The concept of employment is changing. Leaders across all functions, including procurement, face the challenge of retaining their best talent, and many companies increasingly must do more with less. According to a survey from Pew Research Center, the “quit-rate” in the U.S. reached a 20-year high at the end of 2021.
Procurement has traditionally struggled to attract top talent, but now enjoys a unique opportunity to use innovative technology to change that paradigm. New digital platforms can automate repetitive manual processes, freeing up procurement teams to focus on more strategic tasks that add wider business value and impact, while also creating intuitive, user-friendly interfaces to carry out this work.
In her book Trade Wars, Pandemics, and Chaos: How Digital Procurement Enables Business Success in a Disordered World, Elouise Epstein, a digital futurist at Kearny, writes: “Digital procurement technology has evolved, the expectations for leadership regarding digital technology has changed, and the opportunity has arrived for those who are able to seize it.”
For businesses caught up in the “Great Resignation,” new technology offers hope. The ongoing labor shortage is creating a sense of urgency, forcing many global enterprises to increasingly rely on outside vendors for what were previously core business services. As the workforce of the future continues to evolve, this trend is unlikely to stop. And without a strategy in place, companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find the right people.
Companies must organize their teams in new ways to ensure that their top people are able to focus on the highest value work, while simultaneously tapping into the marketplace of service suppliers for new sources of innovation and talent. Mixing the best traditional procurement talent with new blood from both inside and outside the business, along with the democratization of procurement through self-serve sourcing and technology driven by artificial intelligence, will create a new type of high-performing sourcing team that increases its influence across the organization.
As part of this process, eliminating 80% of repetitive manual process will change the make-up of procurement teams, leaving a core set of people with the right emotional intelligence and relationship-building skills to meet today’s most pressing sourcing challenges. In the process, they will change the narrative of who they are.
Innovative digital technology allows companies to scale quickly and take advantage of fast-changing markets without having to recruit large numbers of new employees. At the same time, cutting-edge platforms and solutions can also help attract today’s workforce, which expects a seamless, consumer-like experience in professional as well as personal lives.
As Phil Fersht, founder, chief executive officer and chief analyst with HFS Research says: “It's not so much we’re struggling with a shortage of talent, we're struggling with a shortage of the right talent.” Using AI and automation to digitize outdated analog processes frees up time for procurement teams to focus on more human tasks such as problem-solving, supplier collaboration, and product innovation. This ensures the function will attract the best and the brightest of tomorrow.
With today’s workforce increasingly reassessing what they look for in a job, there’s more emphasis on corporate purpose. The hybrid workplace is converging with the multigenerational workforce, and there’s a growing focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) and profits with purpose. Companies must be prepared to capitalize on this “new world of work,” identifying novel ways to spur innovation among employees, suppliers and partners, and using technology to connect and collaborate for speed, agility and scale.
The way a company spends its money can impact its ESG strategy more than anything else, and this creates a unique opportunity for procurement to employ cutting-edge digital technologies that both drive profitability and help build a fairer, more sustainable global economy.
Previously many chief procurement officers believed they lacked the ability to be game-changers, but procurement leaders now have the tools to become the key drivers of overall company performance. The result of this is that CPOs are not only going to have a seat at the table, but their teams will become an exciting place for employees to work. Within procurement, they can help create a better world with greater environmental sustainability, more inclusive economies, increased transparency and better corporate governance.
As a function, procurement’s core responsibilities have traditionally included optimizing costs, delivering value and creating strong networks. Yet with advances in AI, procurement has a unique opportunity to create a critical, tangible impact on company performance, and adopting innovative digital technologies can help overcome the current workforce challenges, embracing the “new world of work” to ensure it gets the best people for the job.
This digital transformation will help build long-term agility and resilience into procurement’s operating models and processes, positioning companies to navigate future disruption while accelerating growth and long-term value.
Keith Hausmann is chief revenue officer at Globality, an AI-powered platform and marketplace for B2B services.
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