Procurement department puts post-pandemic work plan in place to ensure continued productivity
Operations will continue to go smoothly post-pandemic in the District of Columbia (D.C.) Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) Office of Contracts says James E. Crenshaw, contract specialist. He says that during the pandemic, staffing levels have remained flat and workloads have stayed steady, save for the occasional COVID-19-related procurement.
He says his office made needed adjustments when the global outbreak first hit. “Our initial focus was on creating a telework operation that provided all of the tools necessary for our team to fully support the user departments.” Crenshaw adds that the majority of his organization does not wish to go back to the old way of doing things after the pandemic crisis subsides. “We have been successful in implementing the operation and believe that we can operate efficiently and effectively without requiring the team to reconstitute in our pre-COVID full-office form, so our focus now is on maintaining our high level of telework performance.”
For remote workers, video conferencing platforms such as Zoom Video Communications and Microsoft Teams are extremely important, Crenshaw tells Co-op Solutions. He adds that he is fortunate to work on a team that has fully embraced video conferencing. “We meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays for 30 minutes. The meetings are designed to just check-in, say hello, discuss trending topics and briefly cover any business issues that have popped up.”
Crenshaw’s group maintains a schedule tied to video sessions. “We have a designated contract specialist business meeting video conference once a month, so we try to keep the check-ins light. Video conferencing has not only helped keep our team performing at a high level, it has assisted us in maintaining our good office culture. Everyone still feels connected.” Whether staffers are working remotely or on premise, Crenshaw says his department’s management style has stayed the same and has not been impacted during the pandemic.
Crenshaw offers this advice for procurement leaders on how to maintain telework performance and fully support user departments post-COVID: “Focus on people and performance will follow. Leaders must make sure the team not only has the tools necessary to be successful but also feel supported in the telework environment. All employees may not initially be as effective working in the telework environment and those individuals should be supported, and they should feel supported.” Crenshaw adds that supervisors in purchasing must be willing to train and fill gaps where needed in order to maintain efficient and effective service to the user departments.
Crenshaw believes cooperative procurement contracts can help agencies save time and boost staff efficiency in overworked and understaffed local government procurement departments. “Yes, cooperative procurements are a great tool. When utilized properly, cooperative purchasing agreements save time and money for the municipality and contractor. The key step in properly utilizing this tool is ensuring that the scope of service and statement of work fully align with all user department requirements. This will aid the user departments in maintaining cost and time controls. It will ultimately lead to a successful procurement/project.”
Through 2025, governments will be recruiting purchasing managers for expanding operations, to replace retiring baby boomers and to replace those leaving the profession. “As a whole, the purchasing manager role/category within government is expected to see a modest 1 percent growth rate in hiring,” says Drew Repp, content manager at Emsi, a labor market data provider headquartered in Moscow, Idaho. “Across the different levels of government, these roles have slightly varying hiring projections. At the state and local government levels, hiring growth is expected at 1 percent and 3 percent respectively for the years 2020 to 2025,” Repp explains.
Crenshaw, who also serves as first vice president of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Institute for Public Procurement (NIGP), offers the following recruitment advice for procurement departments seeking new staffers:
“I believe a focus should be placed on pre-professional recruitment (e.g. high school, college).” His suggestions include:
- Recruitment should start at the high school level similar to Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC); teach students that it is an honor to serve our country, states and cities in a corporate/government/professional capacity.
- Students should be shown examples of the procurement teams across the country responsible for procuring COVID-19 testing services and vaccines.
- Agencies should promote how important and exciting the work is.
- Teach and demonstrate how procurement affects the country daily.
- Procurement can be introduced to schools by government entities through student government and clubs.
- Agencies should consider offering summer development programs for interested students.
Crenshaw, who also serves as a recurring guest on Civic Initiatives LLC’s weekly Procurement Innovation presentation on the Clubhouse app, outlined a few more recruitment techniques to Co-op Solutions. He believes procurement organizations interested in recruiting professionals with minority backgrounds and from underserved communities should go where the professionals are, and spotlights the following tips that procurement departments can use to recruit more professionals from Black, Indigenous, people of color, women and other under-represented groups.
- Participate in meetings and conferences hosted for and by minority professional organizations.
- Participate in career fairs at historically Black colleges and universities.
- Contact Black and minority student unions at predominately white universities to participate in their career fair events.
- Host professional development events at colleges and in underserved communities.
- Offer meaningful paid internships.
For procurement directors who need to recruit new or additional staffers, Crenshaw urges that they familiarize themselves with key organizations and attend their meetings and conferences. Crenshaw lists the following groups as potential sources of new recruits:
- Professional organizations (such as The Institute for Public Procurement (NIGP) and National Contract Management Association (NCMA))
- Minority professional organizations (including National Black MBA Association and National Conference of Black Lawyers)
- Black Greek letter fraternities and sororities (such as Alpha Phi Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta
“Government entities should take a note from the corporate world and invest in an effective social media operation,” Crenshaw urges. He says Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Clubhouse are great tools to promote organization events, job openings and help-wanted announcements. “I would recommend that government agencies start with LinkedIn,” he adds.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County. Contact him at [email protected]