Globally, procurement departments are suffering from a skills shortage. Employee benchmarking is the only way to know what areas need addressing and where you can gain a competitive advantage.

New demands require new skills

The perception of procurement has changed. Once considered a back-office function that existed solely to cut costs, the procurement department is now considered a key stakeholder capable of shaping all facets of business strategy. As procurement nuts, we’re welcoming this with open arms (while muttering ‘about time’). However, this change in perception brings with it a change in demand, and this is where a significant problem has occurred.

Put simply, procurement departments have not evolved to cope with these new expectations. There’s a significant gap in the skills employees have and the skills they need. A CIPS survey found that 56% of employers are struggling to locate talent, which soars to 73% when trying to fill leadership and executive roles. Yes, digitisation is transforming the procurement function, and many procurement officerss are still learning how to utilise powerful AI and machine learning tools. But the soft skills, the ones that have been sacred to sound procurement practice since the Bronze Age, are still lacking.

Employee benchmarking is the only solution. You can only address a skills shortage once you know where the gaps lie, and this can only be done if you’re aware of what the industry demands. This is where Skills Gap Analysis comes in.

Why benchmarking matters

Everything is relative. Knowing where the competition is at is the only way of knowing where you are at. And, of course, it doesn’t stop there. Benchmarking isn’t only about knowing where you rank within the industry; it’s about finding ways in which you can gain a competitive advantage.  

There are two reasons why employee benchmarking is best done externally. Firstly, making use of a skill is different to assessing it. Just because your procurement department is essential to your organisation doesn’t mean you know how to examine an individual’s or a team’s ability in opportunity analysis, market engagement or negotiation.

Secondly, external testing removes any kind of bias. It’s hard to see people fresh when you’ve been working with them for some time. To be blunt, it’s simply unfair on the person being tested if the test isn’t being conducted by an objective party.

Employee benchmarking targets the right training

Opportunity analysis, market analysis, strategy development, market engagement, negotiation, contract implementation, supplier relationship management… you get the picture – under the procurement umbrella sit a number of skillsets. While many organisations acknowledge the shortage of expertise in their procurement department, they don’t necessarily know which areas need addressing or how to address them.

Employee benchmarking offered by Skills Gap Analysis uncovers your employees’ or teams’ knowledge (or lack thereof) and where it sits in relation to the competition. This avoids the shotgun approach, which is expensive and time-consuming. Drill down on the actual areas in which your procurement team needs improvement and see measurable gains without breaking the bank.

Shuffle the deck

An employee might be exquisitely skilled in stakeholder management but, if they’ve been assigned market analysis, they may well appear incompetent. Some managers assume benchmarking leads automatically to extra training but, often, it can simply lead to a reshuffle. Not infrequently, procurement managers are surprised to learn they have much of the key skill areas covered, it’s just that their workers have been misassigned. Shuffling the deck is sometimes all that’s needed.

Benchmark prospective employees

There’s no reason why our assessment tools can’t be directed at potential employees. The interview process can only tell us so much. Inevitably, every appointment requires a certain amount of faith. It’s always a possibility that candidates oversell themselves or genuinely think they’re more capable than their skills allow.

A good skills gap analysis will give you a detailed picture of an individual’s true skillset. You can confidently bring them on board knowing they will address a particular shortcoming in the department. If the assessment shows them to be under qualified, though, you can still send them away with a clear idea of what they need to do to make themselves more employable.

Seize the opportunity that employee benchmarking presents

There’s a lot being demanded of procurement departments today. It creates stress, but also opportunity. It’s not just you – countless surveys have found that most procurement departments are struggling to find the skills that meet the requirements. In this environment, the team that upskills now is the one that reaps the benefits. Get in touch with Skills Gap Analysis today and get a jump on your competition.

Skill mapping is a data-driven strategy that can help you navigate your company to more effective employees and better outcomes.

Reflection is a luxury most cannot afford. Routines become ruts, which we follow day after day without deviation, never stopping to think because we simply don’t have the time. However, of the few silver linings we can associate with the COVID-19 pandemic, a pause for thought is one of them.

