, a strong talent pipeline and that we provide an environment where they excel
  3. Put in place processes that work, are compliant and transparent, making the best use of technology to deliver for our business and for our supply chain partners
  4. Mitigate and manage risk through early and closer integration with our supply chain partners
  5. Work together to identify market risks and forecasts
  6. Keep safety and wellbeing at the forefront of all that we do
  7. Prompt Payment for Suppliers

The great thing is they will lead to a great strategy as:

  • it covers talent, technology, and process transformation
  • it places importance on the supplier, the relationship, and the supplier sustainability
  • it covers CSR (corporate social responsibility)
  • it covers risk

In fact, the only principle that is missing is Sustainability, so if you add this eight principle

  1. Embrace sustainability in all that we do

We’re pretty sure that if you were to start here, you won’t go too far astray in the creation of your Procurement Strategy.

Procurement Staff Augmentation: What’s the Approach?

While scanning the weekly news, the doctor encountered an article in the Technology section of HackRead on Strategic IT Staff Augmentation: A Roadmap for C-Level Executives, which outlined key considerations when choosing an outsourcing service provider (as all of them have pros and cons) as well as five essential steps that are required to make a good decision.

But what do you do in Procurement? Whereas there are dozens of big providers with oodles of talent sitting on a bench to help you in Tech, it’s not so in Procurement. Just like organizations struggle to find experienced and knowledgeable Procurement talent, so do consulting agencies, group purchasing organizations, and vendors who want former senior buyers and CPOs to help guide them on creating useable solutions. So if you can’t get talent, and they can’t get talent, what do you do?

It’s a damn good question, and it has a good answer, but not one you’re gonna like. Because you can’t get enough talent, you need to get better tech. The reality is that even if the market improves and your budget for headcount and technology improves, you’ll still have to do more with less because you won’t find the talent you need. So take advantage of the fact that you’re constantly expected to do more with less and set yourself up to be able to do that by getting the right tech.

More specifically, the tech that lets you:

  • automate and streamline tactical tasks
  • define your strategic processes, automate data collection, define validations, and automate standard analysis and insights retrieval
  • integrate 3rd party intelligence including, but not limited to, metrics, ratings, benchmarks, market insights, etc.
  • enable third parties to do sourcing events, negotiations, supplier development, detailed analysis, etc. on your behalf
  • allow self-serve integrations to third party tech used by third parties who do Procurement projects for you

Those last two capabilities in particular are critical for organizations who need Procurement staff augmentation because:

  • they won’t be able to hire more senior staff internally,
  • they won’t be able to secure them from consulting companies for more than short periods of time, and
  • they will only have access to shared resources on a regular basis (i.e. short term engagements from consultants who will engage to provide expertise / leadership on specific projects, short term engagements from vendor staff who will do a specific project / negotiation, etc.)

So, without the tech that will allow a third party to

  • quickly customize the process they will follow
  • automate all the tactical steps and data collection
  • automate the analysis needed for augmented insights
  • use their tools and push the appropriate data and results to the client
  • use the client tools and get the functionality and data they need

A third party cannot take on the work an organization needs it to take due to lack of experienced staff. Thus, the answer to procurement staff augmentation is one that starts with better, more modern, Procurement tech, which is quite different than IT staff augmentation, which starts with firm qualification and then resource qualification. Due to the drastically different market dynamics — an abundance of talent vs. a dearth, the approach has to be entirely different.

PostScript: Please note not ONCE did we say AI. We said better tech. That’s totally different!

If You Want Good Procurement People …


A common problem among all Procurement departments is their ability to find good, educated, experienced people. The reason for this is simple: there just aren’t enough good, educated, and experienced people to fill all the Procurement positions that should exist among corporations world-wide.


