In procurement are you a hunter or farmer?

30 March 2022

Procurement professionals can be described as either "hunters" or "farmers" in their approach to the role, an event was told.

The Supply Management Forum heard hunters aggressively negotiated deals while farmers cultivated long-term relationships – but both were needed in a successful team.

Claire Costello, CPO at the Co-op, said: “I was a farmer as a youth who turned into a hunter as a grown-up.” 

She continued: “There's a time and a place where both are needed so there’s a point around the strength diversity brings to an organisation. You can't hunt crops, you have to farm them. So you need both to make the business successful and for the organisation to progress. It's knowing where those skills sit at the right time and to leverage them differently at the right time. 

“Even as a procurement team, knowing when you are comfortable to farm as opposed to hunt is important. Because sometimes there'll be a time when you need to switch into 'This is about keeping the business running', which probably feels a bit more like farming, as opposed to actually just crisis management. You don't want to be in crisis management all the time.”

Duncan Brock, group director at CIPS, said the hunter versus farmer question showed the importance of investing in skills to nurture talent. 

Brock said that skills programmes must be given the budget to retain talent or businesses risk losing workers. He said: “If you want to retain people nowadays, we're hearing people want skills, they want to develop their career, and they need that investment there. If they don't get it they will leave, because they'll go somewhere else where people are willing to do so.”

Costello said collaboration was essential for tackling the current supply chain disturbances, and develop skills across the sector.

She said: “The buyers that we have haven't experienced inflation in this way, in the way that those of us a certain age have been through once or twice before in our careers. That face to face time with colleagues, is important from an experience point of view, but also from a training development skill set learning. 

“It's just one thing after another - who thought that we’d go from Covid to suddenly having to manage a conflict in Europe, and the impact that that has on your supply chain. It's a nonstop cycle, at the minute so making sure those skills and experiences are shared is really where the focus should be.”

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