Social isolation hasn’t discriminated; rich or poor and everyone in between, we’ve all spent more time cooped up in our homes than Hilts did in the cooler.. We’ve had more time to ponder life, and the way we want to work. Make no mistake: many employees will return to the office with re-evaluated priorities, and it will be the task of managers and HR to carefully balance desires and skills in the post-pandemic workplace.

Skill mapping will be their most important tool in this initiative.

What is Skill Mapping?

If you’re heading into unfamiliar territory, you won’t make it very far without a map. In fact, so dependent are humans on maps that we won’t venture two suburbs away without typing an address into google. Skill mapping is your workplace equivalent, guiding your business from inefficiency to streamlined powerhouse.

Skill mapping provides a snapshot of the skills a company possesses at any given point in time. It’s a visual representation of the abilities on hand compared to what’s actually required to get the job done. This comparison allows gaps to be identified and closed. Skill mapping is objective, data-driven skill management.

Skill maps can also hone in on an individual employee’s skill levels, which can then be compared to the required skills for the role they occupy. Not only does this help the employee target relevant areas in which to improve but, if they come to you with a post-pandemic epiphany and a desire to try new things, you have a visual map that will help align their needs with the company’s needs.

Nurture Skill Acquisition

The value of human capital is in the skills they possess. We don’t know for certain what skills we’ll need post-COVID-19 but, to prepare, we need to start mapping the skills we possess now. If done correctly, when the needs of the pandemic free world become clear we’ll have the data to tell us whether we need to retain, retrain or hire to close the skill gaps.

The precious extra time we have as restrictions ease is a golden opportunity to start skill mapping. When you do, keep these five things in mind:

  1. Don’t forget to map soft skills
  2. Map both qualitative and quantitative skills
  3. Ensure to attain input from multiple sources for the sake of objectivity; you don’t want to fall prey to your own internal biases.
  4. Do not discount the importance of an employee’s desires and interests; there is little point in training an unmotivated employee.
  5. Skill mapping can be done at multiple levels. Choose the level that is most useful to you, not the one that is easiest.

Like all things worth doing, it’s easier said than done. Maintaining objectivity when evaluating employees can also be a tricky business. That’s why data-driven methods are so valuable, like the ones on offer at Skills Gap Analysis. We can tailor a skills gap analysis unique to you and your organisation, or you can use one of our existing skills assessment packages.

In the post-CoOVID-19 world, what’s desired and what’s required will be different. Get in touch with Skills Gap Analysis now so you can efficiently align talent with your business needs.

Every degree, except for philosophy, is applied philosophy.


I would like to say all philosophers agree with this statement, but it wouldn’t be philosophy if there were at least some dissenters.


So why did I start this article with a joke about philosophy?


Mark Cuban recently said that he believed that in ten years, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics), Accounting and other applied degrees that teach specific skills would become less valuable than those that teach you to look at the big picture.


His reasoning for the suggestion is sound.


Artificial Intelligence (AI) isn’t just automating factories; its also automating offices and cutting down staff requirements. Why? Because simple AI is taking care of the mundane, repetitive tasks that can be easily automated even without the need for sophisticated AI. If current trends continue, there is a reason to believe that Mark Cuban is right in advising that students of the future move away from applied degrees to programs and courses that are designed to get you to think better.


Learning how to think better, argue better, and choose better are all great skills! How to be sceptical of personal experience AND data … how to think independently to find the best way – not just the suggested way. Replacing mental shortcuts with effective thought and critical thinking.


But along with the shift in what to study, there is also a revolution well underway in how we are studying and may study in the future.


Subjects that teach specific skills like R programming statistics are often easier to learn at your pace, and at a distance. That is not to say that face-to-to face teaching is not beneficial.


However, the rise of e-Learning (online learning and distance learning) and its effectiveness in teaching specific skills is on the board agenda under “Causes of Concern” for many universities. Indeed, per Mark Cuban’s suggestions, universities too are looking to return to the “good old days” when everything had a basis or reference to philosophy. The days where the elites attended and worked to excel, not because they thought their university degree would  guarantee them a job but also – through a value of personal growth – to improve themselves.


