Here at NLPA, we train the procurement departments of the world’s largest companies as well as plenty of mid-sized and small companies, too. Having the large client base that we do – 1,000+ companies as customers – we see a lot of patterns between the companies that maximize their skill development efforts and those that leave room for improvement.

Do you know what one element is a common difference between those two groups?

Leadership.

Are you wondering what leadership has to do with procurement training?

A lot, actually.

Let’s talk about those companies that leave room for improvement first. Beware – these traits may apply to you and you may have no idea how self-defeating they are!

These companies typically commit to having their team members trained in a given year, just like their more successful counterparts do. That’s noble.

But those companies that leave room for improvement neglect their leadership responsibilities. They fight for an annual training budget, sure. But then they send a soft message to their people to “go out and use” that training budget. And how that budget is used is left up to each individual team member.

There are no topics strategically selected by leadership to ensure alignment with corporate objectives.

There is no timeline set forth.

There are no efforts to keep progress visible and team members accountable.

And you know what happens?

The training budget doesn’t get used. At least not until the last minute when everyone crams procurement training into their busy end-of-year schedule when the environment is far from conducive to learning and implementing new strategies. Procurement team members don’t improve their skills. Results never get better.

In these cases, the problem is clear: the leader didn’t lead. Despite the best intentions and knowing that better skills equals better results, the leader didn’t lead.

A former co-worker of mine used to say “If you’re leading and no one is following, you’re just taking a walk.” So, Mr. or Mrs. Director of Procurement: when it comes to improving your team’s skills, are you leading or are you taking a walk?

Here’s what leading looks like…

  • The leader will be involved in deciding what topics each needs to be trained on. Whether they are the same topics for every team member or individual topics customized for each team member’s needs, the leader is involved. The leader ensures that the procurement training selected pushes the department in the right direction and isn’t just training for training’s sake.
  • The leader decides the time line. If you leave it up to team members to find a “convenient time” to participate in training, do you think they will find that time? Do you think they commonly come to a part in the day where they say, “Wow! I have absolutely nothing to do for the next several hours, days, or weeks. Maybe now would be a good time for procurement training?” Guess what. It doesn’t happen.
  • The leader maintains visibility of training initiatives. Whether it is by using a sophisticated online tool like NLPA’s real-time “Manager Check” tool or simply having an admin maintain a weekly spreadsheet, the leader is always monitoring progress of the procurement training initiative throughout the year.
  • The leader holds the team accountable for training progress. The team knows what they are supposed to be trained on and when. Are they sticking to the plan? In other words, are they following you?

Unfortunately, the percentage of self-disciplined procurement professionals is far from 100%.  Many have to make the move to commit to appropriate training and apply it.

Like any other worthwhile initiative, sometimes a little leadership is required for the initiative to be a success. Follow the steps above and your procurement team will follow you.

Unless, of course, you’re comfortable just “taking a walk.”

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