Remake Procurement with Talent Tips from the Summer Movie Season

An image of movie theater seats.

Despite the disruptive winds of change brought by MoviePass, unexpected flops, and shifting release dates, the action in cinemas looked pretty familiar this summer.

Critics and audiences alike complain about Hollywood’s predictability, but studio heads and directors continue to rely on the same old tricks. Compare this to an inert talent manager in Procurement. Every day, these ‘directors’ are confronted with signs that their shopworn strategies need shaking up. The supply chain talent they manage to bring in-house is restless before the previews have ended. Soon, they’re making a break for the exits.  

A simple reboot won’t cut it. Even in the era of digital transformation, people are still Procurement’s most valuable resource. To build the right team and reach Procurement’s potential, the function needs to fully remake its approach to casting and directing talent.

Ironically enough, this summer’s slate of retreads offers some valuable lessons in talent management. Grab a seat and check out what Hollywood’s biggest franchises can teach Procurement.

Look for Talent in Unexpected Places

One of this summer’s biggest disappointments, Ron Howard’s Solo is a case study in the law of diminishing returns. Even the promise of beloved Star Wars characters, it seems, can’t guarantee a hit. That doesn’t mean the film has nothing to offer talent managers.

Star Wars fans know Han Solo and Chewbacca as allies, but Solo lets viewers know they met under decidedly different circumstances. Offered to the Wookie as a sacrifice, Han manages to escape alongside his would-be killer. No, Procurement’s recruiters and hiring managers shouldn’t be quite so open-minded, but they can certainly benefit from casting a wider, more inclusive net. After all, the mold for an effective Procurement professional has evolved alongside the function itself.  

A career spent exclusively in Procurement is no longer a prerequisite for standing out as a candidate. At its most strategic, Procurement performs a cross-functional role and encourages collaboration across business units. An applicant with experience in one or more of these areas will enter Procurement ready to drive collaboration and build a flexible function.

Organizations should also consider looking into new channels to source Procurement talent. Posting to job boards is effective for reaching active candidates, but a world of more passive candidates is waiting for companies willing to change things up. College campuses, for example, are bursting at the seams with motivated and educated future professionals. By visiting career fairs and developing internship programs, organizations can establish a rapport with promising candidates and even set up partnerships with these institutions.

Veteran placement organizations could prove a similarly valuable resource. Trained in leadership and familiar with high-stress situations, veterans (with or without a degree in Supply Chain Management) have a lot to offer. According to The Drive Project’s recent Veterans Work report, a whopping 60 percent of organizations rule out candidates without explicit industry experience. While that approach served Procurement in its tactical days, the ever-changing function can no longer afford to operate with that narrow definition of relevant experience.

Build a Better Brand

More than a decade after Pixar’s The Incredibles debuted in cinemas, its sequel arrived and quickly distinguished itself as the highest-earning animated film in history. The film’s success is a testament to the strength of Pixar’s brand. It’s fitting, perhaps, that branding plays an important role in the film’s plot. Much of the film centers on an attempt to rehabilitate the image of the superhero and make their escapades not just legal, but celebrated.

Like these heroes, Procurement has had to work against misconceptions and a less-than-stellar reputation. Long dismissed as a tactical, low-value entity, Procurement has spent the last decade securing executive buy-in and claiming a seat at the table. Within many organizations, however, it still occupies an obscure position. This not only makes it challenging for Procurement to deliver on its objectives, but also hampers its recruitment efforts. A function that’s perceived as something between a nuisance and a necessary evil is predictably unappealing to the emerging class of young professionals.

In working to rebrand itself, Procurement can afford to borrow a strategy from Incredibles 2’s Winston Deaver. Deaver understands that superheroes require the appropriate leader to change the conversation. He selects Elastigirl to spearhead these efforts and speak on behalf of the super-powered population.

Procurement, too, requires an admirable leader to secure the reputation it deserves. By appointing a CPO who will evangelize for the function and work tirelessly to secure buy-in, Procurement will enjoy greater influence within the organization and broader appeal outside of it.

How will Procurement recognize the hero it needs? This leader will quickly develop a concise and impactful mission statement for Procurement and communicate it across the organization. Focusing on enablement, they’ll encourage other business units to embrace Procurement and abandon outdated notions. They’ll also leverage Procurement’s new mission and momentum to revamp its approach to recruiting. Young applicants will soon see Procurement not just as an opportunity for employment, but an opportunity to make a considerable impact throughout an evolutionary period.

Embrace the Gig Economy

Antoine Fuqua’s The Equalizer was a surprise hit a few years back. It naturally inspired a follow-up. As the sequel begins, viewers learn that Denzel Washington’s Robert McCall has spent the years between installments working as a Lyft driver. This places him among the 20 percent of American workers currently operating within the gig economy.

The already staggering number of gig employees is expected to double by 2020. This expanding talent pool could not only provide the answer to Procurement’s talent concerns, but help the function distinguish itself as particularly agile and innovative.

As Procurement’s responsibilities have evolved, its daily workload and demand have grown increasingly difficult to forecast. In the past Procurement, might’ve turned to Business Process Outsourcing to answer these concerns or invest in hiring a full-time resource. Today, however, Procurement is too strategic and too essential to rely on outsourcing or run the risks of committing to a full-time hire. According to CareerBuilder, almost a quarter of CFOs report that poor hiring decisions cost them over $50,000 annually. That’s not to mention the damage a bad hire could cause to Procurement’s reputation. By forming a partnership with a trusted recruiter and exploring the gig economy, Procurement can avoid making this sort of costly mistake.

Experts recognize millennials as the generation that will steer Procurement through its next evolution. Deloitte suggests they’ll also lead the way in the transition to a gig economy. By 2020, they report, 42 percent of all freelancers will come from this group. It’s clear that embracing the gig economy can help Procurement embark on two initiatives at once. The new employment model promises to serve Procurement’s dynamic responsibilities and make the function more directly appealing to the tech-savvy generation that’s poised to drive its future.

The end of the summer months means we’re edging closer to awards season once again. Procurement teams who call cut and make these edits to their approach could soon take home hardware in the form of increased value generation and strategic influence.  

Bennett Glace, Editorial Lead, Strategic Sourcerer

Bennett Glace is the primary contributor and Editorial Lead for the Strategic Sourceror. A prolific blogger and procurement storyteller, he is responsible for advocating the function's value in podcasts, whitepapers and other impactful, accessible content.