Wills finds the way

16 November 2006
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16 November 2006

CATEGORY- Purchasing and Supply Management Professional of the Year WINNER- Steve Wills, Axa Axa UK's head of procurement has transformed a team with low morale into an innovative and talented group. Steve Bagshaw discovers how

Modesty dictates that the winner of the individual award at the CIPS Supply Management awards is bound to express surprise at receiving the accolade. Steve Wills is no exception. Indeed, the man from Axa is equally understated about his contribution to the huge changes he has overseen and the reaction he has received since picking up the gong.

"It really was a surprise, we have supported the awards for a number of years and looking at the competition it is really gratifying to win. Fantastic and a great team effort."

Despite his self-effacing approach, Steve has been pivotal in procurement's attempts to meet the Axa 2012 global ambition, a project whose aims include doubling group revenue, tripling earnings and making Axa the "preferred company in the industry". His key contribution has been to foster an environment of creativity and innovation among the procurement team.

As head of procurement at Axa UK, he has built a good reputation and, by offering a stimulating working environment, succeeded in recruiting the highest quality staff and guided the existing team members to develop their full potential.

A combination of these factors will ensure there is a succession of talented staff for the department.

Central to his approach has been the establishment of the "Culture Club", a forum where the procurement team has the chance to voice their opinions about what is great about their jobs and what isn't working so well. Their feedback also helps to determine the direction of the department. In addition, opportunities for informal input was possible through away days and a book club.

The initiative has developed into an "engine" model of improvement, in which the engine has five cylinders comprising people development (including upping CIPS qualification from 20 per cent of the team to 75 per cent); improving internal stakeholder management, underlining the value of procurement, demonstrating best practice and compliance.

As a result he has transformed a team with low morale into a creative and innovative group of purchasers. This has helped to give greater prominence to the profession at Axa.

"Gaining colleagues' recognition is key to promoting the profession within the business, and winning this award will boost that recognition," he says. Steve's contribution to professional standards over the past year has extended beyond his own organisation. He has kept close to wider developments by chairing the CIPS Financial Services Procurement Forum, membership of the local branch and CIPS Council and mentoring procurement managers outside Axa.


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