1. Procurement isn’t Sexy

People go into careers that are attractive. These are careers that are held in high regard (like doctors and lawyers), careers that pay well (like finance and tech), careers that are currently in high demand where unusually high premiums can be found in the right locations (like nursing or remote mining/O&G positions), or careers that bring fame (like acting, entertaining, and professional sports). People don’t go into careers that no one’s heard of, careers that have a negative stigma, or careers that don’t pay well. Guess what bucket(s) Procurement falls into? The latter three. No one’s heard of it (who even advertises their world class Procurement, yet alone makes it sexy — that’s right, no company on earth). It’s still thought to be the Island of Misfit Toys. And many people think back office purchasing pay scales are akin to entry level AP clerks.

2. There are No Real Procurement Programs

Prestigious Universities have prestigious business schools. These focus on executive management and basic operations. The best of these will also teach classic logistics. There are only a few Supply Chain Management programs globally, and none of these teach modern Procurement platforms and processes as a general rule. A few have brief introductions to modern spend analysis or e-Auction or RFP platforms, but that’s literally two decades old tech in our field. No one coming out of University has any real understanding of modern procurement processes, best practices, or platforms.

3. Most Procurement People Have Very Narrow Skill Sets

When you’re in Procurement because you get put there, fall there because there was nothing else at the time and you needed a job, or voluntarily move there to help the company because you demonstrated a knack for buying certain categories and without you, the company would be suffering and possibly have to layoff your friends, you didn’t go there because you had the right education and experience and knew it was the best job for you. Furthermore, when companies don’t invest in the education you need to learn end-to-end processes, best practices, and category specifics outside of the area you came from, you end up developing, usually by trial and error, a very narrow skill set in terms of applications you can use, processes you know, and market interpretation to determine if the offer is reasonable in current market conditions. This makes it very hard to jump to another job and be a good buyer in another category, or even a similar category where you would have to buy a whole new set of parts from a whole new set of suppliers in a whole new geography.

Thus, it’s going to be very hard, for any intermediate position, to find the right person who can walk in and do the job at market average performance day one.

However, Procurement is not rocket science, open heart surgery, or CPU design. It’s not hard to find very smart engineers, mathematicians, technologists, pharmacists, chemists, etc. who can, with focussed training in best-practice procurement processes and platforms, very quickly pick up the basics of Procurement and use their deep knowledge of products and R&D/Engineering/Manufacturing needs to identify the best products, suppliers, and partners for the organization. These highly educated individuals will also have a decent background in mathematics, algorithms, and logic to learn the spend analysis / market intelligence platforms and quickly identify market average prices and costs for products and parts and be able to analyze bids against current organizational prices, market prices, and should cost models to identify those suppliers offering fair quotes as well as additional service-based value.

With a few weeks of focussed training on key processes and platforms, these resources can often be up and running effectively, and with a few months of training over their first few years, quickly progress to a top-tier performer. All you have to do is bring back the Learning & Development budget and train them by hiring appropriate analysts and consultancies to design/deliver the courses they need to be effective for your organization. And even though custom courses can cost considerable up-front dollars, 10K is nothing if it helps a top-tier resource identify a 10% savings on a 10M contract, as that’s literally a 100X return on your investment. (Remember this the next time someone considers cutting the training budget for Procurement as the return on proper training for a good resource will always exceed the investment many times over.)

Sourcing and Supply Chain Jobs CAN NOT Be Automated

Raconteur recently published a great article that noted that the next big shortage to watch [is] supply chain skills, and they were entirely correct when they noted that it’s ironic that the profession struggles with its own supply of talent. They were even more on the money when they said walk into a meeting of supply chain managers and you might wonder whether you’ve stepped back in time several decades because the statistic published in 2021 by Logistics UK that 89% of people working in logistics and supply chain are men.

Furthermore, they scored the hat trick when they noted that employers are struggling to find talent, and that is because not enough talent is entering the industry. Why is this? That’s a good question, and unfortunately Raconteur stopped with the hat-trick because the rationale they gave for lack of new entrants is only part of the problem.

According to Raconteur, the reasons for the lack of recruits are:

  1. Procurement is high on the list of roles at risk of being automated to extinction
  2. The recent slew of media reports highlighting failures in important supply chains may be deterring potential new entrants away

And while constant claims of procurement automation and constant reports of failures are unattractive, it is not the core problem (but merely the manifestation of the problem).

