Procurement is a complex field that requires professionals to think responsibly yet inventively about internal structures and external relationships. In order to have strong external relationships with vendors and stakeholders, companies must first prioritize sourcing and retaining quality personnel.
Last month, ProcurementIQ revealed the top five procurement trends of 2018, which highlighted several changes in the procurement space and what those in the role can do to prepare. For example, as new technology, such as Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain, enters the playing field, companies will need to consider how to improve current processes and implement new innovations. As the procurement landscape changes at an accelerated pace, it’s in companies’ best interests to ensure that the next generation of procurement professionals is able to take these challenges head-on.
Millennials, those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s, will be that next generation. As more Baby Boomers leave the procurement workforce, taking their experience and expertise with them, companies are increasingly being called to replenish their teams with fresh talent. The millennial generation, just like the procurement profession, is undergoing an important shift. They’re no longer the youngest, least experienced generation; in fact, millennials are increasingly moving into higher-ranking roles.
These higher-ranking roles require millennials to exercise their strengths. Though their leadership skills and work ethic may be different than their predecessors’, research suggests this change may be exactly what the new frontier of procurement needs to thrive in the years ahead.
An Entrepreneurial Spirit
“The biggest strengths of millennials for the supply chain profession is their ability to think outside of the box, be entrepreneurial, and be passionate,” says Tobias Schoenherr, associate professor of supply chain management at Michigan State University. “For instance, the number of students that have already had entrepreneurial experience … while in college has increased significantly, just based on my observations from the students I teach.”
Because of this entrepreneurial spirit, millennials know how to think innovatively and wear many hats. As the procurement field becomes exceedingly challenged by disruptive technology, as well as a call for updated procedures and greater efficiency, the ability to think innovatively and from multiple perspectives is perhaps one of the most vital skills for the procurement professional of the future.
Ethical Business Practices
Another top trend in 2018 will be consumers’ continued search for more ethical products from companies seeking to be more conscious of their corporate responsibility and impact. As a result, procurement departments will be expected to support the move toward ethical and transparent business practices when sourcing goods and services.
According to Cone Communications, 70% of millennials are willing to spend more on brands that support causes they care about. While this statistic is based on the average millennial consumer, it also highlights the kind of efforts that are important to the average millennial professional. Such efforts support a positive brand image, which is becoming a top priority for many businesses.
Other characteristics that will undoubtedly benefit procurement departments are millennials’ tech savviness and resourcefulness. Most millennials grew up with a well-rounded understanding of technology, which is becoming increasingly important as procurement becomes more digitized. Furthermore, growing up alongside the rise of technology has taught millennials how to collaborate, build networks and stay connected. In the world of procurement, these skills allow millennials to explore opportunities and build strong, if not global, professional relationships.
Lastly, millennials are already proving how equipped they are to succeed in and contribute to procurement processes. According to a report by Merit Inc., 73% of millennial workers are already involved in the process of purchasing products or services on behalf of the companies they work for or for their own businesses, while 34% are the sole decision-makers regarding purchases.
In 2014, ThomasNet and Institute for Supply Management began a 30-under-30 competition to find the best young supply chain management professionals in the industry. The 30-under-30 competition aims to acknowledge young purchasing and supply chain management professionals who deserve to be applauded for their passion, creativity and contributions. Though millennials have a lot to offer in procurement, those that are just entering the workforce usually don’t know that the field even exists. However, during its first year, the competition received over 200 nominations, proving that millennials are already performing exceptionally well in procurement roles. Since 2014, the competition has continued annually as a way to celebrate new achievements, encourage loyalty to the field and bring the prospect of procurement as a career to the attention of other potential candidates.
Better business strategies are not only a goal, but an endless quest. To move forward, businesses need those who are willing to make the necessary changes that will set the groundwork for success. Based on their entrepreneurial nature, forward-thinking mentality and technological know-how, procurement departments should strongly consider hiring millennials to be a part of their next generation of procurement professionals.