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By Tom Graham
Too often organisations recruit based on current, technical expertise. But should they also focus on skills that will impact the top line not just on the bottom line?
Businesses need to cast the net wide when talent sourcing…. look for soft skills and behaviours that will compliment but also positively disrupt what the marketing procurement team may already have.
The marketing category has often been ‘the problem child’ of procurement. Misalignment between procurement and the marketing function has often created criticism, with procurement seemingly having too much focus on the bottom line and not how it can impact the top. But this is not a problem only faced in the marketing category. Tom Graham, Consultant at executive search firm, Berwick Partners explains.
A study by McKinsey quoted many executives feeling procurement was a ‘back office function’, a claim which has been supported by Deloitte who, in a recent survey, found that only 31% of their respondents believed they were ‘highly supported’ by their procurement function.
Furthermore, the expectation of procurement is changing. Procurement leadership is challenged to create strategies that map more closely to business priorities, delivering results in order to maintain high levels of executive support. With people seemingly at the forefront of this predicament can more be done to develop talent and should procurement be looking at different characteristics when bringing in talent externally?
A recent survey by Deloitte found that on average, businesses spend less than 2% of their operations budgets on training and development within procurement. In contrast, high performers are almost twice as likely to spend 4% or more on training. Instead, it seems that businesses would rather look to the external market to solve their skills gaps. However, are we misunderstanding what the gaps actually are, and are we presuming that previous marketing category experience or expertise are going to fill these?
As expectations shift, as the lines between marketing and technology blur and consumer behaviours change, is it not time that procurement looks to be a little more creative with the skills they look for when hiring?
I regularly hear of professionals ‘falling into’ procurement at the start of their careers and ‘soft skills being more important than technical expertise’. Yet, in my opinion, too often we see organisations recruiting based on current, technical expertise. Instead, we should focus on what makes a good procurement professional, such as commercial acumen, stakeholder / business alignment, strong negotiation skills and enabling business performance. In a function that people ‘fall into’, do we presume that procurement professionals who don’t fall into the marketing category at the start of their careers, can’t move into it later on?
Businesses need to cast the net wide when bringing in talent, promoting diversity and building teams with mixed styles, skills and cultures; look for soft skills and behaviours that will compliment but also positively disrupt what the marketing procurement team may already have adding new energy and approaches to the function. We hear that digitisation and AI is set to change the face of procurement, but it is still people that will drive this. Whilst technical expertise is important, it will not drive change on its own. I firmly believe that it is more important to identify the key engagement and leadership skills which will be far more important longer term.
Whilst the marketing procurement category has its nuance’s, I don’t believe they completely differ from other categories. It does not matter if you are buying media agencies or metal components, a clear focus upon building respect, credibility and engagement with your stakeholder community is critical to success. Procurement doesn’t have to agree with everything the marketing function may say, the most successful partnerships have room for healthy challenge and this diversity of thought can sometimes produce the most innovative outcomes.
About the author
Tom Graham is a Consultant within the Procurement and Supply Chain practice at Berwick Partners, based in the London office. Tom has over ten years of recruitment experience both in the UK and overseas, most recently specialising in the appointment of Procurement professionals within the FMCG, Pharmaceutical and Public sectors. Tom has worked with a range of clients, cultivating relationships with FTSE 100 and SME organisations on an international basis. His specialism is recruiting mid-management- leadership positions within Greenfield or Transformational environments.
The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Marketing Procurement iQ or imply endorsement from the publisher