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I recently sat down for a "fireside chat" with our client, Facebook’s Ese Iweh, to discuss her algorithm for a successful career in procurement operations. Ese’s thoughts provide some valuable guidance for clients looking to maximize their talent management capability.
And Ese knows what she is talking about, having taken on impressive procurement leadership roles with Google, OpenTable and, now, Facebook as their head of global procurement operations for infrastructure. With each successive role, Ese added to her breadth and depth of experience, always starting from a base of strong operational skills. A solid talent for problem-solving and an openness to tackle new challenges also aided in her career progression.
Ese inspired the audience to consider the importance of a strong vision for talent management and explained how to keep pace with the evolving talent profile in procurement. I’m summarizing two important takeaways here.
To be successful at talent management and development requires the vision to recognize the possibilities. This is important on both sides of the recruiting table and when looking to promote within your existing team. Today’s procurement teams must possess the capabilities required to deliver on the vision you establish for the function. Sometimes, this requires a more open-minded approach to recruitment.
When talking about the recruiting process, Ese said, “The expectation almost seems to be that…if there’s five criteria for this new role or industry that you must have all five…it doesn’t always need to fit 100%.”
When looking to pivot to a new area or industry, you must have a firm grasp of your strengths and an understanding of what knowledge can be added along the way, Ese said. Identifying mentors and allies at each organization to help fill in knowledge gaps, Ese set to work on learning the business and earning trust from key stakeholders with a combination of strong communications and successful program initiatives.
When forging strong stakeholder relationships, Ese said it’s important to consider what’s in it for the stakeholder and clearly communicate the value procurement brings: “In the world of procurement operations, I don’t think it’s obvious the value proposition right off the bat…So you think about your stakeholders and they think you are just putting extra steps, maybe an extra barrier when it’s really called controls, risk mitigation. So, understanding what really drives your stakeholders and being able to explain how effective procurement will benefit them is important.”
As you establish a more business and stakeholder-centric vision for your procurement function, make sure you consider what skills non-traditional candidates can bring to the party. Mentoring can help close knowledge gaps for people who possess the soft skills required to collaborate with business stakeholders and achieve your vision. Which brings me to my second takeaway…
Ese’s non-linear path to her current procurement job offers lessons for us all, particularly the 52% of CPOs who reported in our recent Procurement Pulse Check Benchmark Survey that they need to improve their talent management and capability building.
When building a team capable of producing results, basic functional skills are the table-stakes. Knowledge and ability in the areas of category management, negotiation, and supplier relations continue to be essential. Today’s procurement workforce also needs to possess advanced capabilities, including category expertise and risk evaluation and management. All of these skills can be evaluated via a person’s resume and references.
Increasingly important are skillsets that can’t be so easily evaluated on paper; the so-called soft skills required for relationship-building and making connections between procurement’s value proposition and the organization’s larger objectives. The ability to build and maintain positive working relationships cannot be emphasized enough as team members seek to gain alignment with stakeholders, as well as vendor partners. An inquisitiveness and openness to asking questions and exploring new areas of the business helps create connections and novel solutions. And the importance of being able to work independently when necessary while staying productive and motivated was certainly spotlighted during the pandemic-induced remote workplace.
If you are like the 82% of CPOs who reported in our benchmark survey that prioritizing talent management is on their radar for 2021, I encourage you to download our whitepaper: “A Talent-First Approach: The Missing Piece of the Procurement Transformation Puzzle,” as well as a blog my colleague Lynn Rideout wrote about it.
Senior Vice President, Sales
Greg Anderson is Senior Vice President of Sales in North America at WNS-Denali. He is a proven expert in Supply Chain and Procurement Managed Services and Technology solutions. Greg has over two decades of cross-industry sales and marketing leadership experience. Prior to WNS, Greg held leadership positions at Ivalua, Pensiamo, Directworks, Tenzing Consulting, SmartOps, Ariba, FreeMarkets, GE, and PPG.