CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
March 28, 2020
Forward Thinking

Ethics, communication top list of future-focused procurement skills

General business and social skills trump job-specific requirements in the procurement role of the future, APQC report shows.

The future of procurement calls for a particular set of skills—and they are not job-specific, according to a recently released report from researcher American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC). 

Article Figures
[Figure 1] Top 10 skills

[Figure 1] Top 10 skills
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[Figure 2] Gaps for top 10 skills: ?Importance vs. effectiveness

[Figure 2] Gaps for top 10 skills: Importance vs. effectiveness
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The organization surveyed 204 global procurement leaders and partnered with experts from the University of Tennessee to get to the heart of the "future skills" required to succeed in procurement. General business skills (such as business ethics) and social skills (including communication) rose to the top of the list, outweighing job-specific technical skills required in the procurement department.

"Looking at the top 10 skills across categories, it's clear that the skills future procurement professionals need most are those that help them build relationships with internal stakeholders and suppliers, make difficult judgement calls, and translate business needs into procurement decisions," the researchers wrote in their November report titled "Identifying and Developing the Future Skills Needed in Sourcing and Procurement: Evolving Landscape Requires Revamped Talent Development." 

According to survey respondents, the top three skills required for future procurement roles are business ethics, oral and written communication, and stakeholder management. (See Figure 1)

The study also identified double-digit gaps in organizations' effectiveness in training and developing each of the top skills. Closing those gaps is crucial to building a stronger procurement organization, APQC said. (See Figure 2)

"The consequences of not addressing these gaps are huge," the researchers wrote. "If organizations cannot develop these skills in-house, they will be forced to secure them through external hires and/or consultants. This will increase the procurement function's costs dramatically. But the only other option is to simply not develop these skills—and that's even more dangerous. Organizations may be able to rely on a handful of experienced procurement professionals for now. But when those people retire (and they will), the function will be in the hands of people who never learned how to lead, think critically, or act ethically, and who have never built relationships with key suppliers and internal stakeholders."

The study offers "action items" for closing the gaps in building the skills for the future, including how to promote leadership buy-in and realign your approach to talent development.

"Expectations for procurement's performance are high and growing higher, so procurement leaders must act quickly to develop the next generation of procurement talent," the researchers wrote.

APQC worked with the University of Tennessee and subject matter experts Kate Vitasek, Bonnie Keith, and Emmanuel Cambresy to compile the report.

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