The real problems are the continuing:

  1. Lack of Marketing by the Profession (and why a Procurement/Supply Chain Manager is someone who’s cool)
  2. Lack of Education in most/leading University programs

Corporations who value engineers do great advertising on how cool it is to be an engineer working for them (think Siemens). Oil & Gas and Mining industries who need geologists and specialists to find new deposits do great advertising on how cool it is to be an explorer in the modern world. SaaS / Social Media companies that need great software developers do great advertising on how it is super cool to be a techie. Have you ever seen any corporation ever make it super cool to be in Procurement or Supply Chain? Even Apple, which won on supply chain management, never advertised how cool it would be to be a supply chain manager for them. As a result, Procurement and Supply Chain only recently entered the general vocabulary, and most people only paid attention as a result of the massive failures that came to light under the pandemic*.

Most University programs, two decades after we needed courses on modern Procurement and Supply Chain Management, still only teach classical Operations Research and Logistics. Logistics is important, but the age of Logistics was two decades ago. As Will Smith told us back in 2002, no one wants to be in the old and busted driver’s seat (see the clip). They want to drive the new hotness, but all Universities want to teach them is how to drive the same old and busted processes and practices the Professors learned in the 1980s (which were taught to them by the Professors who invented them in the 1960s).

Since Universities aren’t modernizing, no one graduating understands what Procurement and Supply Chain really is, so when all they hear from the media is failure, why would they want to even look into a profession that is apparently as high stress and fraught with risk as a surgeon or a defense attorney? Furthermore, since companies aren’t even spending a dollar on promoting how cool it is, and how much they need these people, it’s not a stretch to believe that the companies aren’t promoting it because they plan to automate it.

But Procurement cannot be automated. Technology can automate tactical procurement tasks such as:

  • regular restock reorders
  • auto-PO generation and delivery
  • auto-invoice matching / auto-correction requests
  • third-party supplier data validation through APIs
  • auto-supplier discovery from third party networks
  • auto-supplier risk profiling from third party data feeds
  • etc.

because technology is good at the “thunking” — the semi-mindless processing of electronic paperwork to make sure the i’s dotted, the t’s crossed, and the request valid as per business rules. However, technology, especially technology powered by Automated Idiocy, is NOT good at the thinking. You need Procurement Professionals, Sourcing and Supply Chain Superstars for those tasks, which permeate the entire Source to Order and Order to Delivery supply chain cycles. For example, as a counter to the above, technology cannot

  • adequately adapt to highly dynamic demand changes (especially when it doesn’t know why)
  • determine when new products or services NOT in the system will need to be ordered to support one time projects, replace products that will not arrive on time due to supply chain disruptions, replace services where the provider loses the resource with the proper training and certifications, etc.
  • handle the negotiation on the 1% to 5% of invoices where the provider won’t correct the missing information or the pricing on an auto-request
  • be able to validate the API where a human has to call another human to get the necessary information
  • find new, innovative, suppliers NOT in the connected network
  • customize the risk-based vetting to the specific need and acceptable thresholds
  • etc.

So, yes, some of the accounts payable paper pushers are going to lose their jobs as the thunking takes over, but that’s NOT Procurement, and definitely NOT Strategic Sourcing and Supply Chain where a human IS desperately needed. And yes, you will need to be familiar with the best of modern technology as a new professional in our field, as the job will soon be impossible without it, and you will need the augmented intelligence it provides to be efficient, but the technology cannot replace you.

So join us. And run the modern world.

* Not brought on by the pandemic as it was bad supply chain design and management that resulted in the pandemic breaking supply chains. Had the supply chains been properly designed, all the pandemic would have done was slowed them down. So don’t blame the pandemic. In fact, if you want to place blame, then blame McKinsey and their peers which started the ridiculous outsourcing craze instead of helping us improve the home-source and near-source supply chains we had that were working great, and put us in the situation where we have to reconfigure global supply chains all over again.