Miami methodically stockpiles procurement talent through purposeful recruitment
In the United States, about 36,000 openings for buyers and purchasing agents in all sectors (including government) are projected annually over the decade (through 2029), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Miami, the city is taking several steps to recruit and retain talent as procurement managers and other staffers retire or leave their jobs for other reasons.
“One of the tactics that has worked well for me is to groom the talent from within the department so that they can easily apply for promotion opportunities here,” says Annie Perez, Miami’s procurement director. When she came to the city’s administration in July 2014, the department had undergone many retirements, and changes, including the addition of the capital improvements office procurement team that has now joined the department. “There were vacancies and an opportunity to come in with a fresh new outlook and restructure the entire department,” Perez explains.
The entire department was reorganized to include better titles (purchasing buyer now became procurement contracting officer and so on), more high-level positions and a restructuring of the teams. “Instead of commodity-based teams, we created a Goods and Services Team with a sub-team called the RFP Team that specialized in complex RFPs (request for proposals). The other team was the Architecture and Engineering and Construction Team.” Perez says she received the assistance of the human resources department and the support of the city manager’s office on the task.
The department went from a culture of buying and purchasing to become true contracting and negotiating specialists. “My senior staff and I focused on high-level training and we created a shadowing program where a contracting officer would shadow a senior contracting officer or Manager on complex procurements—all in an effort to cross-train. The strategy paid off. Within my almost seven years at the helm, we have had 12 internal promotions in a department of 19 positions. In addition, we have been successful in recruiting talent from other city departments, recruiting back a former procurement professional who was with the department, and recruiting from other agencies such as Miami-Dade County and the Florida Department of Transportation.”
Perez notes that it was crucial for the department to invest in the talent that it had in-house through training and succession planning. “The process has helped produce a diverse team that is both talented and phenomenal. We are blessed to have a very diverse and talented workforce which includes white, Black, Hispanic and women procurement professionals.”
Miami’s procurement leaders are purpose-driven in acquiring new talent. “In recruiting, it is important to network with other local government agencies and local and national procurement organizations such as the NIGP: The Institute for Public Procurement where there is an opportunity to meet different procurement professionals and establish professional relationships that in the future can lead to a hire for the department,” Perez explains. Vendor workshops and purchasing conferences staged by procurement organizations are good places to meet procurement professionals, Perez says.
Perez spotlights a few approaches and techniques that can boost diversity and inclusion in recruiting, hiring, onboarding and training in local government procurement offices. “Our city’s human resources department does a great job at ensuring that the interview committee is diverse, that the process is transparent and fair, and that all candidates are asked the same questions.” She adds that emphasizing the diverse culture and inclusion within the department to potential candidates at targeted networking events, conferences or workshops is crucial. “It is important for potential candidates to know that we encourage and celebrate diversity in our department.”
Perez believes cooperative contracts can be used to boost participation in government contracts of Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, people of color, women, small businesses and other under-represented groups. One example, she says, is OMNIA Partners, which is where the city accesses an Amazon Business cooperative contract. “During the pandemic, we launched the ‘Amazon Local Seller Initiative,’ where city purchasers are able to see local city of Miami small businesses flagged as ‘local’ in an effort to connect these businesses and their products with city buyers.”
Miami’s recruiting has led to success and superior performance. For the fourth consecutive year, in late 2020, Miami’s procurement department earned national recognition for excellence in the delivery of public procurement services. The National Procurement Institute, Inc. (NPI) named the city’s procurement department as a winner of the 2020 Achievement of Excellence in Procurement Award. The prize measures several yardsticks for best practices in public procurement.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County. Contact him at [email protected]