Why is the procurement recruitment tech talent pool so shallow?

Why is the procurement recruitment tech talent pool so shallow?

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We recently heard of a difficulty facing a CPO within the financial services field when he, newly placed in charge of creating a procurement team, found he couldn’t recruit. The business had been spun off as an entity in its own right, and while the CPO had taken some of the leadership team with him, his challenge was to populate all the other roles across various locations. The difficulty lay in that despite this being a well-paid sector and an exciting opportunity for procurement professionals, he couldn’t find the candidates to fill the roles.

In the age of “the great resignation” one would assume a huge talent pool out there ripe for the picking — apparently not.

“In actual fact, for the category managers, strategic sourcing professionals, digital procurement experts and so on, the recruitment industry is experiencing limited success — and that’s symptomatic of the whole market right now,” says Andrew Daley of Edbury Daley international procurement and supply chain technology recruitment consultants.

How did we get to this situation in the procurement recruitment market?

To answer that question Daley goes back to 2020.

“There was an enormous amount of uncertainty in all industries,” he explains. “On the procurement solutions side, hiring slowed as vendors couldn’t foresee what would happen with revenues, and that impacted headcount decisions. For the consultancy world, that situation alleviated towards the end of that year, but the corporate world of procurement and supply teams continued to face unprecedented circumstances requiring ‘all hands on deck’ to cope with the challenges of the employers. So hiring – except when essential — dropped off the agenda for quite some time.

“While continuing to adapt to a situation of market ups and downs, the tri-part ecosystem of procurement tech, consulting and practitioner talent also experienced highs and lows. Then optimism set in about the impact the pandemic was having on digital procurement and towards the end of 2021 the hiring market boomed.

“The need to address concerns across supply chains, the demand placed on procurement departments, the need to find better ways of doing things and the leap in the requirement for better visibility and data all put pressure on the skills market. It led organizations to require of practitioners skills they just didn’t have, but had to acquire quickly. So the end of last year saw a remarkable spike in hiring, particularly from the tech vendors — and early indications are that this will continue in 2022. However, the skills shortage will continue because the market cannot keep pace with the demand from every part of the procurement ecosystem.

“This demand for new talent is born partly out of the growing power of technology, the importance of the supply chain to corporate agendas and the visibility that organizations require. This is exacerbated of course by the reduced mobility of labor owing to travel restrictions and greater risk awareness.”

How can the CPO respond to this challenge?

If you are trying to grow a procurement team in a highly competitive and sparsely populated market, according to Daley there are a few things you can do to improve your chances:

  • You need a sophisticated, really well-thought-out talent attraction plan. The only way to create talent in a shortage is to develop it in-house — and to attract graduate talent that you can train means you need to think about location. The most expensive places to live don’t attract graduates, and a location where you find yourself competing against tech giants might not be your best bet.
  • You need an industry-leading training and development program.
  • You need to hire a really diverse range of senior managers who will help execute your talent management strategy, because people usually want to work for people who impress them and who they can learn from.
  • You need to identify how and where you can find the talent you want. Think about why people aren’t attracted to working for you, how you are going to persuade them that they are and think about how you are sourcing the talent, because just advertising on social media platforms like LinkedIn isn’t enough. You need a sourcing strategy for a tech market — your brand might attract talent of course, then you’ve got your personal networks, but you’ve also got to be innovative in how you use tech tools and channels to find people, and that might include going to career fairs. Each method has its merits, but not done in isolation.
  • Once you do get people into your funnel you need a good selection process and you need to work at pace and with momentum — you can’t afford to leave four weeks between interviews. Act quickly, because if you don’t somebody else will. And remember that when you interview someone, you need to sell yourself as an organization, as a hiring manager and as a career opportunity.

“If you are a substantially sized organization, you probably already have an internal talent-attraction team. However, they too are stretched and typically they are generalist recruiters, not procurement recruitment specialists. Specialist recruiters will know everything there is to know about a narrowly defined sector, and they will know the best places to look for a digital procurement specialist.”

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Have the sought-after candidate skills profiles changed?

“The traditional procurement priorities of stakeholder engagement, consultative sourcing and price are being superseded by many other factors,” explains Daley. “As organizations consider supplier relationships more, all the skills the CPO has long been talking about like risk, quality, innovation and collaboration are becoming a real demand.

“On the vendor side, whether selling, implementing or account managing, they want people who are credible in front of a CPO. They want people with previous knowledge of working in that area, who understand the challenges, the opportunities and know the language.

“The harsh reality of this market is that employers are being forced to be more flexible, because if they’ve had an unfilled vacancy for six months they need a plan B. They need to think about what they are prepared to compromise on. That might be someone of lesser experience, or someone from a neighboring market like sales or finance, and train them to understand procurement.”

So there’s a general recognition that we need to think more laterally.

Daley sums up: “In my opinion, for our sector ‘the great resignation’ is a myth – I’ve seen no evidence of it at all, in fact, quite the opposite. We have never had to work harder to get procurement talent – this is the most difficult candidate market I’ve ever witnessed.”

For more insight into what leaders can expect for their hiring plans for 2022, download the Edbury Daley Insider report for free: Procurement and Spend Management Insider

If you are tasked with creating a new procurement organization, Spend Matters 5-step TechMatch℠  tool can help you identify needs and quickly generate a technology shortlist. 


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