The week is getting longer

26 April 2009

27 April 2009

Purchasers are working more hours than before, according to the latest CIPS salary survey. Martha McKenzie Minifie examines why

The proportion of procurement workers clocking up between 51 and 60 hours a week has almost tripled in the past year, according to the CIPS salary survey. When SM asked senior procurement professionals for a few minutes to talk about their working hours, a common response was: "This isn't meant to be a joke, but I can't spare the time at the moment."

The latest CIPS Purchasing & Supply R£wards survey paints a picture of buyers increasingly being asked to put in time outside regular office hours.

It shows a quarter of private sector procurement professionals are working between 51 and 60 hours a week, up from 9 per cent a year earlier.

The scene is similar for purchasers in the public sector, with 11 per cent working 51 to 60 hours a week, a huge rise from the 1 per cent putting in those hours 12 months ago.

And across the profession, 16 per cent are working 51 to 60 hours a week - almost three times the 6 per cent figure from a year ago.

And 30 per cent of purchasers work in excess of 45 hours a week, up from 18 per cent last year and the 19.7 per cent recorded in the latest Labour Force Survey for total UK workers.

But why is this happening? It is hard to point to one reason alone but, as recruitment consultant Christina Langley suggests on page 18, in the recession buyers are being asked to do more. And this is not a good time to become known as the person who doesn't do anything extra.

Professor Cary Cooper, Organisational Psychology and Health, Lancaster University, echoes this view.

"In a downturn more people will be working to show commitment."

Tim Richardson, head of procurement at British Airways, says work pressures are more intense now than they have been in his 20 years in the profession. He puts it down to restructuring at the company and rising interest in supplier cost savings in the downturn.

"Most of my friends in other organisations report the same pressures," he says. "My sense is that the intensity will ease as we move towards the summer, but it's pretty challenging at the moment."

Many companies are cutting procurement budgets and costs at the same time as they increase savings targets, according to the Procurement in Turbulent Times report by Accenture.

And procurement staff numbers are being cut as well. Of 40 chief procurement officers from around the globe to respond to the survey in November last year, 41 per cent had seen a fall in full-time equivalent staff in their organisation.

Pat Law, director at Hays Purchasing & Supply, says some companies are taking a cautious approach to replacing staff who leave or not expanding their procurement team. Managers may be doing work they would have delegated in better economic times, says Law, as they embrace an "all hands to the pump mentality".

He suggests "self-protection" instincts may also be kicking in as buyers up their hours in the office to look better in the eyes of their bosses.

"If there is the threat of redundancy, people want to show 'I'm working long and hard, look at that guy over there'," he says.

CIPS chief executive Simon Sperryn says longer working hours are not necessarily gloomy news.

"This rise in working hours is offset by good rewards, incentives and excellent salary scales. The average holiday entitlement of 25 days each year also reflects a good balance between work and play."

He added: "It is encouraging to see that 23 per cent of our professionals in the public sector thought their job security was excellent, although only 9 per cent in the private sector think their job is completely safe."

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