The Skills GAP in Procurement – The Ultimate Challenge

Procurement has evolved beyond just purchasing goods and services at a low cost. Nowadays, organizations focus on buying skills, software, and processes that lead to collaboration, innovation, and value creation.

To succeed in this environment, procurement teams must possess social skills like communication, stakeholder management, and leadership. However, many organizations struggle to find and prepare talent to meet these demands.

A recent study conducted by the American Productivity & Quality Centre (APCQ) in collaboration with US universities found that procurement talent development is inadequate in providing the necessary skills for the future.

The research shows that procurement lacks clear development pathways, making it challenging for young professionals to find their place and become future leaders. This highlights the need for organizations to invest in the development of procurement talent to meet the evolving demands of the industry.

What the Challenges Are

Many newcomers enter the profession with backgrounds in general supply chain, business administration, finance, or accounting, but they don’t stick around because they see procurement as a steppingstone to other careers. Moreover, procurement and sourcing courses are often just a small part of a broader degree program, which further contributes to the lack of clarity and interest in the procurement field.

The research showed that only one of the top ten skills necessary to succeed in procurement roles are job specific. Most (communication, leadership, stakeholder management) aren’t. This indicates that developing social and general business skills is crucial for future procurement professionals to succeed.

The result is that because universities are not offering degrees that specifically cover procurement roles, organizations end up needing to develop those skills internally. A massive gap exists however in the effectiveness of training and developing those individuals.

Due to lack of time or prioritization, most executives confess to not being able to help employees develop the necessary skills to fill that gap.

The consequences of not addressing these gaps are huge. If organizations cannot develop these skills in-house, they will be forced to secure them through external hires and/or consultants, costing the companies millions in unnecessary labour that could be covered internally. 

How to Address These Challenges and Overcome Them?

There’s no easy way to fill these gaps. Involvement by senior leaders is essential to make sure the procurement professional’s obtain the skills they need to fulfil their roles satisfactorily. Not only that but aligned communication with HR is also fundamental to guarantee the best people are being chosen to join the team and kept in-house long term. Temporary exchange programs within the organization to have people connect and learn from other areas has proven to be extremely valuable to help teammates communicate and share their skills with each other. Let’s go over these steps in better detail below.

  • Involving Management in Talent Development. To address the challenges in developing procurement talent, professionals need to involve senior leaders and gain their support for a shift in procurement talent development. This involves re-prioritizing the traditional focus on cost and risk towards a broader perspective that recognizes the overall benefits that procurement can provide. If budget constraints exist, professionals should consider advocating for low-cost approaches such as mentoring, virtual job shadowing, and job rotations. These on-the-job learning methods are effective ways for employees to acquire social and business skills that are essential for success in procurement.
  • Alignment with HR on finding the right personnel. The second step to address the procurement talent development challenge is for professionals to collaborate with HR to align talent development with critical future skills. This partnership combines HR’s employee-focused support and guidance with procurement’s operational knowledge of essential skills. Procurement teams must proactively, transparently, and creatively work with both HR and executives to shape talent development investments and strategy. In-house, on-the-job development approaches can be a competitive advantage in attracting, retaining, and leveraging procurement talent.
  • Temporary exchange programs into other business units. Moving procurement personnel to other parts of the business temporarily and vice versa can also offer significant potential for young professionals to develop essential skills, as well as help other parts of the business understand how procurement operates and the value it brings.

The point is that procurement leaders need to understand the importance of developing the next generation of procurement talent, and most of that work needs to be done in-house. As most of those skills take time to develop, guidance and mentorship are indispensable for the future of the profession. Add that to working closely with HR to find the best talent for the open roles and setting a defined career path and clear opportunities to hone their skills.


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