You might have all the technical skills you need to progress in procurement. But technical skills alone aren’t enough to succeed anymore.
Technical skills are no longer the priority for recruiters searching for procurement talent. During my recent conversations with some of the region’s leading CPOs and their teams, I’ve noticed that organisations are not placing much weight on whether a potential hire can run a sourcing event or use procurement-related software.
“Hard skills” such as these are measurable, quantifiable and (most importantly), they can be trained at any stage. CPOs are now looking for something else entirely.
We live and work in an exciting time for procurement. Transformation is now business-as-usual, with the pace of change accelerating in step with the increase in global uncertainty.
As a consequence, modern CPOs are now looking beyond hard skills for essential attributes that will stand their new hires in good stead in a rapidly changing environment.
Below I’ve listed the top five skills (or attributes) that I believe procurement professionals need today, whether they’re entry-level hires or experienced senior practitioners.
Think about what procurement used to be like 10, or even 20, years ago, and you’ll immediately understand the importance of learning agility. The profession is in a constant state of evolution, reinventing itself regularly to meet changing business needs. And procurement professionals need to be able to learn and change with it, or risk being left behind.
It’s easy to identify team members who lack learning agility. They’re the ones most unwilling to embrace change, and fight against learning to use a new system or process.
Agile learners are not only willing and resilient, but are excited at the prospect of picking up a new skill.
With the steady increase in offshoring and international sourcing, it’s vital that you are able to work confidently across cultural barriers. This means making the effort to understand the different communication and negotiation styles of the cultures you are dealing with.
Recognise that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t always appropriate. A communication style that’s well-received in one part of the world may inadvertently cause offence in another.
Cultural awareness is also required in the microcosm of the procurement team, as diversity is increasingly recognised as one of the driving forces of innovation.
Is there such as thing as too much information? In my opinion, no, but you have to know how to manage it and make it work for you. The key is to separate the important ideas from the background noise to avoid feeling like you’re drowning in data.
Ask yourself if you really have time to read that new report or listen to that podcast. Are they relevant to your organisation’s business priorities? Will they help you do your job better?
Technology can be used to make the flow of data manageable, without missing out on anything important. We now have sophisticated procurement software that can be configured to generate only the most relevant data and convert information into digestible formats.
How you use your data is also important. Rather than simply sharing facts and figures, add the human element by using the data to tell a story.
Social Media Savviness
Written communication skills have made a real comeback. Confident writers are growing their online influence with well-crafted, succinct posts that fulfil their purpose, while giving value to the reader.
These days, if you’re not on social media, you’re invisible. This doesn’t mean you should just create a Twitter profile and do nothing with it. You need to stay front-of-mind by getting into the habit of creating regular and worthwhile posts.
You want to be the person at your company who is known for their creativity and lateral thinking. There’s usually at least one in every team – someone who others turn to who can look at a problem from a unique angle and find an unexpected solution.
In my opinion, creative thinking is a habit rather than an attribute. Just ask parents who have helped their kids make things for school projects – when you are able to think creatively, what was once a cardboard box could be a rocket ship, submarine or racing car.
It’s simply a matter of looking at an everyday object (or business challenge) with an open and creative mindset.
Wrapping it up
Recruiters can screen for these five essential attributes by asking evidence-based behavioural questions. For example, you could ask the candidate to describe a time when they demonstrated cultural awareness during a difficult negotiation. Or how they’ve solved a business challenge using creative thinking.
Personally, I don’t believe any of these skills belong to the “you either have it or you don’t” category. Learning agility, cultural awareness, information management, social media savviness and creative thinking can all be developed through intelligent coaching and networking with the right people.
It’s all about getting into the right habits that will enable you to thrive in 21st century procurement and build your future career.
Keith Bird is Managing Director of The Faculty Management Consultants, one of the Asia-Pacific region’s leading Procurement advisors.
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