Do You Know the Difference Between Strategic Sourcing & Category Management? Talent!

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First, we hope you, your family and your colleagues are staying healthy and safe.  I’m sure you looked at my title and thought “here is another blog, article, rant, etc. on talent management” and just to be clear it IS, and it ISN’T.  If your organization is truly trying to move up the maturity curve and is really making an effort to get to Category Management. then finding AND retaining top talent is the single biggest factor in getting you there.  Putting in new systems, developing new processes, creating new organization structures may be needed but they pale in comparison to having the right talent.  The good news is that remote work (if it continues to be a thing) has opened up the possibilities of where talent can be drawn from, but that opportunity exists not just for your organization but for every organization. In addition, that also opens up many more opportunities for your superstar talent as well.   So, IF you are lucky enough to find the right people, you need to put a concerted effort into retaining them.

This topic is top-of-mind for me because I had  a family member this week seek out my advice regarding how his employer handled what I will call “compensation week”.   He works for one of the Big Four and even though I come from that world I was still blown away by the process or lack thereof.  He was sent a letter (email, link, whatever?) which outlined his compensation increase which he was not happy with.  I did immediately point out that an increase in general these days when others are getting pay cuts, being laid off, furloughed or given zero was something to be grateful for – of course that went over like a lead balloon.  He had a meeting placed on his calendar the next day by a partner to discuss his compensation which I thought was a good thing.  I told him to not focus on the % but to focus on what that percentage represented – was he at the high end of the range, midpoint or low end?   That information would help him understand where he stacked up against his peers.  Well, the meeting took place the next day and lasted all of three minutes.  The partner read the compensation letter to him and asked if he had any questions, at which time he relayed what we discussed.  The response was, “I don’t have that information”.  We are still not sure what question could have been asked that the partner could answer?  I relay this story because the big four is having a hard time retaining their talent (and  has for years) and this interchange may be one reason why.  Our talent management practices from recruiting to performance management ☹, training & development, career management and succession planning are critical in attracting and retaining “A” players. 

Let me be clear, true Category Management professionals are in very short supply.  Those individuals that have the right combination of strategic competencies (collaboration, change management, consulting / facilitations skills, critical thinking, etc.) and functional competencies (strategic sourcing process, research and analytical skills, negotiating / contracting, supplier relationship optimization, etc.) are few and far between.  If you are lucky enough to find those people , you must figure out a way to retain them.  It’s more than throwing money at them; your job is to provide an environment (we call it the context) where they can flourish and do what they do – true category management.  If you are not there yet, use your category managers to help pave the way.  Put them front and center with your business unit heads and key executives so they can demonstrate what is possible under a Category Management organization.  Use them to build the credibility of your organization and gain access to spend areas that you didn’t have before.  In other words, your talent is your greatest asset – use it as such.

Let us know what you think and join in the conversation . . . . . .

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Anne Kohler
Anne has been leading consulting and financial management organizations for over 25 years. She has extensive expertise in Strategic Sourcing, change management, contracting & contract management (both the buy side and sell side) organizational design and supply chain management. Anne has a passion for collaborating and educating her clients while helping them to uncover hidden value in their organizations. In addition, Anne has been named by Supply & Demand Chain Executive as a “Top 100 Provider Pro to Know” every year since 2007 and a 2013 Top Female Supply Chain executive.
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