One of the biggest developments in business over the past decade has been renewed recognition of the importance of the procurement department. After spending billions on developing their procurement teams, businesses have seen astonishing results. From improving M&A outcomes, to increase brand and product stewardship, the procurement unit of a business has evolved into becoming a service provider. However, one issue remains- human capital. There is a lag in talent that needs to be addressed if their hugely important business unit is to continue its successful upward trend, which is quickly becoming a driver or broad business objectives.

An issue that plagues procurement is perception. Procurement is no longer a silo that operates independently, rather, it is a decentralized activity involving many individuals and units addressing their own purchasing needs. In order to be successful, firms need to embrace procurement executives, and charge their HR and talent acquisition departments with filling any talent gaps.  So how do you attract top millennials to your procurement department when there is so much competition? Easy! You market the position as multidisciplinary, because that is exactly what the position entails.

The average tenure for a millennial is two years, with 54% of millennials believing they could easily find a new job if they were unhappy. As a sign of the times, these individuals also have a short attention span, quickly becoming disinterested if they are kept on the same project for too long. According to Psychology Today, millennials prefer new assignments every 12-24 months, which fits well with the multidisciplinary nature of the job. Other important factors in a job include “meaningful work,” “high pay,” and “sense of accomplishment.” Luckily, procurement departments have very clear products, allowing the employees to see the results of their efforts, and revel in their ability to have accomplished an objective.

One of the other important factors in procurement deals in mobility and flexibility. While at times inflexible, the variety of projects and quick turnaround allows the employee to learn a variety of skills that may allow them to have a degree of flexibility. Mobility may be one of the most important factors for procurement professionals. According to Deloitte, at a particular CPG firm, sell-side category managers are often future business presidents or CEOs. While buy-side managers are left to independently run their own mega-category. The upward progression coupled with the career opportunities alone can attract top leadership talent.

Another selling point of procurement is industry hot button topics. Industry dependent, a firm’s efforts can draw talent interested in a broad spectrum of value creation, external capacity building, sustainability, and sales and marketing support. For many executives, the procurement area was and remains to be a leadership proving ground.

It is impossible to discuss talent without also discussing compensation. Following the economic downturn in 2008, many procurement organizations were downsized. Of course, compensation will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, but there is a need to generously compensate procurement executives. Align salaries with expectations and organizational objectives, in an attempt to entice top-talent into giving procurement an opportunity. Deloitte has benchmarking data that suggests high performing organizations pay top procurement talent an additional thirty percent or more than typical performing organizations. Firms can also consider augmenting salaries with performance programs and incentives. This might lead to more entrepreneurial leaders creating new processes to advance the business further.

The intention of this article is to provide you with an understanding of how to internally and externally your procurement organization. With the field rapidly expanding, the adoption of processes that encourage the creation of success of such a team increases in criticality. While you can certainly use your skills in procurement to establish a distinctive competence, you can also quickly fall behind to your competition if you are not proactive.

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Peter Portanova

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