Being in the business of knowing Procurement best practices I find myself reading research reports and survey findings quite often. I am looking to understand what trends are surfacing that impact the traditional pillars of Procurement (People, Process, and Technology). A topic I read about consistently is the skills gap that exists in the Procurement function. Senior leaders are asked every year about whether they believe their team(s) have the skills and capabilities to perform at the level needed to ensure success functionally and in relation to broader company objectives. Sadly, more often than not I see the responses are less than ideal. Senior leaders recognize that there is a gap in their team’s skill level in comparison to what is needed to succeed. The follow up question therefore is how much budget or time do they intend to commit in the coming year to close that gap through training or other means. Surprisingly, the response is that they do not intend to pursue methods to enhance their team’s skills. Supply Chain training budgets are shrinking every year and the gap in talent and skills is widening. With the evolution of technology and process improvements, why isn’t there a bigger focus on training the staff?

Some theories might include:

1. “We hired these people to do a job, if they cannot deliver perhaps this is not the role for them.”
2. “We have other priorities that require the budget allocation.”
3. “We cannot sacrifice the team’s bandwidth for days upon days of training, our productivity and internal customer satisfaction will suffer.”

Let’s examine this a bit more, or rather debunk the theories.

“We hired these people to do a job, if they cannot deliver perhaps this is not the role for them.”

First of all, it’s rare that the recruitment process reveals top performing A players that walk in on day one and can master the role. Of course the onboarding process is a given and some initial training will be provided at any job. Beyond this it is often expected that the employees will learn on their own or rely on their expertise to perform at the expected level. The big missing element here is that even if a person is hired and happens to know everything there is to know to perform adequately, things change. Technology is upgraded, processes evolve, and the organization shifts. It is unrealistic to expect the individuals supporting all of this to be able to keep up WHILE running the day to day operations of the business.

“We have other priorities that require the budget allocation.”

There will always be competing priorities. What leadership may be failing to realize is that if they do not invest in the people that run the business, they will not retain those people. The emerging workforce of today is more concerned than ever about their career development opportunities. Candidates may even turn down a job offer where they do not feel there is growth potential long term. On the one hand, it’s easy to understand why justifying budget dollars is difficult. Tying an ROI to training is challenging, the task requires ingenuity and an open perspective, but it is not impossible. On the other hand, leadership is willing to invest hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars into new infrastructure and procurement technology, but they cannot justify thousands to invest in their people…that just does not make sense to me.

“We cannot sacrifice the team’s bandwidth for days upon days of training, our productivity and internal customer satisfaction will suffer.”

This one is easy. Picture this…a classroom full of professionals sitting with people of varying backgrounds and role at tables with handouts, bad snacks, cold brandless coffee, and the promise of days of super fun training ahead of them. It’s easy to picture because most of us have experienced it. Now I am not downgrading some of those trainings, I have learned many a new things in them. But, as humans we have a capacity for learning in a single day and that traditional classroom based training is not completely effective.

What senior leadership needs to understand is this, training should be customized to the organization and to the individual. With all of that fancy technology we have access to nowadays the options for training are expansive. A custom training program can begin with a capability assessment of the team. One of the challenges with training, especially a larger group of individuals, is that the training will inevitably be too basic for some members, and too advanced for others. In this instance, time and money are wasted. With the results of the capabilities assessment the team can receive training that is more aligned with their current skill level, as well as with their career path.

In addition to the capability assessment that sets the baseline for the training content, it is important to offer a blended model of training programs. While classroom training is not the most effective means of training any longer, it can have its place when the content is more focused and interactive. This blended with micro-learning concepts through self-led training modules online can produce a much better result for the participants. They are encouraged to take the training at their own pace, and then follow this up with more focused concept adherence classroom training. This blended model is also much more budget friendly and sustainable.

The closing message here is that organizations need to invest in their people, they are their greatest assets. Training does not have to break the budget to be effective. And consider this, without a solid training and retention program, those asking about ROI should listen up here…how much is it costing to transition responsibilities from individuals who do not see a potential for growth and recruit and onboard the next set of people that, “are hired to do a job”?
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Jennifer Ulrich

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