Are the lights coming back on? Is recruitment coming back on the agenda?

The professional recruitment world completely ground to a halt for much of March, April and May as the Covid pandemic took hold of the global economy.  The recruitment industry was decimated as a substantial proportion of recruiters were placed on furlough schemes and various major players announced drastic reductions in revenue.  Of course, we are still hearing about predictions of mass unemployment when the furlough schemes end, but we are pleased to say that we are just starting to see some positive signs in the market after such a difficult period.

Staffing industry analysts (SIA), the global advisor on Staffing and Workforce Solutions have just reported that “the pandemic continued to weigh heavily on recruitment activity at the end of the second quarter of 2020, with clients implementing recruitment freezes or cancelling hires until the outlook brightened.”

This analysis was based on the latest UK Report on Jobs by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and KPMG which reported that “permanent staff placements and temporary billings both fell at notably weaker rates than in April and May when the Covid-19 pandemic was at its most severe”

James Stewart, Vice Chair at KPMG, said, “Despite an inevitable further drop in hiring activity for permanent and temporary staff, it is encouraging to see they both fell at softer rates than seen in April and May. However, the air of uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic will linger – and rebuilding confidence in the UK jobs market will take time.”

One more interesting statistic for you SIA also report that “the number of job adverts posted across the UK increased 20% in the week ending 5 July compared to the previous week, this is the first positive increase in weeks according to the latest real-time statistics from Broadbean Technology, the network of job boards”.  

Now week to week statistics can be misleading, especially when you consider the baseline position that this information starts from, but as we head into the third quarter of the year it seems that things are gradually improving although it’s still clearly very early days. 

Another positive to be aware of is that there is some evidence that the procurement and supply chain world enjoys one of the more robust job markets supported by the theory that the profession becomes more important during the tough economic times – there was certainly evidence to support this in 2008-10.  So expect the procurement world to be ahead of many other professions.

For the vendors and consultancies in the procurement solutions sector, they are relying on their target clients realising the value of their solutions when the pressure is on for savings and efficiencies.   Hopefully, this faith is well-founded as some niche procurement tech firms have told us that existing clients are leaning on them more than ever and in some cases, they are actually ahead of this year’s sales targets – an amazing achievement in the circumstances!

If your company is fortunate enough to be in a strong position, it’s actually a great time to hire as those organisations who are still very nervous about the future aren’t hiring at present so there’s less competition for good people.  There’s also clear evidence that there is some outstanding talent on the job market including top performers who are concerned about job security and interim specialists seeking the perceived security of a full-time job on a permanent contract.

The problem for HR and Talent departments is that the responses to these adverts will be through the roof given the number of job seekers and someone has to sort through all those responses from people who aren’t suitable for the role in the hope that they can find a few strong candidates for interviews.

I’d say its quicker and easier to make successful hires through a specialist recruiter but I would say that because I am a specialist recruiter.  Thankfully our clients who are back in hiring mode agree.

Andrew Daley

Director – Procurement Technology Practice

Edbury Daley

andrew@edburydaley.com

+44 7711 715258

For more information and analysis on the Procurement and Spend Management job markets, you can access regular reports here.

Edbury Daley publish their latest Procurement Insider Report

Procurement Technology Recruitment Specialist Edbury Daley has just published the Spring 2020 version of their well-respected Procurement and Spend Management Insider Report. It is available for free download from their website (link below).   One of the authors, Andrew Daley told us:

“The world has become dominated by the Covid-19 outbreak with the business world changing in ways that many of us could never have imagined.

So rather than just providing commentary on what has happened in the procurement and procurement technology job markets over the previous six months as past editions, this report is slightly different.

Firstly, we focus on sharing some examples of how the procurement supply chain and spend management communities have stepped up to help deal with the crisis with valuable contributions from SAP Ariba, Rosslyn Data Technologies, HICX, C2FO, Risk Methods and Sievo. 

Secondly, and not forgetting the history of this publication, we report on the job market trends dating back to our last report in October 2019 and take this commentary up to the point where it became clear that Coronavirus was going to have a significant impact on Europe.

Finally, we report on what we are doing as a business for our clients and how our unique offering is still proving valuable and will continue to do so in the future.”

You can download the report here: The Procurement and Spend Management Insider, Spring 2020

ABX Impresses in London

The Amazon Business Exchange (ABX) Event, a new conference on the procurement rota, took place on 9th October with the Victoria House Basement in Holborn full to capacity with 500 delegates.

