HOW TO… Make Your Procurement Training Awesome

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Author: Adam Stennett

If you haven’t sat in a mind-numbingly dull procurement training session before, be grateful.

Even in organisations that do procurement well, all too often, procurement training is lacklustre at best.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If your procurement training currently sits on the “snoresome” end of the scale, there is hope. You simply need to learn and implement the right strategies for effective, engaging, and interesting procurement training. And this article describes five such strategies.

So, if you want to take your procurement training from snoresome to awesome, read on…

#1 – Embrace Ongoing Learning

Procurement training shouldn’t be an annual, week-long activity that takes place in a training room. In fact, the less you use a training room, the better.

Successful procurement organisations treat capability development as part of day to day business.

Sitting your team down for an intensive week of training is inefficient, because no matter how interesting your presentations may be, the people you train will still experience a degree of information overload, which limits what they’ll learn and remember.

The alternative – embracing ongoing learning in procurement training – allows your team to learn gradually and at a deeper level. This helps to ensure that they’ll remember the things they’ve learned more easily, which means that your training will be both more efficient, and more effective.

One way to implement ongoing procurement training and learning is to build a “competency map”. Your map should outline different competencies that your team members need to have by level. Each individual can then progress through some of these tasks, which they must complete within a given timeframe. Once they’ve completed them, you can verify their learning, sign off on the task, review their other existing competencies, and identify and assign the next competency they need to learn.

In addition to facilitating deeper and more easily retained learning, this approach to procurement training can also provide evidence that your staff can use to gain recognition of prior learning and earn relevant certifications. It also starts to build a performance management culture by providing structure for the employer/employee skill building pathway.

#2 – Be Discovery-Oriented

While ongoing learning is often preferable, formal training still has its place. However, if you want your formal training to be effective, then you need to learn how to maximise opportunities for discovery and engagement in that training.

The traditional approach to formal training looks something like this: The trainer tells trainees the five things that they need to know, explains each in detail, and quizzes everyone at the end to see if they’ve learnt these five things.

An approach to training that emphasises discovery and engagement looks very different. Instead of presenting information lecture-style, the trainer starts with a problem. Ideally, this should be a real problem that your organisation has faced before. You then create an experience where those you are training try to solve the problem, reaching for information along the way. You make this information available to them, and, if you’ve designed your task right, it will be the information you wanted them to learn during this session.

By presenting this information in a context where it will lead to an outcome, you achieve two key outcomes: you make the value of the information explicit, and you make it easier to learn.

An example of an approach Stennett Consulting is currently piloting is to deliver discovery and engagement training through game technology, building 3D immersive games in a supply chain context. Your procurement training mightn’t look quite like this, but in an age where it’s never been cheaper or easier to build engaging simulations, video scenarios, or other scenarios that mirror real life, there are plenty of ways you can deliver training that maximises opportunities for discovery and engagement.

Remember, practice is always more powerful than theory. When you teach theory through practice, you are teaching powerfully.

#3 – Allow for Self-Directed Learning

Discovery and engagement training isn’t the only way to provide powerful practical training. Creating an environment that supports self-directed learning can achieve similar outcomes.

We live in a “Google it” society. If you want to learn how to fix a chair, know how to use an app, answer a question, or learn or do almost anything else, you Google it. Googling is an example of self-directed learning.

Self-directed learning is powerful, because it’s incredibly practical; it fulfils a clear need. Because self-directed fulfils a clear need, people place value upon information that they learn in this way. This approach is also important because it mirrors how people learn these days.

Encouraging self-directed learning in a procurement training setting is about creating the infrastructure to support it. This involves building business support products that allow individuals to answer their own questions. Basically, you need to change your business process documentation so that it’s less like an encyclopaedia (i.e. it’s all here, you just have to find it), and more like Google (i.e. information delivered on demand). The end result is that you facilitate learning that’s self-directed and, as a bonus, contextual.

