Procurement's workforce is changing, but it might not be changing fast enough. Throughout the last decade, organizations have watched demand for talented, flexible Procurement teams begin to outstrip supply by a considerable margin. Per Deloitte's latest CPO survey, just 46% of Procurement leaders are confident their teams can deliver.

As the function enters a new decade, it's imperative that Procurement act quickly and strategically to close its various talent gaps and become truly world-class.

Blended Teams

The term "blended workforce" has historically referred to the practice of leveraging different types of resources (most often, a "blend" of full-time and part-time employees). Today, however, the term has begun to take on a new, broader and more complicated meaning. Organizations are still leveraging a combination of contractors, temporary resources, and full-time employees, but they're also beginning to consider how they can leverage a workforce that blends both humans and machines. Leaders are beginning to find that the right mix of automation and traditional hands-on effort is necessary to maximize Procurement's efficiency and equip it to enter the 2020s, 

While discussions around AI and automation tend to sound apocalyptic, studies show that as many as 67% professionals are actually optimistic that automation will help them perform more effectively and transition into new, more strategic roles. It's worth noting, however, that the same amount believe they'll need new skills to succeed in the future. A whopping 80% believe their employers should provide the means to develop these skills. Most sectors have been slow to take these steps.

Manufacturing is - unsurprisingly - one of the industries that's made building a new kind of blended workforce a priority. Jobs within this sector are more vulnerable to automation than almost any others. Oxford Economics predicts that 20 million workers could find themselves displaced within the next ten years. America's National Association of Manufacturers has pledged to meet this threat head-on by offering "reskilling" to more than 1.2 million workers between now and 2024. It's a start, but if estimates are to believed, it's clear the industry (and other industries) will need to ramp us these efforts sooner rather than later. 

New Skills and New Roles

While organizations plan to devote most of their 2020 training dollars to traditional strategic sourcing and category management skills, it's clear their priorities are evolving. More than 20% of CPO Survey respondents intend to train their teams on ethical sourcing, a full 40% will place on emphasis on project management. By expanding Procurement into new areas, they are hopeful the function can accept a more nuanced role and distinguish itself as indispensable.

Even more crucially, Procurement leaders are starting to take so-called "soft skills" more seriously. These are the attributes like leadership, empathy, and emotional intelligence that aren't easily learned or taught. They are also the skills that will make Procurement resources invaluable as relationship builders, risk managers, and business partners in the new decade. Most importantly, they're skills that computers cannot (and likely never will) replicate. As automation continues to make an impact on Procurement's workload, it's essential for both businesses and individuals to consider how soft skills can help create roles that machines can't occupy.

Whatever strategies organizations employ, whatever skills they emphasize in the new year, it's clear they need to widen their net when it comes to talent. From both a recruitment and retention perspective, the definition of Procurement excellence must evolve to suit a new fast-paced, digital world. Organizations should look for talent in new places, retool their existing job descriptions, and identify every possible opportunity to introduce new skills. 

Procurement's Decade Ahead

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