Why (and How) Procurement Should Boost Its Millennial Appeal


Author: Hillary Ohlmann

Millennials. What does the word bring to mind? Perhaps visions of entitled, spoiled, selfie-taking sugarplums laze about in your head.

Unfortunately, the millennial generation has gotten a bad rap. Regardless of whether that reputation is deserved or undeserved, you’ll probably be working with a lot more millennials in less than five years, if you’re not already. According to Jamie Gutfreund, chief strategy officer for the Intelligence Group, there will be 86 million millennials in the workplace by 2020, which is about 40 percent of the total working population.

How does this affect Procurement? The CIPS/Hays 2015 Salary Guide and Procurement Insights Report says 73 percent of employers are finding it difficult to attract suitable candidates for vacant procurement positions. There’s a shortage of skilled procurement professionals, and millennials seem to be the logical candidates to fill these vacancies.

The problem is how to convince them Procurement is the place to be. Procurement needs to up its game when it comes to reputation, recruitment, and retention.

Higher salaries may not be the solution they once were. By compensation standards, Procurement is not a bad place to be. The aforementioned CIPS/Hays Salary Guide states that purchasing professionals have recently recorded higher pay increases compared to other professions, and the demand for talent has led to a closing of the gender pay gap for entry level positions. However, millennials don’t base their career decisions solely on pay.

One of the principle problems seems to be reputation. While mainly anecdotal in nature, there are a few articles that support this hypothesis. Take a look at how many current procurement professionals entered their profession. Two recent discussion threads dedicated to this question showed that the majority of respondents came to their positions by chance:

  • I started in Procurement completely and utterly by accident.
  • Fell into it backwards.
  • My first role in Procurement was certainly luck of the draw.

For the field to obtain truly skilled, engaged employees, then students or recent graduates need to see a job in procurement as one to aim for, not just as one to stumble into by chance.

How will this reputation change if current procurement professionals aren’t even happy with where they’re at? Again, this is anecdotal evidence, but the fact that it’s out there speaks volumes. Jon Hansen, author of the popular Procurement Insights blog, tells of speaking at a conference and asking two different groups of procurement professionals, “If you had to do it all over again, how many of you would have made the decision to pursue another career path?” About 50% of both groups raised their hands. He goes on to note that “it’s hard to operate at maximum capacity when half your team is disenchanted and/or disengaged.” It’s not just about operating capacity, either. Potential procurement recruits are going to have a hard time seeing the appeal of working on a team when half would rather be elsewhere.

Procurement needs to think about how it can entice millennials into the profession and keep them there. Besides stacking your procurement team with motivated, engaged employees, there are five more areas to consider when building up the reputation of your workplace and the procurement field in general.

  1. Corporate social responsibility – According to the Deloitte 2016 Millennial Survey, “56 percent of millennials have ruled out ever working for a particular organization because of its values or standard of conduct.” Now it’s more important than ever for Procurement to play a prominent role in supporting the organization’s CSR objectives. New recruits should be able to see how their choice of suppliers, components, etc. help make a difference in the long run.
  2. Collaboration – The Intelligence Group’s studies of millennials have shown 88 percent prefer a collaborative work culture rather than a competitive one. Procurement is a great place for collaborative work. Few functions have the opportunity to work with as many internal and external stakeholders. Some of the millennials in your procurement function might be a great fit for cross-functional teams or assisting with supplier relationship management initiatives.
  3. Guidance – The aforementioned Deloitte study goes on to say that those intending to stay with their organizations for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68 percent) than not (32 percent). Millennials have been coached their entire lives, and many expect it to continue on the job. Rather than thinking of it as handholding, think of mentoring as a chance to share skills, learn new perspectives, and impart knowledge gained after years of experience.
  4. TravelPwC’s 2011 Millennials at Work Global Survey found millennials have a strong appetite for working overseas and 71 percent expect and want to do an overseas assignment during their career. Procurement and Supply Chain Management are ideal functions for those with a sense of wanderlust. These millennials may jump at the chance to transfer within the company to an overseas post or the opportunity to travel and meet suppliers.
  5. Technology – According to the 2014 IBM Institute for Business Value Millennial Survey, only 4 percent of respondents claim their organization has no issues implementing new technologies. Most say their organizations fail at adopting the latest innovations due to the complexity of new technologies and their leaders’ lack of vision and technological savvy. Millennials are the first generation to grow up with the Internet at their fingertips. If your organization has struggled with change management while adopting e-procurement solutions, then you may want to enlist the help of the millennials on your team.

By reinforcing these positive aspects of a career in procurement, you’ll be in a better position to attract and retain the millennial generation’s most skilled members.

PASA has declared 2016 to be ‘The Year of Entrepreneurial Procurement’. This theme will be reflected across the business as we focus on a new way of thinking and encourage different skills and attributes in the people working in procurement. Read more here:

Hillary Ohlmann
is DeltaBid’s resident writer, copy editor, researcher, and all-around procurement enthusiast.

About Author

Procurement and Supply Australasia (PASA) is the leading provider of information and education to procurement and supply professionals throughout Australia and New Zealand. PASA supports the largest community of engaged procurement stakeholders in the region, through its renowned series of events, publications, awards, plus various community and network building activities. PASA is a trading name of BTTB Marketing, for many years recognised as the leading producer of conferences and events for the procurement profession in Australia and New Zealand. Whether producing under the BTTB, CIPSA Conferences or now PASA brands over the last ten years, our events have consistently led the market in terms of both educational and networking opportunities.

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