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Insights From Procurement Leaders Conference Part 1 – Making HR Your Friend!

I am on the road this week, acting as Chair (e.g. “master of ceremonies”) for the Procurement Leaders Forum in the heart of Boston at Sixty State Street.  There were hundreds of brilliant individuals in the room and in the space of two minutes, I had run into two fellow Wolfpackers:  the Chief Procurement Officer of DeutscheBank, Ken Litton (an NC State engineer) as well as one of my former NC State research assistants, Chandra Kujinthapam, who now works as a supply manager at RJ Reynolds.  Go Wolfpack!

The conference was held at 60 State Street – overlooking Boston on a beautiful fall day!  The Wednesday sessions also featured breathtaking views and great speakers from a variety of organizations.
Boston PL
Today’s knowledge forum focused on Talent Management and featured one speaker who really inspired me. Joanna Martinez from Cushman and Wakefield, a large real estate and facilities management person, discussed the challenges of working with HR as a procurement person.

According to Joanna, there are four rules for working effectively with HR as a partner.

1.   Use procurement tools to demonstrate how you can help HR.  For example, showing people that architectural services shouldn’t be used for reverse auctions is a conversation she had to have.  There are many occasions where you teach people procurement – but if you don’t have those tools readily available to you, look for people who have had the same procurement experiences to fill those roles.

Another tool was the supplier segmentation matrix – showing how does the supplier view the attractiveness of our business.  In spite of our volume, we want them to give us the best.  This is a great tool for working with HR, by helping the enterprise become more of a “customer of choice” and compensating for the low volume status in the market.

How did they do this?  Joanna noted that “We identified suppliers who were key across the board, and we worked hard with the stakeholders to talk to them and engage them in a different way.  We spoke at the suppliers’ sales meetings – and even though we were small volume, we could go in and have some key conversations.  This included firms that did background checks, recruiting services from whom we wanted to get top of the line service.

2.  Get Creative with yourself!  Joanna is a big fan of partnerships with universities around the country  But it wasn’t going all that well  – they were recruiting from ASU, and Cushman is on the East Coast.  “So you don’t get to know them well, and none of the ASU people had work experience –just grades and campus activities.  It was very hard to make a good decision – and we weren’t making good ones.  We weren’t hiring many of them.”

“Someone in HR came up with an idea and we agreed to work with them and evaluating the students based on case studies!  We put the effort in to create a live case study – and the HR community worked with the university – and developed a process to expose students to the problem.  We hosted a day at the university – and watched them work in teams and give the presentations back to us.  We got a few business ideas, but the most valuable element was seeing how they did so , and was a better approach to recruit.  I would urge you all – think about that example.” ( I would add to this – why not go whole hog and give them a real project to work on over the semester – like our SCRC partners do!)

3.  Take a supply chain view of the recruitment process.  Joanna noted the importance of strategy.  “Map the process of keeping track of talent and understand from HR stakeholders – what the strategy is.  Help the HR team identify how much is being spent and where and what to do to support the overall strategy.  Understand how applicants are finding you and make sure they understand success rates.  Take the whole supply chain activity and apply it to your entire applicant process and you will find some places where there are holdups, bottlenecks, and people are leaving.  If you measure it you can come up with ways to deal with it.  But what is the total cost of pursuing an applicant and hiring them – and use that as a basis for improving the process.”

In that HR and talent acquisition space this is an opportunity often missed.  There is a tendency to go with the name brand.  When it comes to HR and the acquisition of talent – it is to go with the folks you’ve worked with in the past, and not vetting them against the needs and search requirements of the stakeholders.

4.  The Humble RFP can be your friend.  Joanna shared an interesting example, as procurement is involved in both buying and supplying activities.  “I spend half my day creating RFPs –and half responding.  Because we are a facilities management company, we often to go our customer meetings, to work with their procurement people who want to know how we are going to leverage their spend.  We go with facilities management teams to explain why we should get their business and how we will get them a great deal.  We have also learned that no one wants to work with you if you have a 62 page RFP – and I have been part of a 162 page RFP process as a supplier!  I have asked these questions myself!”

Procurement needs to re-think that and seek to narrow RFPs as well as go to the field with fewer suppliers.  What does this have to do with stakeholders and talent?  It means looking at background checks, applicant tracking systems and various arrangements for advertising, and making that process pithy to the point of making it happen.   So we need to be committed to a less bureaucratic process.  We spent 40-50% of our work supporting the HR group – and trying to make RFPs more efficient.  We also try to do that to ensure they are making GOOD decisions about suppliers.

Great insights – with more to come!