Procurement professionals require an extremely diverse skillset to be successful within their roles.  In a given day, a sourcing manager must be a master communicator, fostering supplier relationships and conducting negotiations.  They must also be analytical and able to manipulate data, forecast spend figures, and calculate key performance metrics.  All of these skills must be applied to a deep understanding of how a supply chain operates.  If that wasn’t enough, depending on the particular role, they may be expected to possess subject matter expertise across one or many categories.  This can vary from an area as simple as office supplies, to complex printed circuit board assemblies that must be procured to be placed in a finished medical device.

     Filling talent in such a complex position can be a challenge, especially in niche industries with unique product mixes, geographies, and inventory management requirements.  One solution to developing the proper skillsets needed to carry out sourcing that has gained popularity over the past few years is an employee rotation program.  These programs give employees exposure to various critical roles within an organization, and allow them to build unique skillsets across multiple functions over the course of the rotation.

     The benefits of such a program are plenty.  They are particularly appealing to the millennial workforce, who value position diversity and faster career path advancement than the older generations.  Employees will have the opportunity to train and build a resume across multiple areas within an organization.  In addition, they build interdepartmental mindfulness and foster relationships amongst their peers.  Employees will build a level of comfort and familiarity with working under managers with varying leadership styles and expectations.  Company culture is reinforced as employees gain more exposure, and employees are less likely to leave after a short duration due to lack of role diversity or upward mobility.

     In addition to the communication benefits, the hard skills developed ensure that employees are building flexible capabilities and gaining a deep understanding of company processes.  Exposure to more technical positions will build an understanding of the products and/or services being developed and the assurances that need to be made in building a sustainable supply chain to support output.  Integration with the marketing and sales departments will ensure that each employee is a proper ambassador of the company, its product base, and its core values.  Integration into research and development will prepare purchasing agents with a forward thinking, value engineering mindset as products evolve.

     There are a few risks to be mindful of when considering if a rotation program is right for your talent pool.  Improper skill alignment can cause an employee to become bored or overwhelmed in a particular position and may risk turnover.  Additionally, as employees are on boarded to their new roles, other resources within those departments may have to adjust their workloads to pick up any slack during an adjustment period.  It is important that management is aligned on the resource requirements that will be necessary to support each rotational scheme.  Finally, the ROI is not fully realized until the conclusion of the rotational period as an employee settles into his or her purchasing role with their new skillset.  As with any investment there is risk of loss before the benefits are realized.

     Despite these risks, overall an employee rotational program is an excellent way to develop talent that fits your organization’s unique requirements.  It shows an investment in your people and entices young talent with the promise of rapid skill development and opportunity for future growth.

     For more information on best practices in implementing an employee rotational program, stay tuned for Part II of this blog series or reach out to Source One to find out how we can custom tailor a solution for you.
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Jennifer Engel

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