Procurement leaders are putting softer skills ahead of technical competency requirements when it comes to finding talent, according to a panel at ProcureCon Europe.
Jim Noone, VP head of global projects and development at Lafarge Holcim, said that communication was the key skill he was looking for from procurement hires.
“People who have blended into the background as technicians are finding themselves more and more marginalised, and less and less visible,” he said. “The profile I look for the most is someone who is capable of communicating and influencing. Listening is very important.”
Swarovski category manager Thomas Michaelis said he was “not looking for procurement experts”, adding that the technical aspects are “not rocket science” and can be taught.
“You need to be able to sell yourself and your services,” he added.
Aamir Shaukat, CPO at Jacobs Douwe Egberts, said he was moving people from other functions into procurement. He gave the example of someone recently moving from R&D to lead raw materials procurement.
“We can teach them procurement, and their capability will be much more valuable,” he said.
Head of procurement at brewers Ashai Tomas Veit said he was “less focused on functional expertise”, instead looking for “someone who is comfortable with change”.
“I’m trying to find people who are good at communications and able to inspire others,” he said. “It’s a totally different story from 10 or 15 years ago, when it was more about functional competencies.”
The panel’s thoughts were echoed in the results of a recent survey of procurement leaders carried out by Supply Management magazine.
The survey of about 80 CPOs found the top ranked skills viewed as most critical to progression in procurement were leadership (61%), change management (48%) and influencing skills (41%).
In comparison, technical procurement skills were ranked as less important, with supplier relationship management chosen by 15%, negotiation by 8% and sourcing by 8%.
The survey found the top most challenging skills to find when hiring were influencing skills (54%), leadership (44%) and internal stakeholder management and collaboration (37%).
It also found that 83% of procurement leaders were finding it very hard or somewhat hard to hire talent into senior management procurement roles, and 82% were finding it very hard or somewhat hard to find middle managers.