Five ways to build a diverse procurement team

1 February 2023

Improving diversity in procurement requires it to be reflected throughout company values and clearly communicated in recruitment processes. 

Speaking at the CIPS Procurement Futures conference, Ginny Warr, head of procurement at British Land, said a lack of diversity in procurement teams could limit organisations’ ability to appreciate a range of talent and different skillsets.

Warr said: “There’s a tendency to recruit people that are like yourself, and you tend to get teams of similar people. 

“Make sure you don’t just keep repeating the same type of people, and therefore you’re narrowing down your diverse thinking.” 

To build diversity procurement teams should: 

1. Starts with culture

“Diversity starts with a culture. We all get up in the morning because we have a certain purpose. I think it's human nature,” Carol Williams, head of procurement at construction firm Laing O’Rourke, said. 

She explained that attracting diverse talent must be embedded into the company, which may require firms to change the nature of existing roles or introduce flexibility. 

Williams continued: “We've done a lot around creating a more inclusive type of workwear for people on-site. We've done a lot around enabling people to join the industry by making the tasks less centred around physical ability, and then it is about how you portray yourself, ultimately, through your job advert.”

2. Rewrite your job adverts

Pip Wells, innovation consultant and advisory practice lead at Resources Solutions, cited research that found women are more likely to apply for a role when they feel they meet 100% of the criteria, whereas men will apply for jobs when they feel they meet around 60% of the job description. 

She said: “Companies such as Legal & General have just added a couple of sentences to their job descriptions which say, ‘We know that sometimes some groups might not apply to a job if they don't meet 100% of the criteria, so why not apply anyway’.

“This costs absolutely nothing to put into play. And I just think this is something that we should all be doing and encouraging.”

Warr added: “You need to really challenge if there's any elements of the job advert that are restricting your pool of applicants, and ensure you’re not talking about things that you don't particularly need. 

“Rather than cut and pasting the standard job spec from job to job, if things like good communication skills aren't the central part of it, then don't put it in there because there will be people who won't apply.”

3. Understand the impact of hybrid working 

Hybrid working has “given with one hand” and “taken away with the other”, Wells said. 

She pointed to data which show that men returned to the office at quicker and greater rates than women, but this can create a “proximity bias” which can impact on access to promotions and opportunities. 

“You're more likely to actually be promoted if you're actually physically face-to-face with someone, despite evidence suggesting that we are, in fact, just as productive when working from home. So I think we just need to be mindful of this,” she said. 

4. Blind CVs

Warr said they had experimented with blind CVs at British Land in an effort to combat unconscious bias in recruitment. 

“We started playing around with blind CVs, which was quite an interesting concept. And we were quite cautious to start with, but [we were] very much focusing on what the candidate could bring to the role rather than their education and their background. 

“But we had to put quite a significant amount of work into training the hiring managers, because this was a new concept that people weren't used to. It’s quite unnerving when you get this kind of information coming out.” 

Williams added flexibility around interviews was important – offering different locations and time slots in case people couldn’t get away from work to attend an interview. “You immediately start to enrich the pool of talent you’re fishing in.”

5. Highlight company values 

Warr further said at the end of her job adverts she highlights the firm’s “values and culture”, including information about its disability accreditations. 

“I think that does help enormously because there's too many people looking for that perfect alignment, and if you could show that you're open to having a conversation, that just reaches people. And they know that it goes beyond your job advert, and they'll experience an inclusive environment.”

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London (Central), London (Greater)
Circa £50K
Insight Executive Group
London (Central), London (Greater)
Circa £60K
Insight Executive Group
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