Six steps to develop future leaders in procurement

Christina Langley is managing director of Langley Search & SelectionIf I ask you to imagine a leader in procurement, no doubt you will imagine bosses you have known. Now try to imagine a future leader - what changes? Future leaders will probably need to be somewhat different to meet tomorrow’s changing landscape.

How is the landscape changing? Well, there is a definite trend of CPOs forming smaller, more highly skilled teams from which future leaders will be drawn. Team members are often ‘jointly owned’ by other functions, outsourcing is being used to manage areas and companies are using more interims to complete specific projects as a key part of the resourcing mix.  It’s about finding the ‘right’ resource whether it be from within the team, from external recruitment, interims or via an outsourced provider. And this to meet all the other economic and political challenges globally.

Today talent pools are diminishing fast and it’s certainly becoming harder to find ‘the right people’ as the global economy improves. Softer skills are often more important than those technical skills, finding those who can really communicate well, are natural collaborators and who can truly influence is the target. This is easy to say and hard to find. Finding those who are a ‘step above’, who can deal with uncertainty both emotionally and in the role, become experts in their supply markets and anticipate world events - and, yes, who are highly numerate as well. To lead these people is challenging - you need visionaries who are able and agile – able to identify and manage risks against a changing backdrop of uncertainty and lead and develop their skilled teams accordingly. It’s a tall order, but one we cannot afford to ignore.

So what can procurement leaders do right now to develop the ‘right talent’ from which they will find their future leaders? Here are some ideas.

• Attract the ‘top talent’ from the best universities or take talented people from within the business and develop them. Persuade their business to put in attractive reward schemes.

• Expand training programmes beyond just technical training. Broaden people with general business, financial and behavioural guidance.

• Develop the management and leadership skillsets. Set up mentoring and coaching schemes to develop how people work and not just what people do (see the Fellows event below).

• Create and promulgate compelling and concrete career paths at all levels to keep and develop your talent. This might include rotation schemes into different areas of the business. Take a risk by giving people ‘special projects’ to develop them.

• Be braver in your appointments. Don’t just look for past history, spot the potential in people and gain their buy-in to staying with you and growing. Paint this picture for external recruits.

• Include talent development as a key target for 2015 and beyond.

Full details about the Fellows of the Future event in London on 29 October is available on the CIPS website

Christina Langley is managing director of Langley Search & Selection

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