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The gap

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					The people gap
                                                                 by Terry Lister                            superior data analysis skills and who bring
                                                                                                            an excitement and enthusiasm to advancing
             Wanted: talented people for                                                                    the principles of supply chain management.
                                                                                                                 A starting point in managing procure-
             public procurement careers                                                                     ment staff by the same principles that we
                                                                                                            manage a “supply chain” is to establish tight
                                                                                                            linkages between hiring managers and re-


U
        NDER RELENTLESS PRESSURE for cost                bids-and-a-buy model of traditional pur-           cruiters and our “suppliers” in colleges, uni-
        effective operations, business leaders           chasing. The leaders? The visionaries? They        versities and other procurement organiza-
        are devoting more attention to procure-          are companies that are transforming their          tions. In contrast to commodities that we
ment transformation and supply chain man-                procurement models, and the new models             manage in a supply chain, talent has the
agement.They want a resilient yet lean supply            feature much more highly skilled staff.            unique feature that it grows and develops.
chain that can adjust quickly in the face of                 Procurement transformation has made                 Recruiting is only part of the story. Lead-
risks. Risk management across the supply                 procurement expertise a career accelerator.        ers in supply chain management are looking
chain has taken on new priority in light of              The creative strategic thinking and innova-        at the entire career spectrum and treating
events such as rising energy prices, and, in             tive problem solving required to do it well        supply chain talent as an asset to be man-
the public sector, attention to accountability.          means it is attracting younger, more spe-          aged across a life cycle. Indeed, recruitment
     Organizations across various industries             cialized, and more highly educated candi-          is to talent management as procurement is
– with examples as diverse as Barrick Gold,              dates. The new wave of procurement pro-            to supply chain management. Managing a
RIM, Rogers and Loblaws – have taken ac-                 fessionals do not view supply chain issues in      resilient supply chain requires talent that
tion to strengthen their procurement capaci-             a one-size-fits-all approach. This new port-        encompasses a diverse set of skills and ex-
ty by recruiting senior executives with strong           folio management approach to managing              pertise that covers a range of roles. Other
track records in the supply chain. In the                procurement is demanding completely new            supply chain lessons learned that apply to
public sector, health care has been an early             skills and attitudes from its practitioners.       the talent supply chain include a growing
adopter, transforming procurement opera-                 Fortunately, procurement transformation has        recognition of the value of information. The
tions by hiring experienced executives to lead           run in parallel to significant transformation       procurement talent “inventory” in the organ-
the charge. Recently, the government of Can-             and modernization in HR practices – geared         ization has to be managed – with an agile
ada looked to hire senior talent with supply             to supporting and enabling more compre-            deployment of talent to manage a dynamic
chain experience to lead their procurement               hensive talent management.                         supply chain. Leaders in procurement trans-
transformation initiative.                                   The new wave of procurement hiring will        formation have deep insight on the talents
     All these organizations recognize that              be looking for analytic skills, the ability to     of their workforce – with the capacity to view
people are critical to maintaining their res-            assess market trends and company balance           real-time information on competencies avail-
ilience in the supply chain. Indeed, one of              sheets in order to assess suppliers’ capacity      able, utilized and required, understand the
the ways to tell if an organization is on pro-           for reliable delivery well beyond the price        gaps and address them on the fly.
curement’s cutting edge is by the way it views           their sales people are offering. Supply mar-            Where will the career options be emerg-
its people.                                              ket analysis and a deeper understanding of         ing for the new wave of procurement pro-
     In the old model, the purchasing depart-            technology are both key – but increasingly,        fessionals? In the private sector, the obvious
ment was literally a career destination – a              so-called softer skills are essential: for exam-   paths to advancement will be through oper-
job that lasted for years and where you ended            ple, communications proficiency to be able          ations and marketing divisions. In the pub-
your work life, often still at a relatively junior       to articulate the transformation taking place      lic sector, procurement professionals will be
level in terms of responsibilities and author-           in processes and culture to all stakeholders       sought after in policy development, project
ity. The work was mostly transactional and               – inside and external to the organization.         management and strategic planning func-
did not require creative thinking; the status                Post-secondary institutions are respond-       tions. The skills required for success in sup-
quo was the preferred approach, and many                 ing with specialized programs such as Mas-         ply chain/procurement management roles
staffers simply stayed, getting bids and mak-            ter’s degrees in supply chain management.          will require continuing professional devel-
ing purchases until retirement.                          Savvy employers realize that even with spe-        opment so that individuals advance to more
     Where supply chain management drives                cialized programs, graduates do not come           senior responsibilities in procurement or
business performance, strategic supply chain             straight out of university with all the con-       other functions.
professionals are moving to the executive                textual knowledge that derives from busi-               Delineating career paths and the learn-
                                                                                                                                                                         comstock.com




