Don't Overlook the Procurement “Middle Child”

Don't Overlook the Procurement “Middle Child”

The entire professional community, procurement included, is bracing for the impact of the Millennial generation. Managers and executives want to position their company or department as a team that will appeal to the brightest, best upcoming achievers. ISM and ThomasNet recently joined forces specifically for the purpose of gathering nominations for their ’30 Under 30’ Supply Chain Rising Stars program. Corporate leadership teams are concerned about being flexible enough, mobile enough, and ‘sexy’ enough to compete for young talent. Professional associations are scrambling to make sure they demonstrate their relevance on an ongoing basis.

On the other side of the issue, you have Gen Y (a.k.a. the Millennials) themselves. A recent post by BravoSolution intern Claire Herbert found through a survey of 100 UK university students that “Less than half […] even knew what procurement was, and only 12% said they would consider a career in it.” Despite all the anticipation, procurement is not on the average Millennial’s professional radar. It is entirely it possible that procurement executives are preparing for a challenge that they will never have to face.

These are two sides of the generational work divide. Executive leaders are concerned with being ‘up to date’ on their use of social media and expectations for virtual and flexible work arrangements. Millennials are slowly making their way towards our ranks, bringing with them an intimidating new range of attitudes about virtualization and work life balance.

But there is a third party in the divide. Looking at the workforce from a leadership v. new recruit perspective leaves out me and maybe you, if you aren’t either a twenty-something or senior enough to be executive. We are the procurement ‘middle children’ caught between the leaders from a different time and an incoming wave of unpredictable entry-level workers.

Let me tell you a little bit about me/us and why we are just as important to determining the current success and future trajectory of the procurement profession. We ‘middle children’ have one foot in each of the two worlds I described above.

Our connections to our more mature ‘siblings’ are based on the level of experience we have and the changes we have seen.

  • I’ve been in procurement for eleven years, and I am one of the people who ‘fell into’ procurement as Herbert said in her post. In fact, I spent my entire first day on the job Googling “strategic sourcing” so I wouldn’t seem like a complete idiot to anyone who spoke to me.
  • I became familiar with procurement technology before it went to “the cloud’ and mobile procurement applications became de rigueur. I have high expectations for solution usability, but I also understand that it is probably never going to live up to the standard set by Amazon, etc.

On the other hand, we’re willing to embrace and even advance some of the changes being seen in procurement that our Millennial ‘little siblings’ will take for granted.

  • I value a more generalist approach to procurement. I don’t even want to be dedicated to one category of spend. I prefer the opportunity to develop process and strategy skills that can be applied across a range of product and service categories in a number of industries.
  • I don’t think of procurement as a tactical profession at all. Other than booking my own business travel (which I always preferred to do myself and expense back rather than working through a travel agency), I’ve never made a purchase or processed a transaction for another colleague or function.
  • I prefer virtual networking opportunities to in-person ones. In fact, if it weren’t for virtual opportunities such as blogging, webinars, and social media engagement, I wouldn’t be in procurement any more at all. I’m in the phase where many of my female colleagues have either been relegated to non-traveling roles or stepped out of the workforce altogether in order to start a family.

So as some of our older siblings eye Twitter skeptically as a source or news or hesitate to open up with information in discussions on LinkedIn, and our younger siblings find themselves (and procurement) over the next ten years, we are ‘the now’. We have enough experience to blend the significant evolution we’ve already seen in procurement with the benefits of the opportunities yet to come. We are in place, ready to work, and not afraid to try new things. We have the same attitude towards the ‘penny pincher’ perception of procurement as our internal stakeholders do.

We procurement ‘middle children’ are, in fact, the best of both worlds.

Are you a 'middle child'? A Millennial? Or a 'big kid' that's just tired of all the rest of us? Join the discussion by commenting here or by Tweeting us @BuyersMeetPoint.


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