Procurement Leaders – Are You Leading Traffic Wardens Or A Flight Crew?

Written by EO Executives on Jun 29, 2015

Procurement leadership is tough enough at the best of times, but there is an added pressure at the moment… attracting top talent.

As a head-hunter who is regularly in touch with top procurement talent, what strikes me is that the best candidates I interview want to join organisations where procurement is seen as a business partner.

To attract that talent, you need to lead your procurement function in a way that allows your most talented people to generate real value for the rest of the business. A guest post by Paul Vincent gave a great analogy of exactly why this is which I encourage you to read if you haven’t already.

So How Can Procurement Change Their Perception Internally?

To find out I caught up with David Lyon from Cancer Research UK. David and his team recently won a Procurement leaders award for the work they’ve been doing, and David explained that part of their success is because of how he and his team are changing the perception of procurement from traffic wardens to cabin crew.

This really resonated with me.

David’s journey is not dissimilar to that of a number of other executives I have met who have transformed procurement departments. It’s not uncommon for procurement practitioners to be seen as traffic wardens with the following identifiers:

  • Stern
  • Unapproachable
  • Poor brand
  • Unwelcome
  • Trying to catch people out
  • Obsessed with “rules”
Procurement leaders need to turn their teams into cabin crew; there to assist the various departments on their journey displaying these attributes:
  • An embodiment of helpfulness
  • Efficient
  • Friendly
  • Approachable
  • Customer focused
  • All of these with an underlying focus on safety

So if you want to transform the perception of your procurement team from a function that hinders progress to a function that helps and supports it, what are the steps you should take?

1. Work Out An Itinerary

As a leader you need a strategy for the team that will work in conjunction with the business and allow your team to perform to their potential

2. Have A Safety Announcement

All good flights start with a safety announcement. It is focused on safety but also serves to let people know how the flight will operate and what they can expect. Do the same in your business, communicate what the function can do for the business and how they will be looked after.

3. Increase Customer Satisfaction

If you are going to assist the business and help its performance whilst on its journey you have to know where they want to go and how they to get there. Encourage your team to know what their customers want and to become promoters of the function.

4. Run An Informed Inflight Duty Free Service

You can’t necessarily spend people’s money better than they can, however you can facilitate that spend to get the best return on their investment. Tell them what they can get from the market, what the benefits and potential hazards are of buying certain products or services but, most importantly, offer them a solution.

5. Attract New Customers

As a CPO or Head of Procurement you have to sell the capability of your team to the business. People want to work for a leader who advocates procurement as an important strategic partner to the business.

What Next?

The dream of procurement being recognised internally as a key driver and enabler of growth is still a way off for some businesses, but the changing demands of top talent when considering a move has now made this more important than ever.

Onboarding and aligning an employee culturally within their first 100 days is critical to ensuring they hit the ground running. Learn more about how to get the most value out of new hires by downloading ourHiring & Holding Onto Superstars’ ebook.

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