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Procurement must improve it's marketing to recruit

Author: Mark Kusionowicz

As a 21 year-old, soon to graduate, I didn't really know what I wanted to do for a career. I thought I'd like to get into the burgeoning IT industry - but hadn't got a clue in what capacity as I couldn't write code. However, I did know what I wanted from my initial job - to continue to learn, to work with like-minded fun individuals and get recognised for work well done - effectively an extension of University life but with a salary! The 'milk-round' interviewer for ICL (yes, I am that old) knew exactly how to describe the role of 'sales support' to appeal to me on my terms even if I left the interview after having signed up to apply still not knowing exactly what that meant I would actually be doing. That was effective marketing of a career to newcomers into the job market - something which I think the Procurement discipline needs to grasp urgently

Shortage of talent in procurement

The UK Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply has partnered with recruitment firm Hays to publish it's latest "Salary Guide and Procurement Insights Report 2015" in which it identifies a shortage of professionals. As the CIPS group CEO, David Noble,  states "The demand for good procurement people is increasing dramatically" and he adds "we are a wanted species". Hays have seen a 41% increase in the number of procurement vacancies registered and three-quarters of employers surveyed have had recruitment challenges, but still there is a severe lack of graduates entering the profession.

The shortage is not one driven by low salaries or lack of perceived value in the profession. Over the last year procurement professionals pay in the UK has risen by 2.5% compared to a national average of 1.7% and buyer grades saw an average rise of 3.1%. In 1993 procurement budgets averaged $11 Million, today 27% are responsible for over $100 Million. the global increase in outsourcing and external spend by organisations is creating a greater role for the procurement function. The Board is now placing a far greater importance on procurement and supplier relationships to increase the profitability of the business. The 'tools of the trade' are also advancing rapidly with, for example, new and exciting technologies for spend analytics and 'social networks' for global commerce such as INNOVO.

Procurement is not a top career for graduates - the marketing challenge

All that should mean that procurement is a desired career, but, as Hays Director for Procurement & Supply Chain, Nicky Taberner, states "Procurement is still not the first choice of profession for a graduate when they are thinking of what to study or do as a job". This is, I believe, a failure of 'marketing'. Just take a look at most job ads for procurement and put yourself in the shoes of a 21 year-old - do they read like an exciting, go-ahead modern fun role or an administrative back-office function?

Understand your target market and buyer

As with any marketing challenge you need to understand your market and your buyer first. We are dealing here with 'Generation Y', the 'Millennials' - do you know what they are looking for in a career? The typical 21 year-old graduate today has very different requirements to those I identified in myself over 35 years ago. Adam Miller, CEO of HR software company CornerstoneOnDemand, recently wrote in Fortune Magazine  on "3 things millennials want in a career (hint: it’s not more money)" :

  • Job and flexibility - be recognised for output anywhere not hours put in at a fixed location
  • Professional and personal growth - invest time in development, not just 'on-the-job' training
  • Sense of purpose - both personal value to the overall company and the companys' value to the wider world

Build your value proposition

The 'value proposition' you offer as a career in procurement should be easily described against the needs and desires of your target 'buyer'. The function lends itself to the values of flexibility, with all its external relationship building and creativity. Personal growth can certainly be catered for - what other profession could you move from one sector to another so easily, including the 'sexy' ones such as film and fashion from banking and manufacturing? You need to ensure that you provide the opportunities for your graduate entrants to achieve professional qualifications, such as MCIPS, to provide growth in both personal worth and business value to you. Stressing how procurement is driving future corporate value should create a sense of personal worth and procurement is THE function that can have the greatest impact on Corporate Social Responsibility - so make sure you are seen to be driving that ideal.

Engage with your target buyer

You also need to understand how to engage with your target 'buyer' - this is the generation that considers social media a natural communication mechanism with email being the way only grandparents communicate with their grandchildren. You have to find out what is being said about you on major social media platforms - that is what they will be 'listening' to, whatever marketing content you have up on your website. Then you also need to recruit them using the communication tools they want you to engage with them on. To my mind the CIPS Facebook page is a good start, but it is still quite 'dry' - how about adding the more 'fun' elements when you communicate to potential recruits?

By treating the recruitment of talent as a marketing exercise I believe that enterprises can bring in the best candidates. But it will not stop there - with the scarcity of procurement professionals today, talent retention will be key. The role will need to deliver on the promised value proposition - so, as with any marketing, don't promise what you cannot provide!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at 

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