Years ago as a newly minted graduate with a master’s degree in international affairs most people wouldn’t have guessed I would soon embark on a successful decades-long career in procurement consulting. I didn’t have an MBA or a degree in finance or accounting. But what I did – and still do -- possess is an ability to connect with people. I have a strong interest in how varied business units work together toward a common goal, and I bring a strong organizational and planning mindset to everything that I do.

Increasingly, these so-called “soft skills” are desirable characteristics that CPOs look for when building their procurement teams. Because in the new era of procurement transformation, transactional skills simply aren’t enough anymore.

In our latest industry whitepaper, A Talent-First Approach: The Missing Piece of the Procurement Transformation Puzzle, we partnered with ISG Research to examine the changing landscape of talent management within the industry. Not only do we explore agile business alignment – perhaps the biggest procurement trend, which has only accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic – but we share our thoughts on what will make up the new talent profile and what skills will be coveted in the future.

Agile Business Alignment Is a Growing Trend

In today’s business climate, procurement professionals need to remain flexible to better align with evolving and complex targets when it comes to business and stakeholder objectives. Where to focus resources differs depending on the organization. As such, it’s crucial that CPOs understand where the business is headed so that goals, performance metrics and operating models are designed to align with those larger objectives.

At the same time, staying flexible, adaptable, and agile allows procurement to help accelerate business value rather than impeding progress with unnecessary, burdensome processes. As CPOs evaluate their teams, keeping the need for these key skills top-of-mind becomes increasingly relevant. Developing a keen eye for raw talent that can be developed, managed and trained to successfully operate within this new, more agile procurement ecosystem will be paramount. Prioritizing continuous development and scouting opportunities to grow talent in directions that benefit the organization and align with the individual’s professional goals must also be part of the equation. Otherwise you will see a revolving door of strong potential.

What Does This New Talent Profile Look Like?

It’s clear that procurement’s transformation from a largely transactional, back-office function to a business unit that earns its right to be a full strategic business partner depends on people. Of course, functional skills such as category management, negotiation, and supplier relations continue to be critical. But those are just the table stakes skills today. The new procurement workforce also must possess advanced capabilities including:

  • Category expertise

  • Risk evaluation and management

  • Relationship building skills

  • An integrated supply-market perspective

In addition, successful procurement teams require its members be tech-savvy, have a data-driven orientation and possess high-end analytics and modeling skills.

With all of these new imperatives, it’s no surprise that according to a recent ISG survey the lack of skilled employees was among the top 3 challenges that organization’s face for successful procurement transformation.

Assessing Future Needs and Acting Now to Build the Best Team

It takes effort and vision to identify the right people with the right skillsets in any employment situation. But don’t think you need to recruit people who already possess all of the knowledge and expertise your organization needs. You just need to get good at recognizing talent-in-the-rough. Whether its reskilling or upskilling existing employees, or hiring new team members that exhibit analytical ability, business sense and critical-thinking skills, you can build a more agile, creative and innovative procurement team.

Given the time crunch so many procurement organizations operate under daily and the time investment necessary to develop truly effective training programs, many organizations are reaching out to established external training programs. Not only can these third-parties help you equip existing team members with the skills essential for procurement transformation, they also can help shift perceptions of the value these new skills can bring within organizations. Don’t expect to simply offload training to a third-party and expect success, though. Achieving an effective talent management program requires your ongoing investment in time and resources to ensure your valued team members feel just that…valued.

It can’t be emphasized enough – once you’ve recruited and trained your ideal procurement team you must retain them. How do you do that? Continue to make efforts to develop your talent. Help them search out opportunities to grow and add to their expertise and breadth of experience. Ask where they want to see themselves heading within the organization and help craft a plan to get them there. Invest in them and they will be more motivated to stay.

Proper talent management doesn’t just take place in formal, structured training programs. I’d argue that the best talent managers are those that invest 1:1 time with their team members in informal ways, looking for opportunities to bring them along, giving them opportunities to learn from successes and…yes…failures. No one likes to feel isolated, ill-prepared or neglected. So make it a point to demonstrate daily how important they are to the organization with your time and attention.

A Talent-First Approach Will Help Lead to Successful Procurement Transformation

It always comes down to people. Assemble a strong team around you, invest in their growth and allow them to help shape the strategies that will move procurement ahead. To read more about how you can craft a talent-first approach, download our latest white paper here.


About the Author

Lynn Rideout
Director, Client Delivery Services

Lynn Rideout Lynn Rideout is a Director within WNS-Denali’s Client Delivery Services team. She is responsible for developing and delivering procurement solutions and capabilities to WNS-Denali client organizations. Lynn has 20 years of procurement experience. She has led WNS-Denali’s global Category Management capabilities. She has previously worked as a Marketing Category Manager, as well as a procurement service operations leader. Lynn has worked with clients in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, consumer goods, financial services and pharmaceuticals. Lynn holds a degree in International Relations from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, as well as a BA in Business and Political Science from Grove City College.

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