As procurement becomes a more strategic value-generator and partner within the business, the talent profile of the procurement professional is changing. Procurement now demands deep category expertise, cross-functional skills and broad business acumen. A recent WNS-CIPS benchmark study found that a common characteristic of most high-performing procurement teams, across industries, was their focus on elevating talent. Let’s examine a few tactics for boosting procurement talent to improve performance.

Holistic Talent Management

Procurement talent management requires an end-to-end approach across selection, development and performance. Talent strategy should be aligned with the needs of the business as stakeholder requirements are diverse — they range from technical specialists to hands-on generalists. Leaders of high-performing procurement teams should partner with human resources to build holistic talent strategies that include recruiting, developing and motivating teams.


Finding the right skills necessary to support next generation procurement requires creative talent acquisition strategies. In most cases, professionals agree that while procurement can be taught, it is best to recruit on the basis of core strengths such as resilience, culture-fit and even hands-on commodity expertise. Hiring from internal stakeholder groups or suppliers deepens the category expertise of the team, and builds much-needed stakeholder trust and business alignment.


Almost 90 percent of top-performing organizations indicate that building or acquiring subject matter expertise and category knowledge is key to talent excellence. Seventy-five percent of high-performers focus on building more holistic category plans and total category requirements. This illustrates that today’s procurement teams require strategic skill sets. While businesses can definitely recruit for these skills, developing the team is essential to stay competitive. In fact, 75 percent of high-performing procurement organizations prioritize developing their talent over digitization and technology.

A development strategy that enables authentic skill-building must include applied learning – one that goes beyond traditional classroom learning.

Stakeholder Alignment

Strategic talent management can strengthen stakeholder partnerships. Interestingly, a global Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) survey found that partnering with businesses and relationship management are among the top talent gaps for procurement teams. It’s imperative for category managers to know how to develop solid stakeholder relationships, deep dive into their respective categories, and ensure results that establish trust and ongoing success. This, in turn, delivers strategic value for the business – savings, improved compliance and risk mitigation, and better supplier performance and innovation.

Unfortunately, many category managers spend less time on these strategic imperatives and more time on the tactical daily activities of sourcing, contracting and supplier management. High-performing procurement organizations invest in upgrading their operating model to meet the needs of their stakeholders by:

  • Segregating strategic work from tactical activities

  • Automating or digitizing repetitive work to create more bandwidth

  • Implementing third-party support for tactical activities

  • Investing in building the soft skills and strategic capabilities of the core team

As procurement continues to provide more strategic value, talent will be the key focus. Staying competitive will depend on planning a talent strategy with stakeholders and business objectives in mind.

To know more about what constitutes high-performing procurement teams, read the WNS-CIPS benchmarking study

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