Cast a wide net to recruit procurement staffers
In its latest “Occupational Outlook Handbook,” the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says about 5,600 openings for purchasing managers are projected each year, on average, over the decade from 2019 to 2029. This total covers all industries in the U.S., including government. The public sector in 2019 employed about 8,900 purchasing managers, says the BLS.
As in other professional occupations, purchasing managers often can and do move into new opportunities. “Most of those openings for purchasing managers are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire,” say BLS workforce analysts.
The procurement function is a high-knowledge- and experience-based professional field, says Jack Pellegrino, director, department of purchasing and contracting for San Diego County. He adds that procurement is a critical function that supports numerous government departments and organizations, and that new staffers joining the team are expected to have a fundamental understanding of the procurement field. “Knowing your procurement team is essential to your success. Managers need to prepare for both planned retirements, as well as other changes in staffing.” Go to this link for information on the county’s purchasing operations.
Pellegrino speaks from experience. He has more than 39 years of government contracting and procurement experience working with diverse teams of contracting, procurement and pricing staff in both the public and private sectors supporting government business. Prior to joining the county as the director of purchasing and contracting, he held executive positions with Fortune 500 companies, leading their contracting, procurement and pricing organizations.
“Procurement managers who are in hiring mode should not only post their opportunities locally, but also with national and state professional procurement organizations such as The Institute for Public Procurement (NIGP) and state organizations such as the California Association of Public Procurement Officials (CAPPO), Michigan Public Purchasing Officers Association (MPPOA), Texas Public Purchasing Association (TxPPA), and Florida Association of Public Procurement Officials (FAPPO), to name a few,” Pellegrino explains. “By recruiting through these organizations, managers can ensure that individuals that are knowledgeable in the profession are more likely to see those potential opportunities.” He adds that these groups can aid managers in recruiting a diverse workforce. They can also be helpful when staff need additional training and skills development. This NIGP state chapter directory link can be helpful to public procurement directors seeking to recruit new talent.
Pellegrino says there are a couple of ways procurement leaders can recruit more professionals from black, Indigenous, people of color, women and other under-represented groups. “This can be accomplished by looking for qualified and knowledgeable individuals through broad recruiting efforts.” He says hiring initiatives that include publicizing department openings through several levels of professional organizations are more likely to ensure a larger demographic reach. “Additionally, managers should consider recruiting for entry-level positions through local universities and consider candidates from public administration, business and economics fields.” He adds that procurement departments should consider weighing the advantages of training, developing and promoting their own staff, since those candidates already have specific knowledge of the organization. “National, state and local professional organizations can also accelerate the learning and training process for new staff to the profession,” Pellegrino explains.
Getting the word out about career openings to an array of sources can help boost diversity and inclusion in recruiting, hiring, onboarding and training, Pellegrino says. He notes that broadly advertising openings in local communities and universities, as well as national, state and local professional organizations can help staff up public procurement offices. Local professional organizations and universities, he adds, are good places to recruit new professionals to the public procurement field.
One resource that lean-staffed government procurement departments may want to consider: Cooperative procurement contracts that may help save time and boost staff efficiency. “Cooperative agreement contracts can be an important tool for all procurement agencies,” Pellegrino tells Co-op Solutions. “Using a well-established cooperative agreement can be very advantageous to departments by reducing the lead time to complete a procurement as well as secure better pricing resulting from the aggregated quantiles and terms established in the cooperative agreement.”
The COVID-19 crisis has affected public procurement, Pellegrino believes. “The pandemic has definitely increased our workloads to support the acquisition of personal protective equipment (PPE), and now vaccination supplies and services. Our team has relied on all our procurement tools, including use of cooperative contracts and expedited public solicitations to accommodate increased requirements.”
He adds that his department’s staffing levels have remained stable. “We have used our technology and remote working capabilities and access to improve our overall productivity.” Pellegrino says his agency’s procurement team has been affected in several ways by the pandemic. He points to the direct impact of the increased workload volume and the urgency of all procurement transactions as examples of COVID-19’s effects on staff. “A more indirect impact has been to staff’s mental health and fatigue because of the extended duration of this pandemic, as well as separation caused by remote work,” Pellegrino says.
He adds that his department is relying on technology and tools. “We have worked very hard to maintain connectivity and collaboration by using our on-line tools such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom. We continue to have regular staff meetings and have increased our all-hands meeting frequency to ensure everyone remains in-touch.”
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County. Contact: [email protected]