Talent for new-generation procurement and supply chain jobs must be developed now if procurement is to continue driving businesses forward, or the function will decline, a new report has warned.

The report, titled ‘Identifying and Developing the Future Skills Needed in Sourcing and Procurement’, comes from the world-renowned business processes benchmarking authority, the APQC, and surveyed 204 professionals, including one-to-one interviews with practitioners in procurement jobs.

It acknowledges procurement’s dramatic transition from back office to centre stage, a development that has spurred companies to engage specialist procurement recruitment agencies to scour available talent pools for highly skilled new-generation procurement professionals.

However, it also found that too many currently in-role procurement pros lack the skills needed to succeed in the new era of automation, technological change, globalisation and rapidly multiplying consumer demands, all of which are highlighting the need for new aptitudes.

Among the key skills identified in the report for future procurement jobs are:

  • Job-specific skills – the technical skills unique to the procurement function. Respondents to the survey rated evaluating suppliers using spend analytics and risk assessments, and supplier relationship management, as the most crucial in this category.
  • General business skills – the ‘beyond procurement’ skills required for work in the new business environment. Rated by respondents as more important than procurement-specific skills, these include an ability to manage strategic supplier partnerships for collaboratively achieving business cost reductions.
  • Social (“soft”) skills – rated as ‘critical’ or ‘very important’ by respondents as they’re essential for promoting good business relationships. Failures in this domain can foster ill will and unproductive ‘shading’ behaviours that multiply costs and inefficiencies.
  • ‘Deep work’ skills – the ability to focus attention intensely on an issue without distraction is becoming more necessary but is currently rare. Automation will intensify the need for these skills by freeing procurement pros to concentrate on more cognitively demanding work.

This mix of talents needs to be developed now, the report concludes, or procurement’s time in the limelight “may be met with rotten tomatoes rather than roses”.

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