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Procurement & Supply Chain

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The past few years of heightened scrutiny over costs saw many public sector bodies, even the smallest ones such as regulators and charities, invest in a procurement function, increasing demand for procurement professionals at all levels across the public sector. In the last quarter our procurement team saw a 48% increase year on year in jobs being registered by public sector organisations.


Growing demand for specialist skills

Procurement professionals with specialist skill sets such as clinical experience within the NHS and commercial expertise in local authorities are in high demand. Those with IT and facilities management category experience are also in demand.

Employers are also starting to look for the softer skills associated with procurement - people who can influence, negotiate and persuade. This is particularly important for organisations with a new procurement function as winning the hearts and minds of stakeholders can be key to their success. As a potential employee of these organisations you need to be able to demonstrate these soft skills, as well as technical procurement knowledge, in both your CV and at interview.

Talent in short supply

 All of this activity has increased the need for skilled procurement professionals in a market where talent is already in short supply. Many public sector organisations have unrealistic expectations of the level of experience they can recruit for the pay on offer, and may struggle to tempt candidates away from the higher pay offered in some interim roles. Not-for profit and public sector organisations are often also struggling to compete with the salaries and benefits packages offered by larger employers, particularly in the private sector.

Some organisations are seeing this as a good opportunity to hire less experienced people and give them the training and support needed to progress. With around half of procurement professionals we recently surveyed saying there isn’t scope for career progression in their role, offering career development opportunities is one way for public sector organisations to compete without increasing salaries.

Public sector employers should take every opportunity to emphasise the high-profile projects candidates will be working on, explain the training opportunities available and improve their recruitment and on-boarding process to avoid missing out on the best people. Candidates who have not considered the public sector previously should research the opportunities as there are many multi-million £ spend projects they could get involved in which will really enhance the experience on their CV and provide a rewarding and enjoyable career choice.

Attracting the best

Such is the competition for skills that jobseekers often have the pick of two or three jobs, they get snapped up quickly by employers and they often receive a counter offer from their current employer, which can push their salary up even further.

Some employees have already spotted they can earn more and decided to make a career move. Others will follow suit over the next 12 months and the situation could soon reach crisis point for employers fighting for the talent they need.

Beyond salary, the reputation of an organisation is important to procurement professionals. What makes an attractive employer varies for each person, of course, but organisations need to understand that during the recruitment process they are going to have to sell themselves - gone are the days when a procurement professional will take the first role they are offered.

Candidates will normally have several opportunities open to them, so detailed information about the role including projects they will be working on, the scope of their remit, career development opportunities, training, flexible or remote working options and even relatively small things like office facilities available can make a difference. As a candidate make sure you do your research to ensure you make the right decision about your next career move.

On the whole, public sector employers have been slow to adapt to this changing marketplace. Those who understand that it’s a candidate-led market and therefore realise the need to sell themselves, as well as moving quickly to secure talent, will succeed above others who are simply adopting the same recruitment methods they have always used.

It’s important to ensure you consider the market and competition for procurement talent when determining your recruitment strategy. This should now include a digital strategy, rather than being too reliant on traditional press advertising, to ensure your opportunities reach the widest possible audience.

 Employers must also consider the speed of their recruitment process, particularly in the public sector, as many candidates will be approached about other opportunities if the recruitment process goes on for a long time. As a candidate though you must be prepared for the fact that the recruitment process may take longer than with private sector employers as there is often a lot of process that needs to be gone through. Always adhere to closing dates and fill in the relevant application forms promptly as otherwise this could delay your application going through to the next stage. Brief your referees and have them on hand ready to provide references as soon as they are requested.

Future-proofing procurement

Employers will now sometimes look at those working in legal, finance, operations and sales that may have the transferable skills to be successful in procurement, to help alleviate these talent shortages in the future. Some are already doing this, 38% of employers recruited procurement professionals from other industries or professions in the past year. If you are reading this

Adapting and updating recruitment methods will help to plug the skills gap in the short term, but in the long term procurement in the public sector must do more to encourage people to join the profession at entry level by explaining the career opportunities available and promoting the value of the function.

View all Public Sector Procurement jobs here

Online career skills for CIPS members

Hays Procurement & Supply Chain Salary Guide 2015