As part of Spend Matters focus on Talent this month we are contributing a series of articles relating to the subject of recruitment and retention of outstanding procurement professionals.

A great recruitment strategy actually starts with the retention of your best people.  Why?  Retaining, developing and promoting your best people sends a very positive message to the market that your department is a great place to work.  Conversely an organisation with high staff turnover and unhappy staff will quickly gain a negative reputation.

So how do you keep your best people happy, motivated and away from what is a very busy job market?

Here we look at the reasons why procurement professionals to want to leave their current employer, what we in the recruitment profession call “push” factors.

Looking at this study from the US they list the top three reasons in order as:

  1. Career Advancement
  2. Work/life balance
  3. Money

We wouldn’t necessarily disagree with this but from our experience with procurement people there are a number of factors in play.  Using years of anecdotal experience, here’s a list of the most common reasons people tell us they want to move.

 Lack of career progression – when people reach the glass ceiling where they realise their future opportunities for advancement are limited they are generally willing to consider roles with organisations where those opportunities are considerably better. This is a common mindset amongst “passive” job seekers.

Lack of training and development – “I’m not learning anything” or “I don’t feel challenged” are common complaints that usually tie in with a lack of career progression.

Break down in relationship with boss/peers/stakeholders – this can lead to a pretty unhappy time at work and usually results in a desire to move jobs as quickly as possible.

Lack of senior management support – procurement needs sponsorship at the highest level to effect positive change.  A lack of support from the top is a common reason why departmental leaders want to move.  Similarly for those working with difficult or uncooperative stakeholders in Category Management roles, going to work can be very unrewarding and encourages people to seek an environment where their skills will be valued by others.

No challenge left in the role – many leading procurement people thrive on delivering the inherent change required to deliver better commercial outcomes.  When they have delivered significant improvements and are left with running a “steady state” they become bored and seek the next challenge, usually in a new employer.

Treated unfairly – when people perceive that others are being treated better by senior management, whether it be through promotions, pay rises or bigger bonuses, this breeds resentment and pushes that person onto the job market.

Colleagues moving on – when people see their friends at work moving to other organisations for better roles and salaries they begin to wonder if they should be considering options outside their current employer.

Company health/profitability – be definition procurement people are commercially savvy and have access to all sorts of financial data.  They know when the company is struggling and this brings the issue of job security onto the agenda.

Work/life balance – working long hours, making early or late calls to colleagues, stakeholders and suppliers in different time zones and excessive work loads will be tolerated by many in the short term but when it becomes a long term trend and impacts on your personal life it becomes a source of discontent.

Practical reasons – a significant change in personal circumstances often prompts people to look for a new job that is more suited to their lifestyle.  People also move because of excessive business travel and difficult commutes.

Financial – it is actually very rare that a procurement person lists salary as the principal reason why they want to consider a move.  In fact it’s usually us that raises the issue of salary and benefits when we first speak to a new candidate and most people will tell us that its only one consideration in a much broader picture.

However when it comes to actually discussing a job offer, it becomes clear that the salary is usually a critical factor.

This situation is perhaps best illustrated by something one of my senior management consulting clients once said to me:

 “The thing that irritates me about hiring procurement people is how they switch from sales mode in interview to buyer mode at offer stage.  They tell us that career progression is their top priority then feel the need to demonstrate their negotiation skills and end up giving the impression it was about salary all along.”

Whilst this maybe a slightly harsh judgement, it does offer an interesting insight into how many procurement professionals behave during the process, and confirms that salary is a key driver in almost every job move.

In our recent research into recruitment best practice we asked how much of an increase in basic salary would you require to commit to a move?

Only 10% of participants would move for an improvement of 5% on their salary, whilst 44% wanted at least a10% uplift.   39% said they would only move for an improvement of 20%.

With the skills shortage we mentioned above and this approach to negotiating job offers, its clear to us that companies looking to attract the best procurement people will have to look carefully at their budgets in 2015.  Quite simply, if the financial package on offer isn’t attractive, most procurement people will wait until someones makes them an offer that does meet their expectations.

Our message to procurement leaders is this – we are on the cusp of a skills shortage in key areas of the procurement profession.  Hiring good people is becoming increasingly difficult in a competitive job market and your best people will be in the sights of head hunters.  A key target for you in 2015 is to work hard to keep those best people.

Whilst a small degree of staff churn is viewed as healthy by most, keeping your best people will also make it easier to attract a quality replacement when you do lose somebody.

For an alternative view from the US on this subject, this article from Forbes magazine makes interesting reading.