A veteran procurement professional insists that the days of ‘psychopathic’ supply relationship management are over and that the most talented candidates for new-generation procurement jobs and supply chain jobs will stay with their organisations if the conditions are right.

In an interview with Procurious, Tom Derry, CEO of the Institute of Supply Management (ISM), describes an incident from a few years ago when a researcher approached him, wishing to survey the ISM’s membership to build a psychological profile of people working in supply chain jobs. Derry was shocked a few months later to read a headline in a newspaper covering the research that described most people in procurement jobs as ‘psychopaths.’

Derry concedes there was some truth in the description: procurement professionals back then were expected to have zero-empathy with their suppliers during negotiations, to insist on cost reductions, “and extract the pound of flesh.” But those days are gone. No one can succeed in supply chain jobs with such psychopathic traits today. New talent is different, bringing a more mutually beneficial approach to supply relationship management.

But how can gifted talent like this be retained when surveys suggest that a large percentage of new-gen procurement professionals plan to change roles and leave their organisations within two-to-five years? Can anyone hope to keep their most talented procurement and supply chain professionals longer than five years? Derry is upbeat: yes. But only if some key factors are in place.

For Derry, these must include:

  • In-job training: people appreciate acquiring new skills
  • New, challenging assignments to help professionals grow
  • Using a rotation programme, giving exposure to other business functions and units

Derry said, “If I’m looking for a place to work and I know someone who has a reputation for identifying and developing people who want great new opportunities, I’m going to want to work there. Develop a reputation that will work to your advantage.”

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