This week saw over 2500 supply management professionals congregated in Nashville, Tennessee at the Institute for Supply Management's 103rd Annual Conference. At the year's premier supply chain event, they exchanged best practices, networked, and absorbed thought leadership from some of the industry's most notable figures.

The impressive roster of speakers included Source One Director Diego De la Garza and Sourcing Analyst Kaitlyn Krigbaum. In Overcoming Procurement's Internal Image Problem, De la Garza offered ISM2018 attendees tips for changing the conversation within their organization. Krigbaum discussed strategies for refining Procurement's brand in Orchestrating a Procurement Transformation: A Symphony of Recruiting, Branding, and Leading. Both presentations were well-attended and culminated with active Q&A sessions.

ISM2018's festivities also included the 3rd iteration of Source One's ExecIn Forum. This private component of the conference's agenda is reserved for executive-level supply management professionals representing large organizations. Throughout the two day event, these competitors became collaborators. Sharing their insights and experiences, they discussed Procurement and Supply Management's dominant trends.

ExecIn's first day concluded with a panel discussion focused on the issue of supply chain talent. Hosted by Camille Batiste (VP of Global Sourcing, Archer Daniels Midland), William Dorn (VP of Operations, Source One), and Naseem Malik (Managing Director, MRA Global Sourcing) - Competing for Supply Chain Talent proved exciting and illuminating for all attendees.

The market for Procurement talent is more crowded, competitive, and candidate-driven than ever before. Understandably, the supply management leaders at ExecIn had a lot of thoughts on the subject. Participating in an animated dialogue, they discussed their own concerns as well as the strategies they've found successful.

"These conversations are what ExecIn is all about," said Dorn. "Though we're competitors, constantly looking to set ourselves apart, we share a common mission. We're all looking to move the Procurement and Supply Management function forward. One of the best ways to do this is to get to together and work out the challenges we face every day."

Nearly everyone agreed that identifying world-class Procurement talent is a distinct challenge. Many attendees revealed that location is a particularly tricky stumbling block. Not every organization can lure talent with the promise of an exciting new locale. For every New York and Los Angeles there are hundreds of less thrilling options.  If local applicants aren't enticing, these companies need to get creative to make the position itself look like a destination.

Low unemployment rates, too, make the hunt for talent a challenging one. Without a large pool of eager applicants, Procurement departments need to behave aggressively. Oftentimes, this means poaching talent from competitors or training employees from other functions. Many ExecIn attendees consider the latter option their best. Developing dedicated training programs for Procurement enables them to leverage the talent they've already got to develop a more strategic purchasing unit.

Retaining employees presents its own set of challenges. Top professionals expect a mix of compensation, challenge, and recognition. If they're not enjoying these in their current position, most won't hesitate to seek them out elsewhere. Attendees agreed that providing flexible options for working from home or building unique schedules has helped them win over candidates.

Partnering with local universities was also a popular solution. One CPO explained that these partnerships have consistently helped them scout exceptional talent despite a less-than-ideal location. Other executives discussed the benefit of recruiting Procurement talent from the military. Veterans are natural leaders who've learned to excel under even the worst of circumstances. They're accustomed to developing creative solutions and promoting collaboration. Establishing a partnership with a placement organization can put your company in contact with a steady stream of these promising professionals.

Dorn concluded, "Though we approach the challenges of staffing and recruiting differently, everyone at ExecIn agreed that people are Procurement's most valuable resource. I look forward to continuing this discussion with the full team at Source One."

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