In recessionary times, the procurement professional becomes a more valuable commodity as it is those specialist purchasing and supply management skills that can make a positive difference to the bottom line, Elaine Porteous of Tech-Pro Personnel told SmartProcurement in an interview.
This is owing to the fact that in such an economic environment, organisations must evaluate and possibly cut as much discretionary spend as possible, such as advertising and marketing, and reduce fixed over-head costs, such as rentals, utilities and salaries.
This has a direct effect on the recruitment market. Traditionally the pool of available human resources (HR) expands when the economy contracts and vice versa. Or put quite simply: in hard times, HR supply exceeds demand.
The global economy experienced one of its strongest bull markets in history over the two decades leading up to 2008. Suddenly, the entire world entered what has been referred to by many financial gurus (including South Africa’s very own Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel) as “unprecedented and un- chartered” territory. Now, across many industries, one reads daily of retrenchments on a massive scale, with even Internet giant Google considering lay-offs, albeit on a voluntary, and not compulsory, basis.
However, this is not the result when evaluating groups with unique and specialised skills sets such as commodity managers and strategic sourcing specialists within the procurement component of supply chain management (SCM). Other skill sets in high demand are experienced supply chain and spend analysts and also procurement project managers who can apply “lean” principles.
Organisations seeking available and still-scarce purchasing and supply chain ‘best talent’ will still have to offer extremely competitive packages to merit a ‘floor crossing’, despite the contracting business environment in which the world finds itself. There is reluctance among talented people to move from blue-chip organisations right now due to the risk of retrenchment at the new employer that may use the last-in/first out approach.
In a developing economy such as South Africa’s, it is prudent to maximise the contra-value of skills levies and put training high on the agenda. Short events that deal with special ‘spend categories’ such as consultants, FM services, output devices (copiers/ faxes/ multi- purpose and scanners) and travel management can really make an immediate impact in the form of cutting off the ‘low hanging fruit’ and then, on the medium-term, renewing contracts with greater insight and leverage.
Procurement specialists are important ambassadors for their organisations as these professionals interface daily with major suppliers. Whilst business is still slow, young people in the procurement field are encouraged to expand their analytical and research skills, and take all training opportunities offered so they can take advantage of the upturn, when it eventually arrives.
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