Next generation #talent in Procurement

Talent, or the difficulty to find and attract great talent is a frequent topic for Procurement leaders. In this post, we want to look at early talent and how to make the profession an attractive destination for graduates, apprentices, interns and early career changers. Are students aware of the function at all? What programs can companies create as an entry path? What should leaders do to attract young talent? And what are the selling points of the “Procurement of the Future”?

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Becoming known

Compared to disciplines that feature prominently in business school curriculae, Procurement is still a bit of an ugly step child. Many Procurement professionals would say they eventually stumbled into the profession, but did not actively seek it out. Besides universities and other educational programs that offer tailored Procurement and Supply Chain programs, it’s important to also raise awareness with a broader student and young talent population.  Measures to achieve that include:

-          Universities: Offering special classes, seeking speaking opportunities, collaborating to create semester and thesis projects

-          Career forums: Presenting at graduate forums, offering interactive case study teasers, having a stall and being available for personal testimonials. Open house days at the company (with other functions participating) are another option

-          Social Media: Being actively present online and especially on social media, creating short videos with insights and views by and for young professionals, sharing entry and career paths

-          Advertising opportunities: advertising concrete opportunities ranging from internships, graduate entry schemes, apprenticeships, global rotation programs and more

-          Industry bodies: Working with industry bodies to create effective campaigns beyond your company to attract young people to the profession

Accessing fresh ideas

When looking to provide opportunities for young talent, it’s not just about promoting the function, filling junior roles and the talent pipeline. Make it about accessing fresh ideas and create a culture and specific opportunities for new joiners (any age really!) to share those ideas and infuse the Procurement team with new impulse. Too often, young talent is hired with well-meaning training and coaching programs to help get them up to speed on the job, but the opportunity to actively get their views is missed.

Accessing those ideas can take different forms that include regular informal sessions (1-1 or with groups) to discuss ideas for specific problems and other suggestions, incentivizing speaking up and proposing ideas (as opposed to perfectionism), creating a culture where everybody’s ideas are heard irrespective of age and tenure, letting graduates come up with and lead their own projects and more. More experienced team members should be conscious that they are not first and foremost judges and critiques of ideas, but support resources to help young talent bring ideas.

The ability to innovate and contribute new ideas is not just attractive to fresh graduate talent and ideally you want people at any stage of their career to still want to learn and figure out new ways of doing things. So why not create a “moonshine shop” inside the Procurement teams to access those fresh ideas.

Creating opportunities

Does your Procurement organization have specific opportunities for young talent? Are they truly providing a perspective and path or just a way to get miscellaneous operational tasks done? Many Procurement teams have not been great at creating attractive opportunities for graduates, apprentices or interns and having a well-thought out entry level program with formal and on the job learning, rotation opportunities, mentoring, networking and more.  Compare that to other functions with their own glossy programs or providing an exciting step in a general management graduate program.

Young talent programs could be in the following categories:

-          Apprentices:
Aimed at the youngest talent who are not enrolled in higher education. Apprenticeships are very well established in the Germanic countries to provide entry paths not requiring a university degree (although some apprentices later go on to pursue a degree)- and offering a more practical on the job learning experience, with formal schooling 1-2 days a week

-          Insight days:

Offering open house days

-          Summer / intern and semester thesis programs:
Aimed at students enrolled in fulltime courses, offering an opportunity to work as a member of the team for a few months (part- or fulltime) or work out a solution to a specific problem as part of a semester thesis in a group.

-          Graduate thesis, MBA students
Aimed at advanced students close to graduation or MBA students looking to do a practically oriented thesis in conjunction with a company. This is a great way to get a more complex problem looked at with the latest insights from academia and an opportunity to see a potential recruit’s problem solving ability

-          Entry-level programs:

Aimed at fresh graduates with the goal to give them a well-rounded entry into the role or offer an opportunity in the function as part of a general management entry level rotation. This should be well designed with the aim to provide an in-depth learning experience and insight into the different aspects of Procurement, from Tactical to Strategic Procurement, P2P processes and technology, analytics, market research, negotiation training and more

Leaders and role models

Having accessible leaders is important to show new recruits that they are taken seriously. How about a breakfast with the CPO after their first 3,6 months with an opportunity to openly share impressions and ideas gained? Team members around should also be encouraged and incentivized to see themselves as leaders and role models to integrate and train the new joiner.

Mentoring and buddy programs can be a good way to have a formal, trusted contact to ask the more off-topic questions. Whilst the mentor is a more formal resource to confidentially discuss challenges at work and how to deal with them productively, the buddy is an informal support to get to know the ropes around the company and help with social integration and friendly words of advice.

Why Procurement

Finally, get the Procurement team to brainstorm why a fresh graduate would want to work in Procurement and why your Procurement team specifically. Read up on external views on where the profession is going and how skills and attitudes required are changing. It’s a great opportunity to take stock of where you are at, what Procurement can be in potential and how to sell the idea of a career in procurement to young talent.

The world of work is changing fast and so is the profession. Are you a great destination to learn, play around with new concepts and implement them? Or are you stuck in old paradigms? Ask yourself honestly and take this as an opportunity not just to attract young talent, but also help them shape the answer to “why procurement?”.

We have spoken about Procurement’s hesitance to actively present the function’s point of view on online before. When it comes to young talent, getting them interested, creating dialogue and benefitting from their ideas, it is crucial to revise this attitude. And it’s not just creating a website, a Twitter account and a Linkedin Group and then logging in once in a blue moon. Authentic online presence and dialogue takes regular effort, but also yields tremendous benefits. And video especially is a great way to create easy to digest snapshots of life in the function. 

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