Category Management: How U Gonna Get It Done If You Ain’t Got the Talent To Get It Done


Surprise!!! In our soon-to-be-published “Talent Risk Snapshot 2024” report, Talent is once again a top concern. You would think that by now we would have figured out how to at least take a shot at tackling this, but apparently not. Here’s a quote from way back when to get the discussion started: “Failing to manage your company’s talent needs is the equivalent of failing to manage your business. And yet the majority of employers have abysmal track records when it comes to finding and retaining talent” (Peter Cappelli, Wharton Management Professor and author of “Talent on Demand”).

Yet, in survey after survey of executives and leaders, we keep hearing the following:

  • Retaining Top Talent is an Ongoing Problem
  • Recruiting is Taking Too Long
  • Professionals in General Lack the “Strategic” Skills Needed to Succeed
  • A Strategy to Manage Resources Does Not Exist
  • Talent Management Plans Do Not Close Skills Gaps
  • Education and Training are Not Effective

And this list of challenges seems to be pretty consistent. And by the way, the impact of these challenges is significant as the demands on our function and professions keep escalating year after year. I forget what they call it, but there is a term for doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results .

This is despite all kinds of studies showing the significant benefits that accrue from investing in talent programs. Here are some statistics from a premier benchmarking firm (The Hackett Group) from a few years ago where they discuss the positive impacts of investing in a Talent program:

  • $247 Million annually via a 22% improvement in NET PROFIT MARGIN
  • $992 Million annually via a 49% improvement in RETURN ON ASSETS
  • $340 Million annually via a 27% improvement in RETURN ON EQUITY
  • They spend 6% less overall on HR than typical companies
  • 133% greater return on the cost of procurement operations than typical companies

With these kinds of ROI, why is it that funding for these programs is the first on the chopping block? This continues to perplex us watching from the outside. It’s almost as if the leaders know that it is the right thing to do but are unable to prove it to their executives or are unwilling to take them on. And every year they lose more and more credibility with their employees. And that shows up on the annual surveys they conduct to assess the “mood” of their employees because the employees are not dummies and they see that their leaders are not very serious about this whole talent and competency development annual game that is played. The employees know that by the company not investing in their competency is a loss not just for the company but also for the employees because they see a lot of benefits for themselves:

  • Provides employees a line-of-sight into their future
  • Employees own their own career
  • Significant career growth opportunities
  • Increase in influence
  • More strategic / interesting work
  • Defines the “context” under which work is performed
  • Creates a common language
  • Higher trust and credibility with Stakeholders
  • Changes role perception inside and outside of Sourcing & Category Management

We have run out of answers to this question over the last three decades of dealing with this topic because we see leaders agree with everything that we have to say and yet they are unable to either secure the funding or protect the funding once they secure it and we can tell they are frustrated as well. Do you have any answers???


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