Attracting a New Generation of Procurement Talent

It’s up to organizations to ensure they’re offering attractive and effective career development paths to continue this interest as the function of procurement continues to evolve.

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Due in part to the pandemic, the industry is experiencing a shift in trends pertaining to careers in procurement and supply chain. Supply chain resilience has become a top priority, and today’s procurement professionals benefit from being a more integral and strategic part of the business than ever before. Previously an afterthought, procurement and a diversified supplier base is not only essential, but strategic. Working in procurement provides an opportunity to play a role in supporting corporate strategies, particularly in sustainability and corporate social responsibility programs.

All of this is driving new collaborations and innovations and opening up career paths for the newest generation entering the workforce. A few different factors are helping draw more young talent into the field, but it’s up to organizations to ensure they’re offering attractive and effective career development paths to continue this interest as the function of procurement continues to evolve.

Supply chain management and procurement degree programs 

Attracting young talent to any industry often requires offering a direct path to employment through education programs. In recent years, interest has grown in the procurement field because more universities are offering purchasing and procurement degree programs. 

For example, Bayer in Germany has an International Procurement Management Trainee Program that provides students with an overview of the role and tasks of its procurement function. From innovative sourcing solutions to ensuring a smart and efficient supply chain, experts work constructively with talent to ensure all business areas at Bayer are covered. The program also addresses suppliers in a competitive international environment, and how they function across the entire supply chain to ensure the company remains compliant with sustainability standards.  

These types of educational opportunities are designed to enable individuals to both start and advance their careers across the industry. This foundation equips a solid talent pool of potential employees who can hit the ground running. With this growing pool of talent, it has become an increasingly competitive market for organizations looking to hire. 

Attracting young talent 

Providing a solid career development path, role-based educational programs, state-of-the-art systems and access to the newest procurement technologies and tools need to be key priorities for organizations. Younger generations have learned about these advancements and fully expect to take advantage of them in their daily work. Continuously improving these programs is also to the benefit of the organization, as they enable leaders throughout the industry to deliver even more value over time. In addition, ongoing training is an essential part of ensuring newer generations of talent are prepared to mitigate business challenges and work towards generating resilience and agility across an organization’s operations.

Beyond this baseline, it’s important to play to the interests of younger talent. A recent study found that 45% of Generation Z want to work for a company that makes a positive difference in the world. What’s a better way to do that than procuring with purpose? Make it known that your organization is aligned with this mindset and that new procurement professionals have the opportunity to contribute to the strategy. 

Younger generations recognize the importance of profits, process improvements and product development as key goals for all companies to focus on. Given this, they’re aware that large companies have the resources to do more when it comes to procuring with purpose. Sustainability is top of mind, as are humanitarian issues like eradicating forced labor in supply chains. This plays into procurement’s role in managing risk along the supply chain, as the function is tasked with ensuring suppliers are strictly following codes of conduct (with the help of intelligent technology, of course). 

There are many factors that go into choosing one company to work for over another, and while salary does play a fairly significant role, with Generation Z it’s not always the deciding factor. What are you offering that your competition isn’t, in terms of a career path that plays to the talent pools’ key interests?

Retaining top procurement talent

Once new talent is in the door, following through on promises will be important to retention. Part of that is ensuring people feel valued, which is becoming easier to do as the role of procurement shifts and elevates into a more integral and strategic part of the business. With this, there’s more visibility and opportunity to support corporate strategies. Global procurement teams that offer employees development, learning and training opportunities across functions and at all levels will see more success in retention rates than those that don’t. 

In the past, procurement was more seen as the “corporate police,” a checkpoint for making sure all policies are abided by, requirements are fulfilled and so on. With the digitalization of much of this policing, it is now possible to let technology be the “bad guy,” allowing procurement teams to shed this perception and demonstrate their strategic value to the business. 

Procurement has evolved, as have procurement professionals. The unlimited possibilities of big data analytics have driven the need for procurement professionals to expand their skill set, requiring an aptitude for data analysis to get the full value from their software investment. Leveraging data analytics in this way helps better align purchasing decisions with corporate strategy, elevating the role of procurement into more of a business enabler than was previously possible.

Analyzing these trends, we can discern that today’s rising graduates are more qualified than ever before, benefiting from a deeper and more comprehensive education in the field of procurement prior to entering the workforce. They bring new energy and understand their potential to reshape how business gets done in order to help solve today’s social and environmental issues, and they expect to be valued for their contributions. Companies should look to provide opportunities for impact and career development to ensure they’re not only attracting but also retaining top procurement talent.