In his recent article The Key To Hiring Success: Think Like A Start-Up CEO, Iain Campbell-McKenna reported that “there will be 2.4 million unfilled (procurement) positions with a potential economic impact of $2.5 trillion.”

Other revelations such as the fact that the average “new hire” only lasts 18-months before moving on to another company and a continuing emphasis on the importance of skill sets versus mindsets when assessing a candidate’s qualification speak to an industry-wide problem. Such outcomes also suggest that our approach to hiring procurement talent needs to change.

How do we go about finding and keeping talent?

In this article, I will provide my insights into why there is a lack of confidence with procurement teams and why there is such a considerable turnover. Beyond that, I will also provide my take on what we must do going forward to address the issues and ultimately close the talent gap.

Beyond Tunnel Vision

I have had success with my team by widening the scope of recruiting to include people with experience in other areas such as sales.

Procurement is not rocket science as you can train and coach people in the core functional elements of the job. In short, you can’t identify the best candidates when you stick to a rigid set of skills selection criteria and hire people who cannot think outside of their past functional experiences. Being able to think outside of the box is an attribute that is very important given our highly complex global supply chains.

Let’s face it, based on how automation and the advent of AI technologies are transforming the role of procurement professionals from functional to strategic; it makes sense to look for new skills. In other words, we must move beyond the “tunnel vision” of hiring based on what we needed in the past. We need to significantly expand our pool of potential hires to include those candidates we did not consider previously.

Einstein Mindset

There is a famous Einstein saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same things but expecting a different outcome. Broadening our selection criteria to consider the diversity of previous experience and soft skills such as character traits is the only way to improve outcomes.

I am really talking about our blind use of technology in which a pool of candidates is “qualified” within the narrow scope of a keyword search.

While using keyword searches is convenient and does get many responses, such an approach limits the pool of prospective talent to a functional capability versus a strategic thinking ability. The only way to assess someone’s ability to think strategically is to know them beyond a job description.

For example, if you are in the automotive industry, do you look to hire someone from that industry? I don’t because I want to bring in someone with a new perspective to challenge what we are doing and see if we can do things better. In my experience, there are great benefits in actively seeking another point of view beyond the familiar or traditional confines of the position.

Human Resources

I won’t trust HR to take the lead in the hiring process for procurement talent if they use matching keyword criteria.

In a previous company with whom I worked, the HR department sent me a list of 50 names to fill a key position. By limiting the search for people to keywords based solely on functional versus strategic skills, not one person on the list had the qualifications I was looking for to think outside the box and do the job. At this point, it is important to remind you of my reference to the fact that many CPOs do not believe their teams have the necessary skills to achieve their “strategic” objectives, and still refuse to hire outside of the functional box.

Just to be clear, it is not my intention to criticize the good people in HR as they can only work with what you as a leader gives them – which is usually a job description. However, a job description or title is not a good indicator of future performance.

I speak from experience here because besides holding senior procurement positions with notable companies such as Valspar, Ahlstrom and Tesca Group, I was an Attorney at Law. If you visit my LinkedIn profile, you will also note that I had senior positions in Dow, Nyrstar and IDEX Corp. overseeing diverse business areas, including Commercial Excellence, Customer Service, & Strategic Development, Supply Chain, to name just a few.

How many of the words used to describe these diverse skillsets would show up in a keyword search?