How is the hiring crisis affecting the procurement sector?

It has been well documented how the current hiring crisis is affecting every sector of the UK market, from hospitality, retail, and construction through to tech and procurement. Throughout the UK, employers are struggling to cope with unprecedented labour shortages as job vacancies outstrip the number of people looking for work for the first time on record. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2022 the number of unfilled positions in the UK rose 2.7 per cent (or 33,700), to a new all-time high of 1.295 million. It has never been more difficult to recruit staff, in part because of the impact of Brexit and people not returning to the workplace after the Covid pandemic.

However, when it comes to the procurement sector skills shortages are nothing new, with hiring managers often turning to specialist procurement consultants and practitioners for support in filling vacancies. Back in 2018, CIPS/Hays Procurement Salary Guide and Insights found that more than half (56%) of employers said they struggled to find procurement talent in the last 12 months, an increase of 5% on the previous year. 51% of employers said they were struggling to find talent. Back in the present day- “dubbed the age of “the great resignation” – it would be easy to assume that there is suddenly a huge talent pool out there which may present the solution to the hiring crisis in the procurement sector, but the reality is somewhat different, with the skills gap more prevalent than ever.

Let’s take a deeper look at the causes of the current hiring crisis, and the practical steps that procurement managers can take to source the talent required to fill vacancies.

Why is there a hiring crisis in the procurement sector?

Whilst finding procurement talent has never been an easy task, it’s certainly true that in recent times it has become even more of a challenge. In 2020, the pandemic caused uncertainty across all industries. The impact of this on the procurement sector was that organisations couldn’t foresee what may happen with revenues, and as a result, headcount decisions were impacted and hiring slowed. Furthermore, procurement and supply teams continued to face unprecedented circumstances requiring ‘all hands on deck’ to cope with the challenges of the job, so hiring – except when essential — took a back seat for a while. Essentially, investment in people was put on hold, which resulted in attrition. This meant that by the time the market boomed again at the end of 2021, recruitment was on the back foot.

On top of this, the skills that procurement is required to have are rapidly changing, with a new emphasis on digital solutions and advanced cybersecurity. A procurement professional that was once considered to be experienced in the role may now not have these required skills, and so their skill set is deemed outdated or incomplete for the role requirements. Corporate businesses are making such big strides toward the adoption and integration of Ai and data within procurement operations that many in the industry are somewhat side-lined as they simply cannot meet modern demands of the job role without a greater level of nurturing and development than what is currently offered, and many organisations haven’t responded quickly enough to getting this type of development and training in place.

Another contributing factor is the advancement of the ‘gig economy’ style of working, coupled with people becoming far more reflective on what they want from life: if their current “gig” is not close to matching their needs, more people are more inclined to move on to the next thing. This is driving up attrition in certain industries. Some industries, such as tech, are better placed to deal with the advancement of the gig economy and have already got structures in place for work packages as “gigs” rather than permanent job roles. However, many more traditional companies and industries haven’t moved quickly enough to re-shape how they package work for new generations of talent. 

We are also seeing very low talent numbers in the tech procurement space following aggressive hiring from tech vendors such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google, as well as  start-ups like Revolut and Tevva. 

Across all industries, risk awareness is on the increase post COVID with people now more inclined to refuse to travel for work and/or relocate, which restricts the talent pool that hiring managers can fish from. 

How can procurement managers and CPOs respond to this challenge?

Due to Brexit, the pandemic, and the situation in Ukraine, the profile of the procurement sector has never been higher, and recruitment demands in the sector show no signs of waning any time soon, which poses a challenge for procurement and HR managers.

Many organisations are already taking the practical steps around developing talent in house, and accessing a bigger pool to develop in house by bringing in talent from other functions, along with recruiting graduates. We suggest adopting partnerships with academic institutions and developing seamless flows for work experiences that nurture talent before they finish school, particularly those without a sense of purpose and direction, but with visible, untapped potential in their softer skills.

However, companies should also now be looking beyond the basics and also accessing experience, tools and processes in a more “on demand”/agile way that aligns to meeting business priorities fast and which is also invested in supporting the build of the right sustainable solution.

Finally, it’s never been more important for organisations to retain the talent they already have. Consider investing in a program that allows people to own their development and have insight into succession planning and advancement. And whilst of course money is always a consideration when it comes to retaining talent, the spotlight is currently very much on lifestyle-enabling job roles,  structures and pathways as well.

Streamlining the hiring process has also never been more important. Once you do attract candidates it is vital to work with pace and with momentum: we no longer have the luxury of letting candidates wait for a reply to their application, or leaving four weeks between interviews. Act quickly, because if you don’t somebody else will. Consider outsourcing CV sifts and candidate identification to take the heavy lifting away from Procurement and HR – too often recruitment takes too long, and good talent is not obliged to wait around. 

Lastly, implement visible, transparent, and highly credible talent management practices/systems, and be clear with new hires in terms of what their pathway could be, how it would be managed, what would be expected of them, and what the business would provide them.

How Accelerate can help with the hiring in the procurement sector

Having witnessed many months of high demand for the best interim and permanent talent, it’s clear that experienced procurement practitioners such as Accelerate are playing a pivotal role in advising organisations on how best to tackle hiring challenges head-on.

At Accelerate, we offer a range of services from leadership and professional competencies via our procurement academy platform, to training, coaching and development workshops to support your organisation’s talent management program. Our Talent Management service can help companies and industries struggling with the advancement of the gig economy to re-shape how they package work for new generations of talent. We can also support organisations who want to introduce a programme geared towards retaining existing talent. 
We can also bridge vacant CPO / Head of procurement positions as well as offering our own CPO coaching and development program for newly appointed CPO’s / Head of Procurement to ensure they are successful in their roles. We understand that recruiting at this level can be a time-consuming and often complex journey, and an important strategic business. We can provide resource for the interim role, recruit for a permanent CPO, and provide a seamless handover when the time comes.

If you feel that your organisation could benefit from Accelerate’s support when it comes to talent management, please get in touch today for a chat- we would be happy to advise on how we can help.

If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, get in touch with Accelerate today for a friendly chat.