suite and experienced business leaders are               ness experience.What these employers look          ing required to progress along those paths
leading procurement. In contrast, some                   for – and what they find – are candidates           is a critical element in building resilience in
organizations are still mired in the three-              who are bright, creative, can assess risk, have    supply chain talent. Standing still without

         Canada’s magazine on public sector purchasing                                                                                    S e p t e m b e r 2 0 0 6 17
                                                               tion to be able to make knowledgeable deci-        tices in managing any other business assets.
                                                               sions – and training to fully understand the       Within an organization’s technology supply
                                                               emerging concepts and influences on supply          chain, for example, it is necessary to periodi-
                                                               chain changes. It’s important that people          cally review what is newly available, what
                                                               don’t stay in the same procurement role too        advancements have been made,and how new
                                                               long in order to avoid the risk of developing      capabilities can be used to meet your needs.
               improving knowledge and skills is not an        relationships with suppliers that become           With the fast pace of technological advance-
comstock.com




               option for the next generation of procure-      too close and might prevent the kind of bold       ment, no company is going to replace old
               ment professionals. New wave procurement        and innovative action that is required, even       computers with the same old models they’ve
               professionals know that they will be com-       if it threatens a comfortable supplier rela-       always used. They’ll be looking at their future
               mitting to a lifelong pursuit of knowledge      tionship.                                          needs, assessing sources of supply and devel-
               and skill upgrades to stay current with the         Providing government procurement pro-          oping new sources, if required, by building
               fast pace of supply chain developments; em-     fessionals with new opportunities in the gov-      new supplier relationships.
               ployers have to provide the tools and oppor-    ernment organization is a clear challenge              It’s the same principle in managing pro-
               tunities to fulfill those commitments. Online    for public sector HR – older classification         curement talent. Given the new skills require-
               training suppliers need to be encouraged to     and staffing models suited the old-style pro-       ments to take supply chain management to
               develop curriculum that can be delivered        curement organization. The mature, well-           the next level and achieve the benefits of pro-
               quickly on topics that respond to the latest    established HR practices are less and less         curement transformation, employers must
               trends in procurement lifecycle.                appropriate in the context of transformed          put in place management practices to attract,
                   Successful companies build talent through   procurement.Attracting, retaining and devel-       develop and deploy procurement talent or
               formal learning programs but, more impor-       oping the next generation of procurement           risk the loss of that talent to those organiza-
               tantly, they manage development through         professionals requires the next generation         tions with strong career prospects and lead-
               experience – through stretch assignments        of HR and talent management. For exam-             ership. The new supply chain procurement
               both within the procurement function and        ple, old style job design isolated narrow roles.   model is ultimately about business – and
               elsewhere in the business.Staying in the same   The staffing process tended to distinguish          allowing complacence to creep in would ad-
               role for too long risks stale-dating skills.    knowledge of established policy directives,        versely affect the transparency and efficiency
               Understanding the supply chain dynamics         but not pay sufficient attention to the ana-        of the process. After all, it’s a very different
               within a business requires an ability to stay   lytical skills and broader business acumen         world now.
               completely on top of business and market        needed in today’s world.
               trends. To do it, new wave procurement staff        Some of the lessons to be learned in tal-      Terry Lister is Partner, Human Capital Management
               needs access to a steady stream of informa-     ent management run parallel to good prac-          Practice, with IBM Business Consulting Services.




               18 S e p t e m b e r 2 0 0 6                                                                                    Canada’s magazine on public sector purchasing

				
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posted:4/4/2010
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