The New Soft Skill that Every Procurement Professional Needs in 2024

Think back to how you were operating a year ago. Or even better, think back to your procurement processes and priorities just a couple of years ago, maybe even half a decade. Do you notice any changes? 

In decades gone by, change, especially technological change, crept up on us slowly. Now? Not so much. Take, for example, the adoption of Chat GPT, the hugely popular language learning tool. Where Netflix had to wait 3.5 years to reach 1 million users, ChatGPT got there in just 5 days. 

And these changes aren’t happening within a bubble. Within procurement, digitisation is the second most-cited procurement strategy, and AI has a clear role: it can identify the best suppliers faster and more efficiently than us.

Fortunately, procurement is changing with the times: a recent Ivalua report showed that 79% of procurement professionals have significantly reworked their approach in response to rapidly changing market conditions. 

But is it enough? And what is the one soft skill that will enable us to not only cope, but thrive, when inevitably the pace of change accelerates in 2024 and beyond? 

The changing nature of procurement: a call for courage

If other departments were to describe procurement, what would they say about it? Would they say it’s a back office function dedicated to cost savings? 

That may well have been our past, but it’s certainly not our future. 

Over the last half decade in particular, procurement has evolved to become a strategic powerhouse within most organisations. Throughout this evolution, disruptions have become the norm: we’ve had the pandemic, wars, geopolitical instability, rapid interest rate rises, and a myriad of other issues. 

To support this evolution, the need for one procurement skill has become more prominent than ever: courage. Courage, as a soft skill, helps us find our voice, overcome imposter syndrome, and navigate change with confidence. Courage also helps us question outdated processes, challenge conventional wisdom, and continually adapt to new technologies. In short: no other soft skill will be more important to procurement in 2024 and beyond than this.

Courage as a catalyst for innovation

In addition to courage, one thing we all need to be in 2024 and beyond is more innovative. Innovation can help us fight inflation, among other things, but can also solve many of our most pressing business problems. 

Fortunately, it turns out that courage and innovation are intrinsically linked. 

Take, for example, the ongoing conversation about the impact of AI in procurement. Global Trade reports that while AI is already proving useful in automating repetitive tasks like billing and data entry, its use for risk management and compliance is still unknown. 

To advance this technology (and others), though, what we need more than anything is the courage to try new technologies and master them. The reason that most technologies aren’t utilised to their full potential within procurement is because the majority of people don’t have the skills needed to master them. 

This problem makes courage even more important. From the perspective of professional development, but also career success in general, it’s abundantly clear: those who master courage will always be the first to explore and implement new technologies and approaches, and to innovate as a result. 

Courage and resilience

Every procurement professional who has survived the last few years knows that disruptions can be relentless, and resilience is key to weathering the storm. We need resilience in procurement for issues big and small. For example, we need resilience for everything from learning to cope with a toxic boss to preparing your supply chain for climate change.

Fortunately, courage and resilience also go hand in hand. 

Courage can also help give us the resilience to bounce back from setbacks, learn from failures, and adapt to ever-changing circumstances. Courage, in fact, can become the driving force behind this resilience, as it enables us to face challenges head on without feeling overwhelmed.

And given the volume and nature of disruptions that are predicted in the near-term, including the great challenge that ongoing inflation poses, a combination of courage and resilience will be key to thriving.  

Courageous leadership in procurement

Procurement professionals, both male and female, will certainly be able to reap the benefits of courage. Yet there’s one cohort that needs courageous leadership more than the other, and that is: female leaders in procurement. 

In a survey we conducted earlier in the year, we found that although women make up 50% of procurement functions, their representation in C-suite and director-level roles within our profession is only about 15%. Although there are clearly other qualities required to reach that level, courageous leadership can certainly help. 

In an environment of disruption, courageous leaders aren’t afraid to make bold decisions, foster open communication, and instill a strong sense of purpose in their team. 

And ultimately, these are exactly the type of leaders that procurement functions need to innovate, lead, and navigate an uncertain, yet also exciting, future. 

Do you want to develop the soft skills required to lead in procurement? How to Lead Like a Woman is part of our BRAVO 2023 program. It helps leaders develop the essential skills required for impactful leadership. 

From defining your personal call to courage to building high-performance teams, every session is meticulously crafted to equip you with the tools to engage your audience effectively.

Find out more about BRAVO 2024 by selecting your region below:



The Americas