How to Find Top Procurement Talent – and How to Keep it

“Good help is hard to find!” Surprisingly, it’s especially difficult now. As a Procurement or Supply Chain leader, how do you find, attract and retain great talent?


Talk to any seasoned procurement and supply chain leader about their biggest challenges and it’s likely that finding and retaining great talent will be toward the top of their list. A 2019 survey by supply chain and logistics industry body MHI found that 65% of supply chain professionals viewed hiring skilled workers as a top challenge, a figure that has increased every year from 58% in 2016. Deloitte’s 2019 Global CPO Survey echoes these findings, with 55% of respondents saying they had found it more challenging to attract talent in the last 12 months, and 54% saying that the skill and capabilities of their current team aren’t at a sufficient level to deliver their procurement strategy.

So, how can savvy procurement leaders overcome this? How can you find top procurement talent and, just as importantly, keep it? Read on for our top tips …

What’s your brand?

Employer brand is a powerful tool in talent attraction. According to the latest CIPS/Hays salary guide, 58% of procurement professionals say that a company’s reputation is a top motivator in convincing them to move jobs.

While your wider organisation’s employer brand and reputation might be out of your control, think about how you can raise the external profile of your procurement function, as well as your own as a leader in the profession. Can you get your name out there by writing articles for magazines and websites and by speaking on webinars and at events and conferences? Enter awards. If you win or even get shortlisted, potential hires will see you as an industry-leading function and be keen to join the team.

Focus on the culture you create within your team and function. People are more likely to want to join and stay in a positive, supportive and inclusive culture, as well as talk about it to others, improving your external reputation. If your culture is more towards the toxic side, there’s little point attracting top talent when they leave after a few months. And with more and more people engaging with tools and social media like Glassdoor, toxic cultures can often become public knowledge. Your employer brand is being verified in real time by current, former and prospective employees. 

Cast your net wider

The coronavirus pandemic has taught organisations and leaders that many roles can be location-agnostic. This could be a godsend in finding talent, as you may no longer be constrained by location. Can you be more flexible and innovative in your approach, hiring team members who can predominantly be based at home, allowing you to widen your catchment area?

Beyond that, think about how you can tap into recruitment channels and talent pools at different points. Partnering with schools, colleges and universities, for example, could give you access to a pool of eager young talent. Consider how you could use digital marketplaces to find skilled gig workers to work on specific projects, rather than hiring someone full-time. This is particularly useful if you are trying to find a niche set of skills. And think outside the box when it comes to transferrable skills. Qualifications and experience count for a lot, but they aren’t everything. Does your next hire really need to have sector experience? Do they even need procurement experience, or could you train someone up from a different background?

Must-have skills

Survey after survey shows the rising importance of so-called ‘soft skills’ in procurement (although most of us know that these skills are actually some of the hardest to find and develop).  While technical know-how is important, much can be taught on the job or through specific training interventions. Softer or ‘essential’ skills tend to be more innate and are harder to develop if there isn’t a foundation there, so look for these during the hiring process.

According to the CIPS/Hays survey, skills like communication, influencing, internal stakeholder management and leadership are in demand across all sectors. Think about how you can draw these out during the interview process, asking competency- and strengths-based questions about how people have leveraged their communication skills or dealt with challenging stakeholders, for example.

What top talent wants

Salary remains the number one motivating factor in someone switching roles, according to respondents to the CIPS/Hays survey. But salary is less important when it comes to retention and overall employee satisfaction, and there are many factors beyond pay that attract and retain the brightest stars. These include the purpose, values and culture of an organisation, opportunities for training and progression, and the opportunity to work more flexibly, whether from home or on a more flexible schedule that fits better with one’s life.

And ever heard that old adage ‘people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers’? It’s true. According to the CIPS/Hays survey, 55% of procurement pros consider the management team as an important factor when deciding whether or not to move jobs. Having great, people-focused managers who understand the value of recognition and feedback, have regular career conversations, believe in prioritising employee wellbeing and create positive team dynamics will go a long way in retaining your stars.

Partner with HR

A good working relationship between procurement and HR will help you in your quest to find and keep the best people. Partner with your HR team from the start and they will be able to help you up your recruitment game, perhaps by exploring more creative avenues, finding untapped talent pools or using psychometric tools and assessments to identify high-potential hires. Make sure you invest time in explaining what you are looking for and your department’s strategy and vision, so they are best placed to support you through the hiring process.

HR can also offer advice on developing and supporting your people once they are in. A poor on-boarding experience can put a new starter off, so work with your HR partner to put something great in place for your new joiners. According to Harvard Business Review, organisations with a standardised on-boarding process enjoy 62% greater new hire productivity, and 50% greater new hire retention.

Invest time and effort in getting your top talent off to the best possible start and they are more likely to thrive and stay the course.