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COVID’s Impact on In-demand Procurement Skill Sets

By August 16, 2022No Comments

When the pandemic hit in 2020, procurement and supply chain recruitment virtually ground to a halt. Organisations were frantically looking at ways to reduce costs at a time when many were haemorrhaging money.

This temporary recruitment freeze led to considerable pent-up demand for talent nine months down the line. In Q4 of 2020, a clear pattern of heightened visibility for the procurement function emerged.

This was mirrored by significant week-on-week increases in international Google searches for ‘procurement’ and ‘supply chain.’

From PPE and the technology that enabled teams to work from home to the purchasing of materials crucial to the global vaccine roll out, procurement was central to responding to the numerous challenges the pandemic presented.

What impact did this have on recruitment?

As organisations adjusted to the ‘new normal’ of remote working, the demand for top procurement professionals ramped up. There were several reasons for this:

  • Pent up demand: Organisations which had paused recruitment campaigns had seen the negative impact this had upon strategic projects moving forward.
  • Market confidence: Brands and candidates who had put off hiring or moving jobs during the initial stages of the pandemic began to have more confidence in the market, especially with procurement’s increased visibility.
  • KPIs: Strategic plans shifted but there were still critical KPIs that needed to be hit. There was incredible demand for professionals, especially interim professionals, who were able to parachute into businesses and deliver a return on investment from day one.
  • Geopolitical situations: The early supply chain issues associated with specific items such as PPE and IT equipment were superseded by more global supply chain issues, notably industry-wide reliance upon Chinese production and (from a UK-perspective) the challenges caused by Brexit.
  • Organisational mindset shift: Brands that had previously resisted working from home were forced to instigate hybrid workplace policies, and many saw the benefits of a flexible approach. This opened up wider talent pools of procurement and supply chain professionals who were no longer tied to job opportunities based on geographical limitations.

Most In-demand Procurement Skills

Looking at Procurement Heads data from the past 12-18 months, there are definite recruitment trends across the sectors we specialise in.

The ‘soft skills’ such as engaging, influencing, and collaborating with stakeholders have – and always will be – highly important. However, these skill sets were made that much harder because of the increase in remote working.

Relationship building with someone you haven’t met is incredibly difficult. Procurement has needed to know how to hold court and engage a room – albeit virtually – to pitch and deliver solutions to the business.

Stakeholder engagement is a highly sought-after skill set. Those able to get buy in from all levels of the business are in real demand, especially when procurement hasn’t historically had the best reputation in a company.

 Candidates who can stand out, have a strong personality, and good people skills will always be selected over those who just possess technical knowledge.

Another in demand skill set is risk analysis. Procurement professionals who are strong at conducting thorough risk analyses and who can understand relevant legislative changes are highly desirable across all sectors.

The ability to simplify something complex, identify KPIs, and show a path to success is highly attractive to organisations looking to make a business-critical hire that delivers ROI from the outset. Rather than providing a long explanation of what category management is, procurement should simply ask stakeholders, ‘where are you now and where do you want to get to?’

 Interim Procurement Recruitment

 Looking at the interim side of procurement recruitment, there is particular demand for:

  • Change and transformation experience – many companies are going through varying forms of transformation, be that major restructures of departments, new systems implementations, or operating model reviews.
  • Candidates with public sector experience.
  • IT category experience, including IT software and hardware.
  • Supplier relationship management linked to new supplier base challenges.

 “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between” – Maya Angelou

The impact of the pandemic will be felt for many years to come, but procurement and recruitment are standing in good stead because – when done well – are both evolving disciplines.

The organisations that have adapted and pivoted will be best positioned to successfully attract top talent moving forward.

Conversely, organisations that haven’t embraced flexible approaches to work will struggle to entice the best procurement and supply chain candidates and ultimately will be left behind by their competition.


Rupert Gaster is the Founder and Managing Director of Procurement Heads, based in the UK. You can learn more about him via LinkedIn.


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