Talent Procurement Success is in the DNA


Editor’s note: Procurement Pulse is a monthly look at a topic or trend that is impacting the procurement function at organizations of all sizes. If you are interested in future topics, you can see a full list of upcoming features here.

Supply chain disruptions, geopolitical pressures, and continually changing consumer demands are just a few of the challenges procurement professionals have faced in recent years.

Procurement Pulse

“Chief procurement officers (CPOs) who have successfully navigated uncertainty in recent years have become indispensable partners to the executive suite,” a recent report from McKinsey & Company noted. “As the CPO of a manufacturing company noted to us, ‘Never before has procurement been core to so many executive committee-level priorities. We now have a real seat at the top table. And this is not a temporary situation—this is how we will operate going forward.’”

A changing workforce

As the day-to-day functions of procurement continue to change, the type of employees required to perform these duties must also evolve. With that, research from Gartner finds that only 14% of procurement leaders express confidence in their talent’s ability to meet the future needs of the function.

“Procurement leaders are generally confident in the current state of their talent and the ability to meet their near-term objectives,” said Fareen Mehrzai, senior director analyst, Gartner’s Supply Chain Practice. “However, our data shows that chief procurement officers are worried about the future and having sufficient talent to meet transformative goals based around technology, as well as the ability to serve as a strategic advisor to the business.”

To procurement leaders on the front lines, the battle is real.

Scott Berkman, chief procurement officer at Elior North America, a company of 12 distinct food and hospitality companies that feeds more than 4 million people daily, tells Supply Chain Management Review the challenge to find and retain employees is never-ending.

“I think the dynamic of the workforce has changed,” he says. “The view on how people view employment has changed over the last few years. Talent can either be DNA-based where folks have the right attributes to apply and make them successful in an organization, or they can have the right technical attributes. However, the right technical attributes don’t guarantee success.

Finding the right DNA

Berkman says a hiring priority at Elior is finding the person with the right DNA. “On the procurement side, it’s DNA. You hire for DNA and train for skill,” he notes.

That DNA, at Elior, means finding the right person, with the right attitude and right approach to the position.

“We are forming what we want to look like, so there is an opportunity to contribute,” Berkman says of Elior’s journey, which despite generating more than $1 billion in annual revenue, is still evolving as an organization. “If an individual, from a procurement standpoint, wants to be part of that journey … I think it is a very positive place for that type of individual.”

Among the key attributes Elior might look for in a procurement professional are whether they can function in a team environment, what their skillset looks like, and whether they can handle KPIs. All of that is explained during the onboarding process. In fact, that is a key part of ensuring Elior hires the right people.

Communicate for retention

“Communication is very important, both in the interview process and the onboarding process,” Berkman says. “They are given a playbook of the organization and what is expected, and that is expected of all of us.”

The McKinsey report noted that procurement leaders need new skills in today’s environment.

“To thrive in the future, procurement needs a new breed of professionals who possess a diverse skill set,” said the report. “The buyer of the future combines the traditional procurement tool kit and category expertise with a new set of capabilities in advanced data analytics, sustainability, and strategic thinking.”

Berkman sees the same thing. Elior conducts regular surveys of employees to gauge their thoughts on the organization. This helps the company create an environment where people want to stay, and also identifies how management can assist employees in their career development.

“I think there is competition for talent, so based on that, in the hiring process, you have to be able to offer a differentiating environment and explain what that is,” he says.

Part of that is embracing technology, particularly artificial intelligence. ChatGPT allows employees “to expand their toolkit,” Berkman says, advising organizations to embrace the technology in a way that enhances the job function, not to eliminate positions.

“If an organization has that view, and an organization looks at it as a way to enhance talent once they get on board, I think if that is explained properly and where things are going, that makes an employer attractive,” he says.

Challenges remain

Finding and keeping the right talent remains a challenge for businesses of all stripes as the requirement for talent changes. Among these changing capabilities, Gartner reported a shift in the key competencies CPOs need to help drive objectives associated with procurement transformation. The survey of 111 procurement leaders found 69% of respondents said business acumen had gained importance in the last 12 months, while 68% said technology and data skills had increased in importance. Only 26% said “traditional procurement competencies” had gained importance in the same period.

Gartner’s survey data also suggests that more work needs to be done in refining competency planning strategies to meet future talent needs in the procurement function. While more than 65% of respondents reported that their organizations have dedicated strategies to target the most critical competencies, only 31% believe that their current competency models are relevant to their staff’s work.

To Berkman, it all boils down to employee engagement.

“To me it’s about keeping the team members engaged professionally and ensuring that as you hire folks, they know that is one of your key aspirations as an organization, that you care about their growth,” he says. “Are you different and are you different in a way to meets their needs?”

With reporting from Amy Wunderlin

About the Author

Brian Straight

Brian Straight is the Editor in Chief of Supply Chain Management Review. He has covered trucking, logistics and the broader supply chain for more than 15 years. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children. He can be reached at [email protected], @TruckingTalk, on LinkedIn, or by phone at 774-440-3870.





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