University is a cost-benefit analysis.


And right now, for simply learning skills, e-Learning is winning over universities in the cost-benefit analysis and all signs point to this trend continuing. Low cost, high benefit. And in this equation, we also often include the cost of time. Time to get to Uni, time to network, time for the lecturer’s “small-talk” and time to get back again. E-Learning cuts all this out.


So, what do face-to-face immersive experiences offer?


Let’s return for a moment to the statement with which I opened my article: every degree that’s not philosophy is just applied philosophy. Historically, philosophy was the only education provided at university. Everything else stemmed from it and added domain-specific skills and knowledge to branch out into their own limb in the tree of education. But at the heart of almost all subjects is the Big Picture that philosophy teaches you to see. Perhaps that is the future of education and universities. People will go to university to learn how to think and then they will undertake to learn specific skills at their own pace through e-Learning or on the job training. Surely, as we move forward into the brave new world of automation and AI, our ability to philosophise is our foundation for thought, conviction, reasoning and (un)common sense!


To identify gaps in your procurement capabilities, contact us to work with you develop a blended learning plan that keeps you, and your procurement team, on top!


What role does trust play in Procurement? See how Procurement teams manage trust using Smart Contracts and Blockchain Technology

What does it mean to trust someone? It certainly does not mean that we know everything about them. Indeed, after a certain point, further information is meaningless.

Studies have shown that once an impression is made, new facts don’t necessarily trigger a reassessment.

If our trust is formed based on first-hand interaction, we are even more resistant to change based on others people’s experience. So when it comes to trust, there are two types of errors we can make.
We trust when we shouldn’t, or we don’t trust when it is perfectly safe to trust. Procurement is about trust.

But trust is the one thing that’s in low supply in today’s world.

Why don’t we trust anymore? The great oxymoron of our time is that we live in an age where trust in institutions is low, but at the same time, we are putting more trust in strangers as individuals. We live in a global village that’s powered by apps. We get in unmarked cars with strangers because an app tells us that “it’s the Uber you ordered”. We let strangers into our guest bedroom, trusting Airbnb not to send us someone unsavoury.

The Trust Barometer is off the charts.

Yes, the 2018 Edelman TRUST BAROMETER reveals a world of seemingly stagnant distrust. And there is no consensus on the reasons why the sharing economy is taking off in a climate of stagnant distrust. But it does put those of us in procurement in a tricky position. The consumer wants to trust us. Just like they want to trust their Uber drive is going to get them to their destination without incident. But that trust is fragile.

On the buyers side, we operate in the global marketplace. There are always new emerging markets, new potential partners and new potential clients. To get the best deals, we sometimes have to go with someone new. But how do we trust someone on the far side of the world? How do we get them to trust us? What about the end-point consumer of a supply chain?

We trust that you are trying to do good.

In procurement, we have to think about supply chain efficiency, cost-effective purchasing, and the stability of vendors. We also have to think about the overall integrity of the procurement process, and all this relies on trust. Thanks to the rise of social enterprises, we are now asked to consider a new one metric: use procurement spends to have a positive social impact. The rise of social procurement is a call to mindfulness of the types of vendors we choose to deal with. But if our clients are asking this of us, we have to trust that our supply chain partners are as ethical as they say. In turn, our clients trust that when we make claims of social impact, we are truthful.

Does social mean trustworthy?

Procuring from a social enterprise usually no different from commercial vendors, because social enterprises are for-profit ventures. But choosing to deal with a social enterprise mean that your procurement spend has a positive impact on society as a whole.

The difference between a social enterprise and just a commercial enterprise usually rests with the company’s mandate. The mandate can take many different forms. For example, some social enterprises pride themselves in providing a pathway out of poverty, homelessness or some other social disadvantage by providing training and meaningful employment to at-risk groups. Others have a pay and support model, where X number of paid goods and services, sees the donation of goods and services to social-economically disadvantaged groups. Other types of social enterprise are simply about sustainability with the emphasis on the circular economy. But in all cases, we have to trust that the social enterprise is what it claims to be and not simply jumping on the bandwagon without substance.

