Procurement & Talent soft skills

Over several years, I served as Chief Procurement Officer or Procurement Head in three major complicated organizations: one multinational with three fairly independent divisions, one fully centralized with worldwide operations, and one that is more regional with extremely independent business divisions. How to hire the right Procurement Talent has always been close to my heart. We are not running machines and AI is not ready to take over yet. So, the success of Procurement relies heavily on hiring, training, and retaining the right talent.

While the technical skills can be taught, a large part of the soft skills are inherent to each individual and it is where recruiters should focus their time: assessing personality and people’s attitudes &behaviors. Getting the right people on board is critical. Processes and systems can only be as good as the people participating in them.

Let’s try to look at some of the skills your key Procurement people need to have. We will not talk about technical knowledge. The ability to lead a competitive process, negotiation skills, legal knowledge, etc.. could be taught. We will focus on the soft skills which could make the difference between an average Procurement lead and a great one.

  1. Open-Minded Skill: You need to build a culture of openness and encourage collaboration. An open-minded person demonstrates flexibility, and an ability to adapt to a unique working environment. Additionally, open-mindedness is essential in the workplace because it encourages teamwork, a critical virtue useful in the growth and development of companies. Furthermore, open-mindedness enables one to be on the lookout for new practices, ideas, experiences and embrace changes.
  2. Risk-taking: Is it so easy to say “no” and stay in the comfort of small incremental adjustments or worst just manage an existing situation. You need people who are ready to take the risk. Bold and courageous people are loved and respected since it is through innovation and risk-taking that differences are made. Undoubtedly, to move to higher heights, leaders should be innovative and risk-takers since everyone fails, and the fear of failure is the beginning of stagnation.
  3. Thought leadership: Procurement leaders need to have the ability to articulate the vision and position longer-term company strategic objectives. Thought leadership is one of the most effective business skills. Thought leadership ensures fair treatment and delivery of considerable values. Additionally, it is essential in the growth and development of businesses since it only embraces worth while services in the eyes of its envisioned customers.
  4. Comfortable with ambiguity: the ability to cope with uncertainty and risk, to adapt to change, to decide with the information available (even if it is not the whole picture). With the ever-increasing pace of change, people should be prepared to deal with an increasing amount of ambiguity to minimize the chances of experiencing a stressful, complicated, and confusing decision-making process. The skill, therefore, is essential because it assists in coping with uncertainty and risk. Furthermore, the ability is fundamental to one success since it makes an individual fit to adapt to changes and be able to cope with a crisis.
  5. Market intelligence: a person, having her/his finger on the pulse of industry trends and a good network of external partners will have the ability to leverage relationships to the benefit of the company and spot trends and up comers earlier than your competitors. Market intelligence is a skill that ensures accurate and poised decision-making processes used in determining a good strategic plan.

These are the top 5 soft skills that come to my mind. I am sure we can find several others but more importantly is to think ahead of recruiting about how you will gauge those qualities in an individual. You can find a few tips on one of my earlier blog posts here: Procurement & Soft Skills | LinkedIn

Obviously, recruiting is only the start of the journey. The end-to-end employment journey from attracting the right talent, through motivation and retention, to managing when people leave is a fundamental process today. Even in a world where automation and AI take a bigger role, humans remain the most critical differentiator between average and best-performing organizations.