Develop a procurement ‘talent pipeline’, senior buyer urges

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
14 November 2013

The head of European procurement at Kimberly-Clark (KC) has questioned the practice of poaching individuals from other firms in a ‘war for talent’.

James Ratcliff told buyers at the Procurecon Europe conference in Amsterdam it was important to build a “talent pipeline” – KC has developed a “global procurement academy” – and to undertake “succession planning” by identifying critical roles and those who are, or will be, able to fill them.

“We are not framing things right if we continue talking about the war for talent. If you are always out looking for people from different companies and paying them a bit more, is that the best way to do it?” he said.

He went on: “‘We expect you to hit the ground running’ is something I have a bugbear with. What we’re looking for is people who can bring their own unique talents and make the role different from what it’s been before.”

Ratcliff said when recruiting he looks for “potential beyond the current role” and there is not a “perfect career path”.

“If people have got the right capabilities they can learn a category and develop,” he said.

“You really have to look for potential beyond the current role. When you’re looking for people you expect they have the business capability to do the role, but really you’re looking for people who you can see can move to the next role up or move into a different function.

“The most important thing for me is people have been successful in their current role.”

He added: “In my view character is more important than knowledge. It’s people, not systems and processes, that are key to our success.”

Ratcliff, who has been with KC for 16 years, said organisations benefitted from a diverse workforce and his team of buyers contained 12 different nationalities.

“I don’t think there’s a perfect career path. I’m a real believer in diversity. We get tremendous benefit from people who have been outside procurement,” he said.

He also advocated self-assessment of skills and knowledge. “It’s important the individual owns their own career,” he said.

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