Supply & Demand Chain Executive: Procurement Executives: Three Tips to Grooming Your Successor

Originally Published in Supply & Demand Chain Executive | January 25, 2016 | By Audrey Ford

The procurement role is having a bigger influence on the strategic plans of large businesses over time, guiding decisions that yield immense value. As a result, companies continue to entrust more of their fundamental challenges and opportunities to the procurement department. With an eye to the future, procurement executives are embracing their new roles and developing strategies to advance the field further.

One of the clear methods with which procurement leaders can enhance their critical work is through good succession planning. Here are three tips to identifying and grooming your successor.

1. Develop Criteria

First, it is important to employ one or more useful metrics to find your successor. Longevity is a classic example. The successor needs to be at the right stage in his or her career. Any candidate should have accrued significant work experience, allowing that person to hone his or her decision-making skills. Additionally, while harder to assess beforehand, expected longevity within the new position is certainly important. The new person will likely take some time to adjust fully to the new position and understand the nuances of the business. If the successor is only there for a short time without a chance to prove loyalty, the value of your hard succession-planning work is in jeopardy.

Another critical consideration is whether to hire in house or outside of your department. One reason to hire from within the department is that the person is likely to intimately know the goals and politics of the business. However, many hire externally because there may not be good in-house options or, in some cases, a candidate may come strongly recommended, often from a similar organization. While it is important for successors to share your vision for the company, it is also useful for the successors to have an independent streak. Creative thinking allows them to thrive in the new position and potentially present new approaches to continue to improve the procurement vision.

2. Bring Them Up to Speed

Once successors are identified, train them in the key technical languages for your company, specifically financial and legal. Understanding how to liaise with the CFO and legal team will allow successors to easily streamline the procurement process. Successors will know how and when to work with these entities, so they can better align their strategy with the corporate vision. Inter-departmental disagreements are likely to decrease as a result. But when disagreements do occur, successors will know how to address them professionally.

The changing of the guard between you and your successor is going to take some time. In other words, you should aim to gradually shift responsibilities from your desk to theirs, especially if the hire is not internal. There will naturally be a learning curve for anyone who was just placed into a position. On top of that fact, you still may have several tasks and responsibilities several months or years after the new position is filled. As such, a gradual change is likely to benefit both parties.

3. Keep Your Team Updated

Keeping your team informed throughout the transition may be equally as important as the transition itself. A strong team that is behind their new leader will positively impact the work of that new leader. If the hire is in house, an appropriate strategy is to have the successor become a team leader on several projects before the change is announced. Allow the rest of the staff to buy into the leadership and skills of this person. If the person is an external hire, make sure to sell him or her to your procurement team first.

There will likely be reservations or hard feelings toward the new hire, which is understandable. Talk about their feats outside of your business, and stress how the successor can apply these strengths to improve the department and improve team dynamics.

Ensuring a Successful Transition

With the procurement role becoming increasingly critical to overall business success, it is more important than ever that executives ensure successful transitions. Adopting these strategies will help procurement executives successfully identify and groom their successors.

Audrey Ford is the senior manager of program development at Consero.