Michael Lamoureaux over at the Sourcing Innovation blog is at it again…He’s coordinating a cross-blog series on the subject of talent management in purchasing and supply management.

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Obviously, being the head of a company that offers purchasing training and a purchasing certification, this topic is near and dear to my heart. But I promise not to make this a commercial for Next Level Purchasing. I’ll focus on some other aspects of talent management.

In the book “Good To Great,” Jim Collins talks about “getting the right people on the bus” then “getting the right people in the right seats.” But I’d like to dedicate this post to “keeping the right people on the bus.”

I’ve seen so many organizations lose talented purchasing professionals in the past few years. What is disturbing is that these organizations often lose the replacements of those people quickly also!

Organizations often seek employees who are interested and able to deliver continuous improvement to the organization. What these organizations fail to realize is that a professional who is interested in delivering continuous improvement to her employer is also interested in achieving continuous improvement in her purchasing career.

So after two productive years at a job – after they’ve accomplished some nice things to add to their resumes – purchasing professionals know they are more valuable. So they want to move up.

In huge companies like Wal-Mart or ExxonMobil, this is not that big of a challenge. Their purchasing departments have hundreds of positions. Higher-level openings aren’t that uncommon.

But what about mid-sized companies (i.e., those with $100M to $1B in annual revenue)?

It’s more challenging because the purchasing manager may report to the CFO. Is it likely that a purchasing manager will make the jump to CFO? Probably not.

So the go-getter leaves the company after only a few years. And the mid-sized company is recruiting a new purchasing manager every two years. Continuity is always interrupted and the potential for world-class purchasing and supply management is never realized.

So what do you do?

Well, there are a few things for a mid-sized company in this situation to consider:

  1. If it is important to have a purchasing agent/manager remain in the position for the long-term, don’t hire a young hot-shot who just saved Ford a billion dollars. That person won’t be happy for very long in a mid-sized company with no upward mobility. You need to hire the “right” person, not necessarily the “best” person.
  2. Have a career development plan starting from junior buyer all the way up to VP of Purchasing. Make it foreseeable for someone to move up the ranks.
  3. If you have a career development plan in place, hire people who have the potential to move up. If you hire people with limited potential, you won’t want to promote them later.
  4. Once you document your career development plan, don’t change it without careful consideration. If it requires three years of experience for someone to be promoted to a supervisor’s role, one of your talented employees gets those three years of experience, and then you change it so that four years of experience is required, what’s that talented employee going to do? That’s right – go somewhere else before that additional year expires.
  5. It is your company’s responsibility to train your workforce to be world-class performers. If you have an open management position and feel that none of your buyers is qualified for promotion, it is your fault for failing to develop them. Talented people won’t stay in your organization for long if they keep getting passed up for promotions.
  6. Nothing is more damaging to morale (and, therefore, to productivity) than hiring from the outside when you could have promoted from within. People need to feel valued. If they don’t feel valued by your organization, they probably will go to an employer who does value them.
  7. Reward employees for their educational achievements. Accomplishments like earning the SPSM Certification make a purchasing professional more valuable in the marketplace. If you don’t reward them, they are probably thinking about how much more money they can get elsewhere. On our “SPSM Certification Success Stories” page, there are interviews with people whose employers gave them generous pay increases shortly after earning their SPSM’s. Smart move. SPSM’s know they’re more valuable in the market. If they don’t get rewarded by their current employers, they’re probably going to seek those rewards from new employers.

I hope that these tips help you retain your talent and deliver improvements on a continuous basis.

Charles Dominick, SPSM
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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