Adapt to survive and thrive

Essential skills for modern procurement teams

By Privesan Naidoo

Technological advances in the procurement industry will result in automating even the most complicated processes in the near future, which will save time and free up resources to unlock new opportunities. With these advances there will be less emphasis on hard skills, but there will be a shortage of soft skills, which will become more and more relevant. Procurement professionals will thus increasingly need to master soft skills to ensure a long-term career.

Deloitte's recent Global Chief Procurement Officer Survey 2018 found that 51% of procurement leaders do not believe that they have the capability in their teams to deliver their procurement strategy. The same survey found that 72% of procurement leaders spend less than 2% of their budget training and developing their teams. Only 16% of procurement leaders chose to develop digital skills as the main focus of their teams in 2018. Teams' main areas of focus seem to fall to technical procurement skills (41%) and soft skills (36%).

Examples of sought-after soft skills for procurement success:

- Negotiation and networking
Nobody knows everything, which is why networking is a key skill to add to your knowledge. Talking to different people can provide different perspectives on what can be achieved and on how problems faced by employees can be handled.

Negotiation skills are equally important as these help to create win-win scenarios that will enable successful long-term partnerships. Negotiation and networking are key soft skills that make a real difference in a rapidly-changing environment.

In the context of technology and automation, specific challenges may arise, such as providing for system downtime, system integration and change management. By using their negotiation and networking skills, employees can manage expectations adequately, especially in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Soft skills, therefore, provide solutions to overcoming challenges.

- Adaptability
Adaptability has become a key skill in the procurement industry. Technology is ever-changing, thus procurement managers and workers need to be open to new ways of working.

Whether organisational, technological or skills-based, the jobs that we do and the way in which we do them are changing, and will continue to do so. Since we don't know what changes will emerge, it is important to move out of our comfort zones and see change as an opportunity for growth and innovation.

- Teamwork and collaboration
In the procurement environment, working in teams is essential to success because of the interconnectivity of processes and systems.

Individuals must be able to bring ideas to the table and communicate their views effectively. Crucially, they must also respect and accept one another's ideas and be able to collaborate.

The key to developing the right skill set in your procurement team is to find the right balance between hard and soft skills. Once you find that balance, you are set for success in the modern world of purchasing and supply chain management.

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