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Interview with a Leader - January 2021

Every month in 2021, APR will share a discussion with a Leader in his/her field.

We just left 2020 and are all hoping to live a fresh start for 2021. I really believe we are given the opportunity, but what did we learn concretely and how do we adapt to get this brighter future?

APR has launched a new initiative for 2021: once a month, we interview a purchasing or supply chain Leader to get an insider view of the actual evolution of the job and its recruitment market.

In January, we had the chance to talk with Pierre*, worldwide group CPO of a notorious luxury company. He built a strong international purchasing organization both in direct and indirect spend and manages a multi-cultural team spread over 5 continents.

First thing APR wanted to know: what are Pierre’s 3 main take away of 2020

KPI Management: During this time, there was no time to stop and think, everybody had to learn how to better manage time. For a workaholic like Pierre, it was the risk to work all the time and unbalance work life and private life. Finding boundaries was his personal challenge.

Managing yourself is one thing, but you have also to learn how to get your team members to perform; both the one who tend to overwork and the one who tend to disconnect.

Measuring the time spent in the office cannot be taken as a KPI anymore, it does not mean calling or be called 10 times a day but empowering each talent with updated and appropriate KPIs.

Huge energy was deployed to design new forms of KPI.

Profile seniority: Once KPI are defined, the next question is: who is willing to achieve a KPI with no supervision?

Pierre urged himself to look at his team with a fresh eye: what seniority do they each have and how to enable it daily. Seniority is not defined by years of experience to him but by someone’s ability to discipline himself, to anticipate what is expected from him and to take proper action. More simple things too are considered: arrive on time at a videoconference, be prepared… and dressed!

The little tip he gives you: think as top athletes or musicians! Their only path to success is discipline and forcing themselves to a strict practice routine and balanced life.

Commitment: Finally, time spent on the job is no criteria, but Pierre is convinced that no 2 hour working guy has never been a high achiever. Commitment is therefore a strong value of future talents and another seniority criteria. Pierre’s company benefits from a strong SI structure and most senior talents found a way to use it at their full potential. The best committed talent? The one who loves his job!

Fortunately, interviews and onboarding kept going but how did this luxury group manage it? What should be kept and what should not?

Pierre’s company maintained all forecasted recruitments and onboardings in 2020…with few adjustments.

Interviews were immediately rescheduled in remote to comply with new standards. Even if you certainly miss some tiny details in videoconference you take more time to dig deep into the candidate’s career path. Having more interviewers involved in the process is definitely an efficient way to mitigate the risks.

Onboarding has been a delicate process lately: some of the new talents still have not set foot in the company office and have not yet talked to their manager in person!

Managers were therefore compelled to monitor closely the good integration of the talent, whatever the extra stress or extra pressure of the situation. Once again, what better tool than communication? Communication and feedback (positive or negative) are crucial to quickly untangle any misunderstanding or fear that can appear – mainly for talents in their trial period!

If we talked about new talents, Pierre pointed out that retaining current talents has also been one of his greatest concern: in those uncertain times, an organization greatest power are his employees. It became therefore his duty to make sure he effectively communicated about the purchasing organization evolution and more widely about the group global roadmap.

Pierre foresees that there is no going back. Smart working and smart interviewing will get integrated in new working models and KPI management is now a new skill of managers. Empowering middle-management has really been part of the challenge, as much as mutual trust must be part of the new normal.

Every purchasing expert is wondering what will the short- and long-term impact of this crisis be and how to prepare the future; APR asked Pierre.

Luckily, a titanic work had already been tackled by Pierre to strengthen the group worldwide purchasing organization. Purchasing coverage has grown in 3 years from less than a hundred million spend to almost a billion: Pierre’s team had already grown up to strong mature standards and was more ready to face the Covid challenges.

The global hybrid organization will not radically change, each head of region will maintain the lead and responsibility. Empowerment of each and every team member, whatever his seniority on the job, will be cultivated. Trust is key to performance and commitment to deliver is expected.

From a strictly purchasing standpoint, Pierre’s group is no exception to the market: the need to meet more often with suppliers and create stronger bonds is present, risk management is at the top of the priorities and cost killing at the bottom.

The aim is now to identify the real true future partners and be sure that the relationship is fair. In this new world, no purchasing organization can afford to think only about paying less instead of paying the right amount.

This luxury company already had in place a strong control over the whole supply chain. Tier one, two and even three suppliers are met with regularly and there is no limit to adapting current conditions (payment terms for example) if needed.

In the end, Pierre strongly believes that companies simply aim to be profitable, if a change in organization or management is required to achieve this objective, just do it!

Finally, APR enquired what does a future purchasing talent looks like …

In a nutshell, Pierre envisions a purchasing talent as someone capable of finding similarities between his own life and the corporate procurement activity.

Once again, it is not just about spending less but spending better and more wisely. Whichever is the seniority (the calendar one this time!), the more you are involved in the job as if the money were yours the more success you will have. Organization and discipline remain basic criteria that are still fundamental to a good buying expert. Analysis and broad view of a subject are fundamental to tackle a subject in the most effective and efficient way.

A question Pierre loves to ask is “describe something you are proud of”: the answer is full of information to him!

Indeed, soft skills are a growing part of what we expect and look for in a purchasing talent, but it certainly will not overcome any hard skills lack.

Last tip Pierre wants to treat you to: learn to accept KPI, if the company uses it to evaluate your work, it is also a tool for you to negotiate your salary increase when the time comes!

*the name has been changed to respect the company’s current policy.

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