Tuesday 29 July 2014

Generation Y: An Untouched Procurement Goldmine?

As my internship with BravoSolution comes to an end and the fear of going back to complete my final year of uni (and writing that dreaded economics dissertation) shifts ever closer to becoming a reality, I thought I would reflect on my time in procurement.

If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be working in the procurement industry, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. Why? It wasn’t something I knew much about, nor was it an industry I’d ever really considered pursuing a career in.

And that got me thinking... was I the only one who felt like this?

Throughout the last year, I’ve asked various procurement professionals how they ended up in the industry, and the most common response by far was “I just kind of ‘fell into it’ I suppose...”

My curiosity led me further, surveying 100 students from various UK universities studying business, economics and/or finance degrees. The results were as follows:

Less than half of the 100 students even knew what procurement was, and only 12% said they would consider a career in it.

I went on to ask why they would/wouldn’t consider a career in procurement, and received a selection of answers:

“Buying things you don’t want but other people need sounds pretty dull”

"It seems to be a career path in which everything learned through economic work could be related and used"

“I don’t know what it is”

"Seems relatively interesting...Could be quite varied, but I don't know THAT much about it!"

“Sounds boring, but I wouldn’t say no without knowing what it is about”

“As a route into my eventual career”

There seemed to be two common themes among the answers in the survey: procurement is not sexy enough and, quite simply, not well-known enough.

How do I think we can make procurement sexier? Take a fresh perspective. The procurement industry has this label of being a back-office job, hidden behind stacks of paper-based contracts. We need to change that. Technology is vastly advancing in the procurement industry and we need to make sure we can keep up with it.

As Matthew Gradidge said in a previous post, “we are in the spotlight more than ever, what we do is becoming more and more high profile and relevant to the everyday running of an organisation”. With increasing demand placed on the procurement function, we need to make sure we’re attracting the best talent available to deal with the technology and data at our fingertips. I believe such talent lies in the younger generation; an untouched goldmine.

Perhaps I’m biased as part of generation Y, but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are we keeping up with the technology? What do you think is stopping procurement from being sexy? 


  1. The assetion by those affected by the actions of Procurement that we are just like finance or accountants. Also that Procurement are control freaks in that we dictate or mandate where people can and can't buy from, so some sort of police or enforcement agency within an organisation people love to hate..

  2. Hi Claire,
    Good to get your perspective of the Gen Y on Procurement function. I had been interacting with Richard and Peter at Bravo over the last couple of years, and I am sure you had a superb experience. But the question you have raised is interesting, which reminds me of a guest lecture I had at a B School in India, last year. Being associated with the procurement services industry for the last 12 + years, the college had invited me to address 100 + students (mix of 1st year and 2nd year) and introduce them to the Sourcing and Procurement services and the scope of young talents in these functions. It was quite a revelation for me, quite similar to yours. Very few of these B School students (and many of them had supply chain as a subject matter) actually knew the basics of procurement functions, and most were not very upbeat of a career in Procurement. As one student said on prodding, it's not a 'cool' career. I am glad to say, that after my talk, a few students actually came up to me and wanted to know if they could contact me to know further, which made me quite glad (which incidentally they never did!). I agree with you, Procurement needs to be more sexy and technology would play and is playing a big role to it. Another way to make Procurement more trendy is the rising success of Procurement Service & Solution providers. Among business management and transformation processes, Procurement stands as the fastest growing and most interesting vertical. And one can actually graduate into other areas as well (after getting to know the ropes of Procurement), like sales, account management, transition, on site delivery etc. All of these are client facing roles and are fantastic learning opportunities. All the best to you Claire, whichever career you ultimately choose.
    Anirban Sarkar
    Head of Solutions and Business Development

  3. Hi Claire,

    I can't tell you how much I appreciated your comments. All of us in procurement are waiting with much anticipation to see what changes you Millennials will bring, or if you will join our ranks at all. From what you found, it looks like we have some work to do to inform college grads about our existence and the promising, rewarding career opportunities that await.

    What would you suggest are the best ways to reach out to Gen Y? Is it Twitter, LinkedIn, or some other service that I am too old to know about at the crotchety old age of 36? Do we go direct to you, through associations, or through the schools you are currently enrolled in? Any thoughts you have are most appreciated.

    Best of luck to you in the coming year and in your career. We'd be glad to have you back after graduation. If you meet anyone promising, send them our way!

    Kelly Barner
    Managing Editor, Buyers Meeting Point
    @BuyersMeetPoint (no, I'm not too old to Tweet...)

    1. Agree with you Kelly, feeling old myself after going through Claire's article . I am 43 :(

  4. Hi Claire,
    the words sexy, attractive and technological are far from the usual terms associated with purchasing being relationship, integrty and truth.
    You are correct that Gen Y is a Goldmine for the industry though the mine needs some attention. Drawing fresh eyes into the industry is a must but shortening the gap between social people in the procurement industry and those savvy in social media is just as crucial. I have found that locally you can foster good relationship and check credibility and integrity of those you deal with and manage truth (suppliers and purchasers keeping to their word/promises) I have found that the same is possible with global contacts and companies allbeit with stricter protocols in place on the communication side.
    As current proffessionals in procurement that focus on relational aspects (Social) of the business we have a lot to impart to the new comer, this is the attention we need to give to the gold mine. Technology has been a slow crawl into the industry in comparrison to its complete invasion of alot of private lives. That being said the platform still needs to rise in the industry. Social media is an integral part of future business and also sales generation and needs to rise to the place where unlike most Facebook and twitter posts it can be taken seriously and looked apon as something integrous. The need for Gen Y to bring their fervour and tech savvy nature to the business is apparent but the need for that to be refined and nurtured by those who can offer experience and guidance is also glaringly obvious.
    As for attracting talent into the area there needs to be by employers an understanding of what the tech world is doing and how this area relates to the job offer and then the job description adapted to the ever changing needs of both the job iself and the job seeker.
    Hope you find this helpful.
    Damian Roscoe
    Worldwide Procurement
    H.V. Aluminium