For example, rather than creating hundred-page policy documents or three-day training programs, consider building a collection of short videos on specific topics that address different procurement challenges. With a user design that makes this information easily accessible to learners, you can create “just in time” learning experiences that are relevant, useful, and easier to remember.

Like we said before, practical learning is powerful learning, and contextual self-directed learning is a great practical learning tool.

#4 – Build a Learning Pathway

Any procurement training you deliver to staff should follow a clearly marked, progressive pathway.

Different staff members have different levels of experience. The traditional approach to training tends to ignore these differences, presenting supposedly one-size-fits all training to people regardless of their prior experience and training. This sort of training is almost always guaranteed to “miss the mark” for at least some of your trainees. Generally speaking, it will tend either to address the needs of new team members, but bore your experienced team members to death, or it will address the needs of experienced team members, but leave your new team members feeling disconnected and out of their depth.

By contrast, the trick to powerful procurement training is to ensure that training is personalised, yet consistent across your team. In order to deliver this, you need to build a learning pathway.

A procurement training learning pathway involves setting out a clear progression of structured learning activities. This allows learners to plan how they progress. However, it should also include the flexibility required for discovery-oriented and self-directed learning. (Obviously, there are clear connections between this approach and the “competency map” approach described earlier.)

One example of this would be to replace your procurement policy document with hierarchically grouped short videos on different procurement topics. Ideally, this should be easily searchable to allow for self-directed learning.

By following a clear progression, but also allowing space for self-directed learning, you can ensure that the right people learn the right information at the right time. This approach stands out in stark contrast to the traditional approach of telling everyone everything at once, and hoping they’ll remember it six months down the track.

#5 – Put Yourself in the Learner’s Shoes

If you’re responsible for procurement training in your organisation, it’s probably safe to say that you’re one of your organisation’s procurement experts. Being an expert is what allows you to deliver powerful training… but it’s important not to let this advantage become a disadvantage.

Whenever you design any learning activity to support procurement training, it’s important to take a step back and put yourself in the learners’ shoes. Consider whether you’d really find what you’re teaching interesting. Ask yourself whether you’d enjoy the course. Take time to determine whether you’ve forgotten to explain important underlying information that you take for granted, but which your team may not be familiar with.

As trainers, we can forget that what we find interesting, enjoyable, or obvious may not be what those we train find interesting, enjoyable, or obvious. By taking time out to consider how your program will be received, you can prepare a much more powerful procurement training experience.

For example, at Stennett Consulting, we’ve been using Lego in courses designed to teach people how to write a good scope of works. This is an easy way to illustrate the differences that often exist between what’s “said” and what’s “heard” in procurement. We ask one group of people to write a procurement scope of works that involves creating something from Lego designed to achieve a specific outcome. Then, we ask another team who weren’t present to try and build what was requested. The resulting Lego creations clearly and powerfully illustrate the shortcomings in a scope when someone tries to deliver on it, and the “curse of knowledge” and other communication issues become immediately apparently.

An activity like this is interesting, enjoyable, and clearly practical – things your learners are sure to appreciate.  (As a bonus, it’s also a great way to buy that Star Wars Lego you always wanted and call it a tax deduction.)

Procurement Training and You

How does procurement training in your organisation currently look? Have we shared any tips that you plan to implement? Do you have any other tips that you think we need to know? We look forward to getting a conversation going!

 

Who is Adam Stennett?
Adam Stennett is a strategy specialist who loves to push the boundaries in organisations to find the most effective ways to help teams develop and learn. If your procurement or other training needs an overhaul, or if you simply want to discuss appropriate strategies for taking your training to the next level, contact Adam and his team at Stennett Consulting today. Simply email enquiries@stennettconsulting.com.au to get in touch.

Make your Training Budget Stretch Further

Of course another way to develop your capability is through interactive peer-to-peer learning, where you can not only acquire new skills, but tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience of your peers. PASA CONNECT provides extensive opportunities for peer-to-peer learning at a cost that ensures that the training budget can be used to satisfy the needs of the entire team. For more information visit http://pasaconnect.com

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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