WANTED: Transferable Skills for Procurement

Explore some of the desired transferable skills for procurement that seasoned professionals can leverage when building a sourcing career.

By Hugo Britt | July 27, 2023

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According to the 2023 CIPS/Hays Procurement Salary Guide, over 20% of U.S. procurement practitioners did not make a conscious decision to work in the profession. In other words,  one-fifth of your procurement team has “fallen into” procurement from elsewhere rather than making a targeted career choice.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Having a broad range of backgrounds, skills, training, and experience brings richness and diversity to a rapidly evolving profession. In fact, organizations should be doing more to attract people from other functions into the procurement team to unlock a wider range of perspectives, ideas, and approaches to problem-solving.

Different professional backgrounds foster creativity and innovation, as team members can draw on their unique experiences and skill-sets to tackle challenges from various angles that a “career” procurement professional may never have considered.

Who is the profession looking to recruit?

Everyone – really! One of the great things about procurement is the incredibly broad range of skills required. We need “people people” who can build and nurture relationships, analysts who can leverage spend data, strategists who can think ahead, legal experts to create watertight contracts, marketers who know how to persuade, writers who can communicate, software engineers to build better platforms… you get the picture. More recently, the profession is crying out for a new wave of people who know how to optimize AI and ML in procurement.

Bringing people from other functions into procurement can be hugely beneficial for the rest of the team. Each individual brings their specialized expertise, knowledge, and transferable skills to complement and enhance the collective capabilities of the team.

Having someone with inside knowledge of how other functions work is also a huge plus, helping procurement understand and communicate better with key internal stakeholders.

Bringing people into sourcing from other functions is hugely beneficial to the organization as a whole. Having someone with knowledge of how other aspects of the business work helps procurement communicate better with stakeholders.

Top transferable skills for procurement

Here are some of the qualifications that procurement is looking to attract from other functions.

Exceptional communication skills

The ability to negotiate, build relationships, and clearly articulate complex ideas is crucial in the procurement profession. Excellent communication skills enable us to collaborate effectively with suppliers, internal stakeholders, and colleagues.

Who would be a good fit?  Public relations, marketing, advertising, and customer service professionals.

Data analytics skills

Proficiency in data analytics tools and techniques is highly desirable in the procurement profession. The ability to gather, analyze, and interpret data is needed to identify trends, forecast demand, optimize inventory levels, monitor suppliers, and drive data-informed decision-making.

Who would be a good fit?  Data scientists, business intelligence analysts, data engineers, financial analysts, risk analytics.

Attention to detail

Precision is paramount in procurement. We require individuals with an eye for detail, who can meticulously review contracts, specifications, and more. 

Who would be a good fit?  Quality assurance managers, compliance experts, accountants, proof-readers, editors, customer service professionals.  

Adaptability

The procurement landscape is ever-evolving. The profession is crying out for individuals who can adapt to changing market dynamics, emerging technologies, and new sourcing strategies.

Who would be a good fit?  Anyone with the ability to embrace change and navigate through ambiguity.

Environmental/Sustainability skills

Procurement needs more individuals with knowledge and passion for environmental and sustainability practices. An expertise in integrating green initiatives, assessing suppliers’ sustainability performance, and driving environmentally responsible procurement strategies will help create a more sustainable future. 

Who would be a good fit?  Sustainability managers, CSR managers, change managers, people from NFP backgrounds.

Contract (legal) skills

Familiarity with contract management and legal principles is a valuable asset in procurement. Understanding contract terms and conditions, mitigating risks, and ensuring compliance are crucial aspects of negotiating favorable agreements and managing supplier relationships when things go wrong.

Who would be a good fit? Corporate lawyers, contract lawyers, paralegals, attorneys.

Everyone from marketing, sales, and public relations professionals to data scientists, paralegals, software developers, and data engineers have skills that could translate to the procurement world.

Coding skills

Proficiency in coding languages such as Python, Java, or R is a valuable asset in procurement as software developers race to create ever-more powerful spend platforms. Coding skills will enable people to automate processes, analyze data efficiently, and develop customized solutions to enhance procurement operations.

Who would be a good fit? Software developers, web developers, network architects, database admins, systems analysts, programmers.

AI and ML skills

Familiarity with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) techniques is fast becoming an urgently required skills in procurement. An ability to leverage AI and ML algorithms will contribute to predictive analytics, demand forecasting, and optimization, enabling smarter and more efficient procurement decisions.

Who would be a good fit?  AI engineers, ML engineers, data engineers, software engineers, data scientists.

Procurement needs to get better at attracting highly skilled talent

This leads us to the obvious question: how do we attract highly skilled professionals (like ML engineers or legal experts) to the procurement profession, given that many people often don’t even know what “procurement” actually is?

It’s no small task, but some of the strategies for doing so will include offering higher salaries for much-needed skill sets, creating genuinely exciting career paths, showcasing career success stories, highlighting the exciting technological frontier in procurement, and tapping into purpose-driven elements such as sustainable sourcing and fighting modern slavery. Most of all, we need to work together to raise the profile of the profession.

While you wait for those with transferable skills for procurement fall in love with the profession, learn how you can continue making the biggest impact while saving more money, time, and effort.

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