To know if a business is trustworthy, we need data.
But then with data comes privacy concerns and a whole new set of legislation.

Data, privacy and the law.

Data is the new oil. Data is driving everything from agriculture to manufacturing, to the service industry. However, even as data is fuelling everything from grassroots activism to viral marketing campaigns, the gathering and use of data have come under increased scrutiny. So it should because data is a powerful tool and like any tool, it can be used for good or evil. Data has value, and thus it is worth stealing and owning. But so new is our data-driven world that we are still working through questions of ownership, usage, governance, ethics and more.

Procurement has always had a storehouse of data. Every contact with a potential vendor, even if the contact is an exchange of introductions, is data. Every successful and unsuccessful negotiation is a new data point. Every execution of a contract is another data point. Without even trying, procurement can build up a valuable cache of data.

2018 was a landmark year for data related legislation. Fuelled by undeniable proof of social engineering through data individuals freely shared on platforms such as Facebook. On the heel of many high-level data breaches, and just growing concern and awareness of data issues, governments around the world have enacted multiple legislations. In Australia, the Privacy Act 1988 was used to establish the Notifiable Data Breaches (NDB) scheme that dictates organisational obligation when a data breach happens. The scheme is a response to some high profile data breach incident in recent years. Not all the breaches were reported in a timely manner. Meaning, any storehouse data within procurement departments have to be well guarded.

The European Union, meanwhile, has rolled out the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR. Europe has always had one of the strictest data protection provisions centred more on privacy, and many of them are codified under GDPR, including the “Right to be forgotten”. GDPR will impose stringent penalties for non-compliance. 4% of annual turnover could be sacrificed due to non-compliance, but the cost of compliance is also high. Especially since one of the key provisions of the GDPR is that the data held is current and up-to-date. The latter is likely to result in many companies purging older customer data, instead of archiving the data. I.e. procurement has to lose some of the data is built up over time.

However, there is a downside to purging data and forgetting history so to speak. If done incorrectly, we leave ourselves open to losing valuable insights and foresight that a complete dataset could provide. But at the same time, we have to understand that neither the NDB nor the GDPR is meant to hamstring us. Treated properly, they can form powerful cornerstones of the house of trust.

In technology we trust.

With the global marketplace, the increased complexity of doing business, we are turning more and more to technology to help us trust. Two technologies that have come to the forefront are blockchain and smart contracts, which are often fuelled by blockchains.

The blockchain is a distributed digital ledger that records transactions with copies shared amongst multiple unrelated parties. Entries cannot be deleted or amended only added to. The “trust” in the Blockchain comes from its immutability, and it is this trust that confers much of the value associated with bitcoins. Blockchain can work with GDPR and other legislation that requires data deletion. But compromises must be made in the short run.

The “smart” part of the smart contract is reflective of the fact that a computer algorithm is involved in the process of creating the contract. Smart contracts can have the added element of being written into a “block” of a blockchain and thus gaining a few other technology-enabled properties that make them superior to their paper counterparts.

The block of a blockchain is a data store. So a contract can be “written” in a block. The power of the Blockchain is in its simplicity. A contract in a block would be copied hundreds of times. Meaning that it is harder to falsify or collude to alter terms. It is certainly more difficult to misplace the data in the shredder. The idea is that a thousand years from now, you would still be able to follow the chain of blocks back and get a good idea of what contract was entered into, today. Also, because of repetition, the chances of a blockchain surviving to thousand years is much greater.

It is important to remember that neither smart contracts nor blockchains or any other technology creates trust. It’s an event bigger pitfall to think these technologies allow us to conduct business without trust. Most would argue that Blockchains neither create nor supersede trust but merely ask you to trust in the technology.

So in the end, we return to the simply question, “Do you trust me because I am in procurement? Or do you trust procurement because it is me?”