When we think of the most important procurement skills, the following instantly spring to mind:
- Supplier relationship management (SRM)
- Stakeholder management
- Risk management
- Data analytics
There’s no question that these skills are super important. In fact, they’re pretty much a fundamental requirement for procurement professionals in today’s world. But there is also a whole range of slightly more niche, “nice-to-have” procurement skills that are frequently underestimated or overlooked.
If you want to future-proof your procurement career and set yourself up for success, be sure to invest some time in developing the following six skills.
1. Teamwork and collaboration
For procurement professionals, there are three key areas in which teamwork comes into play.
- Cross-functional teamwork – Procurement professionals have to work alongside several functions, including finance, marketing, and HR. The more harmonious these relationships, the less pushback and tension that ensues, and the easier it is for procurement teams to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.
- Supplier teamwork – Complex, global supply chains demand long-term and meaningful supplier relationships. By working alongside suppliers to achieve a common goal, both parties will be happier and more motivated, ultimately enabling procurement to drive more value and innovation for the business.
- Procurement teamwork – As procurement professionals take on more responsibility and navigate supply chain management in an increasingly volatile world, it’s important that teams work together effectively and efficiently to overcome challenges and deliver value to the business.
2. Emotional intelligence (EQ) and empathy
In a post-COVID-19 world, empathy and EQ are more important than ever before. Everyone you work alongside will have endured hardship in some form over the past 18 months. A preferred supplier might have struggled to meet their clients’ increased demands, your CFO has no doubt been under unprecedented pressure to keep the business afloat, and some of your direct reports are lonely and isolated following the shift to remote working. You simply don’t know what difficulties people have faced or how they’ve responded to being apart from their friends and family for an extended period.
Under any circumstances, it’s important to be mindful of people’s struggles, treating everyone with patience, kindness, and understanding. Encourage your colleagues to embrace a healthy work-life balance, make allowances when possible, and treat your suppliers with compassion.
When it comes to making critical decisions in procurement, there’s not always an obvious right or wrong answer – particularly when there are multiple stakeholders involved and each has different goals and priorities.
Procurement professionals would benefit from developing critical thinking skills. This will make it easier to analyse and evaluate all available information, take into account the opinions of others, and ultimately decide on an appropriate course of action – even when it’s a difficult or unpopular one. Being good at making complex decisions doesn’t mean getting everything right all of the time. But it requires having the courage of your convictions and the ability to pick yourself up and rectify a situation when things don’t quite go to plan.
4. Time management
They say time is money. In procurement, this is particularly true. Professionals must be able to quickly pivot and adapt to changing circumstances, whether it’s a disruptive supply chain event, changes in customer demands, or shifting business priorities. Not only does good time management and adaptability have the potential to significantly impact cost savings, but also the profession’s ability to mitigate risk and damage to the organisation.
Time management is also about prioritising. With procurement professionals often expected to juggle multiple roles at once, it’s important to understand which projects are most urgent and what are the possible repercussions of delaying certain tasks.
Over the years, most procurement professionals have grown accustomed to navigating workplaces that either don’t value their contributions or actively hinder the profession’s progression by refusing to engage or comply with procurement processes.
With some of the workforce, including those in leadership positions, still quick to dismiss procurement’s input, influencing skills are absolutely crucial. Professionals must be able to effectively make a business case and convince others about the value of their work.
While it’s easy to assume that an organisation’s procurement and finance teams will naturally work in tandem, the reality is often quite different. Long gone are the days when procurement teams were driven solely by cost reduction. Today, they’re invested in driving sustainability, innovation, transparency, and diversity and inclusion throughout their supply chains. This may result in procurement having a strained relationship with finance professionals, who are often eager to understand how procurement’s efforts are adding value to the organisation’s bottom line.
To address this tension, procurement and finance departments should commit to peer-to-peer learning, share their key concerns and drivers, and work out how best to satisfy both parties.