How CPOs can Bounce Back in the Post-Covid Era with Better Relationships

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou 

This quote from Maya Angelou embodies what every CPO should focus on to bounce back from this global pandemic. In the past two decades, I have led multiple roles in the procurement function. I know that people, process, and technology are three core areas of change and influence for any CPO. Personally, I have always enjoyed the work in the “people” category. When someone knows you care about them, they perform better. High-performing procurement teams are exposed to more opportunities and create more value for the organization.

Most leaders know that being empathic and helpful is important right now, especially as businesses are faced to make incredibly difficult decisions and choices. Right now, it is important that you continue to build and foster a people-centric culture as a part of your roadmap to economic recovery. For CPO’s today, this means understanding the core benefits of a people-centric culture:

  • Attrition is lower– people tend to be more loyal when the culture is people-centric.  They care about how attrition affects the business.

  • People care about the risk of changing cultures for themselves – “chasing money” is not always the priority if people enjoy where they work, and they feel cared for at work.

  • It’s not always about procurement saving money in a people-centric culture – VALUE is better understood because of the focus across the organization vis-a-vis just focusing on savings extra dollars.

An essential component of a people-centric culture is transparent, thoughtful, and engaging in internal communications.

How CPOs Can Create an Internal Communication Plan that Sticks

The most successful CPOs that I know are using passion, expertise, agility, and flexibility to lead. These approaches are critical to ensure everyone works together to achieve common goals and your team still hits critical milestones. It is important to document what is working and not working internally. Then, you can use this knowledge to create a communication plan that sticks and motivates your team.

With the transition to all remote working and travel bans, you must get creative with communicating with your team members and stakeholders. Below are seven communication tactics that I recommend in the current scenario:

  • Talk about personal development – Use your weekly 1:1 time to talk about work and important project updates, but also include topics related to personal development. Do not brush this topic off. It is important and one that shows your direct reports that you care deeply about their growth and future, which matters a lot to employees right now.

  • Record more videos – Our executive leadership team is creating weekly videos. The topics for the series have included how to keep clients’ priorities first, caring for yourself during stress by getting outside, managing burnout, business performance, and the different levels of anxiety that team members and clients could be experiencing right now. The videos help humanize you as a leader. In addition, videos are a nice break away from lengthy internal emails that people can easily overlook.

  • Share inspiration – This is a scary time for many people. I have been checking in with team members who live alone to make sure they are OK. I have also been sharing Zoom bingo, new Zoom backgrounds, and uplifting videos when related to topics we are tackling together. Think about what inspiring content you can share with your team to lift their spirits.

  • Shift priorities together – Many CPOs are pivoting their priorities to better serve the business. For example, some of our clients are sourcing categories they rarely worried about, such as PPE or hand sanitizer. Those categories were once done on a quarterly or annual basis. Right now, it is a daily focus for some clients, especially those in retail and CPG. Listen to your team and guide their priorities without losing sight of big goals. Now is not the time for projects to happen in silos where important people and stakeholders are left out of the process.

  • Start the week off together – I meet with my team every Monday morning to kick-off the week. This time helps get everyone in sync and understand our big priorities and ideal outcomes.

  • Encourage skip-level meetings – This is when an executive, VP, or upper-level manager meets with an employee that is more than one step down the chain of command.

  • Host monthly or quarterly town halls – These types of “all hands” team meetings help bring everyone together. These are important times to improve morale, highlight people, and build more transparency across the organization. A united team is the strongest team.

The Future of People and Relationships in Post-Covid World

Like every story, this one of Covid-19 will have a beginning, middle, and end. Even on the hard days, we must comfort knowing this time will end. So, the big question is, “What will we learn from this crisis?” I imagine the following people-centric values will emerge:

  • We will appreciate the moments and opportunities to be together

  • The future our relationships is one that is less rushed and more authentic

  • Remember that your team is the most important asset

  • Focus on listening to understand – not just listening to reply

  • Share information that educates team members with a hope that one day, they will be in your role or position as a leader

A people-centric culture connects people together and builds deeper relationships, so everyone performs at optimal levels. Remember, what you do or do not do will have a lasting impact on your team and culture. Your team might forget what exactly said you in the video or a weekly meeting together, but they will remember how you made them feel when times were hard.

How is your work changing, and how are your people adopting? I would love to hear about any lessons you have learned and tactics you are deploying to keep everyone aligned, understood, and encouraged through this time.


About the Author

Julie Brignac
Corporate Senior Vice President, Client Services

Julie Brignac Julie Brignac is Senior Vice President and Head of Client Services at WNS-Denali. She comes with 20+ years of multi-dimensional procurement experience gained through her varied roles including, CPO, Portfolio Executive, Management Consultant, and Entrepreneur. Prior to Denali, Julie held management positions at Accenture, CHEP, Vantage Partners, Newell Brands and Honeywell. She holds an MBA degree from the University of Maryland.

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