How do you develop a talent pipeline for your future recruitment needs?

Blog - Keyboard Edbury Daley

Despite continued improving market conditions for the recruitment of procurement professionals, there are many organisations still facing major challenges identifying the talent they need for their business. The very best candidates with specific category expertise are highly sought after in an increasingly competitive hiring marketplace. A common theme is hiring managers knowing the skills required and when they will need them, but not being in a position to a progress as quickly as they would ideally like.

Under what circumstances do clients face this problem?

The current economic climate is promoting a cautious approach to increasing staffing overhead. Therefore hiring managers can be waiting for headcount sign off and want do some forward planning because the new hire is urgently required to help meet business objectives.

Most businesses want to explore internal candidates before searching the external market for reasons of cost saving and creating opportunity for existing staff. However, this action can create delays spent conducting an internal process that isn’t always expected to be successful.

Consultancies and Procurement Service Providers need to increase capacity for forthcoming projects try to estimate when they will receive client approval to start at which point the need for extra staff becomes urgent. A hiring company has outsourced recruitment to generalist providers who lack the specialist procurement market knowledge to find the right people quickly.

Project Timescales

It is also worth noting the amount of time it takes to to complete a recruitment campaign.  If you wish to conduct a thorough selection process interviewing several candidates at first stage and then arranging second and third stage interviews with busy diaries, it can take several months from receiving CV’s of suitable candidates to formalising a job offer for the successful applicant. If you then factor in notice periods of successful candidates which with senior appointments are often three months, it can take as many as 5 to 6 months before the chosen candidate joins their new employer. Of course it’s possible to recruit in a much shorter time frame but this demands effective candidate sourcing and commitment to prioritise the process from both line management and HR.

Effective Talent Pipeline planning can help with candidate sourcing and get the recruitment process off to a flying start.

Challenges to be overcome

  • Accurate forecasting of realistic timescales and achievable targets
  • Management of candidate expectations on said timing
  • Avoiding losing momentum when the recruitment process takes longer than desired.
  • Loss of strong candidates who take other roles or lose interest.
  • Competition for the best available talent

Our range of solutions

Our experience tells us that there is no one single solution to overcome these problems.  It requires a range of recruitment tools to plan effectively for swift effective recruitment campaigns even as little as two or three months ahead. We have developed our capability in this area by working in all the potential scenarios mentioned above, particularly with the consultancy businesses seeking to staff anticipated new projects.

The first thing to note is that there needs to be a realistic understanding from all parties of what can be achieved so we begin with educating hiring managers about the definition of a candidate pipeline, and the processes required to develop them. We make sure that the hiring managers and relevant HR contacts are truly engaged in the process and understand the obstacles involved.

We then study the relevant market conditions to analyse the amount of time it takes to identify and engage with relevant candidates before designing an appropriate strategy to develop the pipeline required to meet customer demand. We combine most or all of the following techniques to build a Talent Pipeline of potentially suitable candidates:

  • Assessment of both interim and permanent resource options
  • Use of several Executive Search techniques including defining target areas to research for suitable candidates
  • Talent Mapping in competitor organisations as agreed with the hiring manager.
  • Constant networking to source candidates who are new to the market.
  • Effective management of candidate and client expectations.

The crucial factor in delivering this service effectively is understanding the relevant market conditions and using that knowledge to combine the available tools effectively.

Case Study

One of our clients, a leading multi disciplined management consultancy, has headcount restrictions across the business, yet the Procurement practice is at full capacity and has several new projects in the pipeline. The moment one of these projects is signed off by the client, so too will the required head count, but until then they can only plan for the resource they need.

We have assembled a pipeline of both interim and permanent candidates with the relevant skills for the clients requirements using the methods outlined above. In particular we have used talent mapping and extensive networking to identify the best available candidates in the permanent market.  Interim resource has been identified through both networking and online advertising. We make contact with the candidates every time we receive an update from our client, managing candidate expectations on time scales and gaining an update on their own status.

We then inform the client of any significant changes of candidate availability every 1-2 weeks as agreed. The deadline has shifted on several occasions now through no fault of our client, however we still have a wide range of highly motivated candidates ready to attend interview with the client as soon as they are able to commence the process. We currently have eight excellent interim options for two or three roles, and up to eight permanent candidates for one or two full time appointments.


