Careers in procurement are as diverse as they are rewarding, yet it’s fair to say the profession has something of an image problem when it comes to appealing to the CPOs of tomorrow.
How to attract, and keep hold of, talented millennials in procurement is a challenge that companies should tackle head on, says Lucy Harding, partner and head of the global procurement and supply chain practice at Odgers Berndtson.
Speaking at The Big Ideas Summit she said: “As a profession, procurement can attract a huge range of individuals, particularly as the ethical and environmental aspects of the role become more visible. But graduates don’t necessarily know this side of the profession.”
Another issue she identifies with is what Nik Gowing, visiting professor at King’s College, University of London, calls “The Frozen Middle”.
“There is amazing talent out there, but once they start to think about progression, the middle level at many organisations can appear unattractive,” says Harding. What’s needed, she says, is a more human approach, that utilises millennials’ affinity with social media and naturally high expectations when it comes to technology and how it’s consumed.
“Recent graduates want the opportunity to be heard, and to have access to senior people within the organisation to mentor them,” says Harding. In other words, senior and mid-level procurement professions should take responsibility for nurturing and understanding their young protégés.
Access to the latest technology should also be a given, says Harding. “Millennials aren’t going into companies and demanding to have the latest technology, as digital natives they expect it.”
Elizabeth Linder, politics and government specialist at Facebook EMEA, keynote speaker at the summit, noted that engaging in conversations via platforms such as Facebook can help breakdown traditional barriers in the workplace.
“Our traditional leaders are really bad at turning outward to make decision to take them forward. They’re too worried about perfecting their soundbites, and it’s no longer effective as it once was,” says Linder.
What millennials are hungry for is authenticity, she says. And this means changing the way we communicate within organisations. Human compassion can get lost as you progress up the career ladder, but this is what millennials connect with.
“Actually, nothing is better in the workplace than seeing vacation pictures and windows into people’s lives,” says Linder. “As we start to open up, we actually work better together, more profoundly. It creates trust.”
Challenging perceptions of the profession won’t happen overnight, but if organisations want to keep the brightest stars of the future, once thing is certain - they will need to adapt.