04 October 2007 | Paul Snell
People development is the engine behind Royal Mail's procurement transformation, according to its buying head.
Speaking at the CIPS/SM Efficient and Sustainable Public Sector Procurement conference last month, Ninian Wilson, group procurement director, said it had been hard but necessary to change a culture of underperformance.
"It's all about the people. If you haven't got the skills capacity it will remove aspirations. Without it your house is built on sand. You cannot do it without people."
He explained how he had flattened the management structure in procurement, reducing its 13 different grades to four, and increasing the number of his own direct reports from two to nine. "It was 1970s style management and I swept it away," he said.
Many staff left as a result of the changes, which included relocations, but he said they did so on good terms. He added 1,000 applications were received for jobs during the recruitment campaign - 60 per cent of the function is now made up of new staff.
"It has exploded the myth that no-one wants to join us," he said.
The project, nicknamed Columbus because it is a "journey to the new world", aims to make Royal Mail one of the top three procurement functions in Europe over the next three years, based on benchmarking from consultants AT Kearney.
When the firm was first benchmarked, the department ranked last out of 346. But Wilson is confident it will achieve its goal, because of the motivation and loyalty of his staff. "Ask anybody in our function, and we'll be top three in three."