What makes procurement people want to move jobs?

Blog - Keyboard Edbury Daley

A great recruitment strategy actually starts with the retention of your best people. Why? Retaining, developing and promoting your best people sends a very positive message to the market that your department is a great place to work. Conversely an organisation with high staff turnover and unhappy staff will quickly gain a negative reputation.

So how do you keep your best people happy, motivated and away from what is a very busy job market? Here we look at the reasons why procurement professionals to want to leave their current employer, what we in the recruitment profession call “push” factors.

From our experience with procurement people there are a number of factors in play. Using years of anecdotal experience, here’s a list of the most common reasons people tell us they want to move.

Lack of career progression

When people reach the glass ceiling where they realise their future opportunities for advancement are limited they are generally willing to consider roles with organisations where those opportunities are considerably better. This is a common mindset amongst “passive” job seekers.

Lack of training and development

“I’m not learning anything” or “I don’t feel challenged” are common complaints that usually tie in with a lack of career progression.

Break down in relationship with boss/peers/stakeholders

This can lead to a pretty unhappy time at work and usually results in a desire to move jobs as quickly as possible.

Lack of senior management support

Procurement needs sponsorship at the highest level to effect positive change.  A lack of support from the top is a common reason why departmental leaders want to move.  Similarly for those working with difficult or uncooperative stakeholders in Category Management roles, going to work can be very unrewarding and encourages people to seek an environment where their skills will be valued by others.

No challenge left in the role

Many leading procurement people thrive on delivering the inherent change required to deliver better commercial outcomes.  When they have delivered significant improvements and are left with running a “steady state” they become bored and seek the next challenge, usually in a new employer.

Treated unfairly

When people perceive that others are being treated better by senior management, whether it be through promotions, pay rises or bigger bonuses, this breeds resentment and pushes that person onto the job market.

Colleagues moving on

When people see their friends at work moving to other organisations for better roles and salaries they begin to wonder if they should be considering options outside their current employer.

Company health/profitability

By definition procurement people are commercially savvy and have access to all sorts of financial data.  They know when the company is struggling and this brings the issue of job security onto the agenda.

Work/life balance

Working long hours, making early or late calls to colleagues, stakeholders and suppliers in different time zones and excessive work loads will be tolerated by many in the short term but when it becomes a long term trend and impacts on your personal life it becomes a source of discontent.

Practical reasons

A significant change in personal circumstances often prompts people to look for a new job that is more suited to their lifestyle.  People also move because of excessive business travel and difficult commutes.


It is actually very rare that a procurement person lists salary as the principal reason why they want to consider a move.  In fact it’s usually us that raises the issue of salary and benefits when we first speak to a new candidate and most people will tell us that its only one consideration in a much broader picture.

However when it comes to actually discussing a job offer, it becomes clear that the salary is usually a critical factor. This situation is perhaps best illustrated by something one of my senior management consulting clients once said to me:

 “The thing that irritates me about hiring procurement people is how they switch from sales mode in interview to buyer mode at offer stage.  They tell us that career progression is their top priority then feel the need to demonstrate their negotiation skills and end up giving the impression it was about salary all along.”

Whilst this maybe a slightly harsh judgement, it does offer an interesting insight into how many procurement professionals behave during the process, and confirms that salary is a key driver in almost every job move.

In our recent research into recruitment best practice we asked how much of an increase in basic salary would you require to commit to a move? Only 10% of participants would move for an improvement of 5% on their salary, whilst 44% wanted at least a10% uplift.  39% said they would only move for an improvement of 20%.

With the skills shortage we mentioned above and this approach to negotiating job offers, its clear to us that companies looking to attract the best procurement people will have to look carefully at their budgets in 2015.  Quite simply, if the financial package on offer isn’t attractive, most procurement people will wait until someones makes them an offer that does meet their expectations.

Our message to procurement leaders is this – we are on the cusp of a skills shortage in key areas of the procurement profession.  Hiring good people is becoming increasingly difficult in a competitive job market and your best people will be in the sights of head hunters. A key target for you in 2015 is to work hard to keep those best people.

Whilst a small degree of staff churn is viewed as healthy by most, keeping your best people will also make it easier to attract a quality replacement when you do lose somebody.