The main sponsors were SAP Ariba, Coupa (who are both partnering with Amazon Business), Barclaycard, Accenture and YPO which gave it a slightly different feel to the likes of eWorld and Procurement Leaders, a sense emphasised by what was quite a different audience to many of the events we attend.

Whilst there were a few familiar faces, there was definitely an international feel to the audience which was predominantly mid and senior-level procurement professionals.  Representatives from the other solution vendors and consultancies were conspicuous by their absence.

This was the first ABX event in Europe with people tuning in via live streaming. Todd Heimes, Director of Amazon Business for Europe, opened proceedings with a few interesting thoughts about their view of the procurement world and how Amazon intends to have a major impact on it.

The pictures of his various slides that we have published here give some great insight into the data he was able to share with the audience.  Amongst the headlines were:

  • 89% of procurement leaders say that 50% of their processes can be automated
  • 94% of procurement leaders have implemented a 3rd party marketplace
  • By 2025 70% of all savings will be driven by data analytics.  He made the very pertinent point that there is a talent shortage centred around data (maybe he read one of our Insider reports!)
  • Only 34% of digital transformation projects are judged to be a clear success with more than 50% classified as a clear failure.

  • More than half the FTSE 100 are already Amazon for Business customers

He talked about the gap that exists between procurement leaders’ plans and the businesses expectations. Amazon intends to fill that gap and who would back against them given the success of the business overall?

Following Todd on stage were a couple of notable Amazon for Business clients Dietmar Harteveld Head of SCM for EMEA at Siemens and Bouygues Construction Global CPO Eric Bouret.

Both talked impressively about their journey with Amazon for business, their savings, process improvements and positive feedback from the business.

Two areas of capability really got my attention and are worth considering for CPOs.  Firstly Amazon’s system of progressive discounts over time which don’t require bulk purchases or supplier negotiation if you are a Business Prime customer.  The second was built in Spend Analytics, something that procurement professionals need to start using more of.

Next up was David Price, MD of lead sponsor Barclaycard Commercial Payments talking about how they might work with Amazon.  Todd asked David about how Barclaycard is making a difference to supply chains in an era of Brexit uncertainty and increased regulation.

He talked about the importance of “injecting liquidity into the supply chain” in areas of vulnerability and pointed to two key elements of the Barclaycard solution that could make a real difference in future. Firstly built in analytics (data again!!) to support their customers’ payment strategies and a similar capability for suppliers which could have a multitude of benefits for companies needing to manage their cash flow more efficiently.  For example, faster payments to the supplier community has given them a significant value add in the Barclaycard service and moved the dynamics of the relationship towards the supplier community away from the previously dominant buyer.

There were some good breakout sessions for the procurement delegates to enjoy after lunch which made for a successful event overall.  We expect to see much more of Amazon in the business community now, particularly given their alliances with such high profile organisations, and given the global success of the Amazon consumer business, we think it’s reasonable to suggest that this is bad news for other marketplace businesses.

Wax Digital & Edbury Daley combine to discuss recruitment best practice

Respected e-procurement platform provider Wax Digital recently interviewed Peter Brophy, Associate Director of the specialist Procurement and Spend Management recruitment company Edbury Daley for an article where they investigated “How to identify and recruit top procurement talent.

The article covers a range of relevant issues including what to look for when hiring in terms of softer skills and personality types.  Peter also gives his opinions on what makes for a good selection process and suggests some good interview questions.

You can read the full article here – https://www.waxdigital.com/blog/how-to-identify-and-recruit-top-procurement-talent/

For more really useful on this subject where Peter and his colleagues dig into some key issues around hiring into your team and developing your own career, you can access some excellent short videos here.

A memo from World Procurement Congress – act now, don’t wait

My colleague Andrew Daley and I attended the World Procurement Congress hosted by Procurement Leaders last Week.

It was an excellent event managing to mix some key themes that procurement needs to address now, such as sustainability and talent and significant long term trends including the impact of technology and how regionalism and nationalism affect the supply chain.

The message to me was ‘act now, don’t wait’, as in such uncertain and unpredictable times sitting and waiting may be the worst option and seriously risks your business getting left behind.

Robert Guest of the Economist gave a very broad ranging ‘state of the nation’ type speech on global trade and made some excellent points on the increasing regionalism of supply chain versus globalism and the impact of nationalism. He asked “what does this mean for Procurement people?” Well it risks the introduction of increasingly populist regulations or challenges on hiring, which means doing business could well become harder. So watch this space as this may be counterbalanced as digitisation and AI may make trading easier.

Sustainability is becoming a critical business driver and one that procurement has a leading role in. This point was made excellently by David Ingram, CPO of Unilever. It’s not good enough to just talk about it as sustainability is visible and measurable and must be checked and certified in the supply chain.

This was followed by an excellent discussion session with Imran Rasul, CPO at BAE Systems. Procurement people in his business have embraced the approach as they feel good about it. So no need for a mandate.

Two excellent but very distinct approaches in different markets.

Talent was another key theme from the conference. Future-proofing procurement’s capabilities featured in many of the keynotes and breakout sessions. Simon Geale of Proxima summed this up concisely as being two key issues of capability and capacity – simple if you think about it but very complex to solve?

Yes, there is a shortfall of people with specialist procurement knowledge, but more critical is finding those with good business and soft skills. Part of this discussion across the two days was also on diversity. We just had to look around the venue at the predominantly white, male audience to see this is a challenge procurement needs to address. Again real action needs to be taken now and words and presentations are not enough.

A number of discussions also touched on another key challenge for procurement, that of digitisation and the use of AI. Daniel Keyworth, CPO at Legal & General shared his vision for a 100% digital workflow by 2021 and I feel other organisations need to challenge themselves in this way too. He proposed five key pillars for procurement linked to digitisation:

  1. Enabling self service.
  2. Team organisational evolution.
  3. Better business partnering.
  4. Driving disruptive innovation.
  5. Easier to work with for our suppliers

Ultimately, the theme ‘procurement needs to be an enabler’ resonated, but with so much to do and with headcount tight it was felt organisations will need a flexible resource model with highly capable, well trained, multi skilled individuals who will adapt to the organisation’s needs.  

This was a red flag for me as whilst I agree, I did not hear how this was to be solved in terms of recruitment or development. If the bar is raised higher and the approach remains the same, we will get the identical end result: a lack of capable people internally and a lack of good people to recruit.

The end of the conference was a call to arms and Anita Sngupata, who is ex-Nasa really showed how we need to challenge our thinking through the example of how transport will change. If she is right our current supply chains will need to be completely re-modelled as there are some genuinely disruptive technologies coming – and soon.

Procurement Leaders event hosts Jet Antonio and Joe Agresta gave us three key takeaways to make happen:

  1. Build talent capability
  2. Drive innovation
  3. Sustainability

The challenge I think for procurement is to lead and educate their businesses about cost savings versus value and long term strategic goals. We see too many functions and organisations who are driven by short term cost or time-based metrics and a ‘penny pinching’ approach to any of these three could be a very short term result indeed.

But overall, do it now. Don’t wait.

Peter Brophy

Associate Director, Edbury Daley

peter@edburydaley.com

Time for action – Talent on the agenda at The World Procurement Congress

It was great to hear that Talent was as high up the agenda as ever at last week’s World Procurement Congress. We hear about supplier innovation and collaboration as the future of procurement and a potential source of competitive advantage in many industries. We ask why isn’t the profession adopting this mentality with their talent attraction?

The Procurement Leaders business always put on a great show and this year was no different with numerous high profile CPOs making presentations or joining group discussions around the central theme of “High Velocity Procurement – The Competitive Advantage”.

These presentations were typically subdivided around concepts like Procurement as an Innovator,  Procurement as a Visionary, Procurement as a Value Driver etc so there was plenty for the procurement professional on a learning expedition to consume.  

My focus is the same at almost every conference we go to, and that is to hear what is being said about people, specifically on the subjects of recruitment, development and retention. I wasn’t disappointed as we heard a lot from industry leaders about the importance of their talent.

In between sessions I took part in some great discussions with other attendees and some of the sponsors where there was a clear theme, and that was the leaders of the profession talk about their great programs offering examples of good hiring practices, career development plans and training to support them. However when you dig a bit deeper into what’s going on outside the big names, the picture is somewhat different.

So best practice in hiring and training remains rare. Many mean well and make the best of the situation but others lack resources (time and financial) whilst others don’t do themselves any favours with their approach to hiring and retention. This is something we see in our day to day work and was backed up by a very interesting panel discussion I attended on day one of the conference.

In this session, Simon Geale of Proxima talked about a severe talent shortage mentioning that many procurement departments are “light on capacity by 10-30%”.  He also commented that “there is not enough talent coming through the system” and talked about the need to equip the next generation with better skills around areas like collaboration and data.  

In response Johanes Giloth (CPO of Nokia) talked about his vision for the future of procurement and working more closely with the business to understand their goals, drivers and challenges which will then enable procurement to better understand its role in future. He actively encourages his best people to move into other departments to develop themselves and their understanding of the business, whilst continuing to hire and develop the best graduate talent he can so they can move up the organisation.

We also heard from Ruth Bromley (VP Operations & Procurement at Heineken) about their development programme for top talent which they call “Procurement Pioneers”. At the heart of their department is the need to understand and talk the language of their stakeholders, so they can ultimately sell their proposition to take responsibility for projects and develop the varied skill sets required to achieve deliver on them.

It was all very encouraging to hear what these two organisations are doing but I found myself nodding my head every time Simon Geale spoke about what he sees in the wider market and the reality is that the likes of Nokia and Heineken lead the way when it comes to developing their people. Unfortunately they are in the minority.

Another organisation that offered some real hope in this area was IBM. I’ve written about their journey to the next generation of procurement in the past and heard more evidence of it on day two when Graham Wright (Vice President – Global Procurement) and Marco Romano (Procurement Data & Analytics Officer) talked about how they are using the Watson tool to help elevate their skills and contribution to the business. The headlines were:

  • AI is enabling new skills not replacing jobs through Watson
  • It’s a valuable tool, not a threat (a common concern about AI)
  • It can help the journey from enabler to consultant for procurement professionals and elevate their skills in the process
  • It is driving a culture change in their organisation
  • At the heart of its success is education and training

IBM was amongst the very first organisations to appoint Marco at what is effectively a Chief Data Officer in procurement, and he provides the bridge between procurement and the data scientists with a key aim being to drive adoption.

Interestingly this concept of a centre of expertise in data analytics able to support procurement was raised in the session I referred to earlier, and it’s a model we expect to see replicated as more organisations finally get around to embracing the opportunities presented by the data.

Some interesting questions were asked by the audience about how it is being used. Graham talked about the importance of speed to value and using the tool when it was going to make a real difference, rather than just for the sake of it.

When asked where to start, both Graham and Marco were on the same page with the suggestion that you should “find something you can execute on and just do it, start small…. don’t go too big or address the most difficult area to begin with… just get started and don’t use lack of data as an excuse not to move forward”.

So having seen evidence from innovators like IBM we know they are using technology as a catalyst to develop their people but to reiterate the point made earlier, they are still in the minority and this practice needs to become mainstream as soon as possible. As my colleague Peter Brophy outlines in his piece on the event, the Procurement Leaders CEO Nandini Basuthakur urged attendees to take action to change and make improvements “NOW” in her closing address and included both technology and talent amongst the key development areas. I couldn’t agree more!

One point I’d like to make as a specialist recruiter in this market is this: we hear about supplier innovation and collaboration as the future of procurement and a potential source of competitive advantage in many industries. So why aren’t procurement leaders adopting this mentality with their talent attraction? In a competitive market for skills with the shortages mentioned by Simon Geale, maybe it’s time to move away from the tactical relationships that dominate the recruitment sector and start thinking a bit differently?

It’s time to back up the big words with some action!

For the record, the awards dinner on the Thursday night was very enjoyable with lots of friendly faces around. The Talent and Development award went to Turkcell, the leading mobile phone operator of Turkey. The judges praised them for their Young Talent Programme aimed at graduates which “provides end to end training programmes that harness technology to deliver the skills that the functions newest entrants require”.  

Congratulations to them. Having recruited in the local market we have seen that procurement talent is in short supply so it’s great to hear how they are developing graduate talent. It is undoubtedly the best long term strategy to address such skills shortages and something that we have been preaching to our clients, particularly in procurement technology and consulting sectors for a while in the UK.

So overall the Word Procurement Congress was a very enjoyable event. It was an intense couple of days of learning and networking where it was great to see a lot of friendly faces and meet some people in our network face to face for the first time.

One other note of interest to me was that it was noticeable that the sponsors that dominated were largely solution providers and partners. Unlike events such as SAP Ariba Live (my next conference in early June) and similar events from their competition, the really big consultancies were not exhibiting although we did see niche players like Proxima alongside the tech firms and payments providers.

I’ll be reporting back from SAP Ariba Live in early June. If you fancy joining me in Barcelona, I can highly recommend the event and the city. More details here: https://events.sap.com/aribalive-2019-barcelona/en/home

Andrew Daley

Director, Procurement Technology at Edbury Daley

andrew@edburydaley.com