Technology and cultural change can ease the task of hiring a diverse, inclusive procurement workforce
Government agencies and other organizations will need to fill about 45,800 openings for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents each year through 2030, predicts the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). All of those openings will be due to the need to replace workers who transfer to other jobs or careers or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
To aid in their recruiting, onboarding and training of procurement professionals, agencies may want to digitally transform the processes themselves to make them more flexible and efficient, says Lars Hyland, chief learning officer of Totara Learning, a provider of enterprise learning, engagement and performance management technology. Government organizations including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, city of San Antonio, and the Department of International Trade have used the firm’s systems.
Totara offers learning technology software that improves employee engagement, organizational learning, and performance. The firm’s talent experience platform unifies a transformational learning management system (LMS), a user-centric learning experience platform (LXP), and a comprehensive performance management system under a single and adaptable open-source architecture.
The talent experience platform provides a single, integrated solution to government agencies and other organizations, and includes three standalone products that work together to unite human resource (HR) teams and break down silos between learning, engagement and performance functions.
Hyland says procurement teams can benefit in the following strategic and performance areas through digital transformation (per Deloitte, a U.S. consulting firm):
- Developing smarter ways to illuminate and act on risk intelligence regarding suppliers (at all tier levels).
- Rethinking sourcing strategies based on risk and building more robust mitigation plans.
- Increasing risk-sharing and/or performance-based contracting.
- Enhancing value delivery from strategic partners through collaboration and supplier development programs.
- Building a flexible and connected digital infrastructure supported by clean and accurate data.
- Establishing scenario modelling capabilities to enhance planning and resiliency.
Overall, the BLS predicts that employment of purchasing managers, buyers and purchasing agents in the U.S. will decline 4 percent from 2020 to 2030. The number of professionals with those titles will drop from 513,400 in 2020 to 494,400 in 2030.
Within governments, employment of these professionals may be affected by the growing use of cooperative purchasing agreements, say BLS analysts. These agreements enable state and local governments to share resources to buy supplies and make other general purchases. “Because standard contracts may be used multiple times by multiple government agencies, the rise of purchasing cooperatives may limit the need to hire additional procurement officers,” is the conclusion of BLS analysts.
The labor market data research firm Emsi Burning Glass says the U.S. purchasing manager workforce (both public and private) will grow from 69,182 in 2021 to 71,070 in 2025. Demographic breakouts for the 2020 purchasing workforce were:
• Males: 54 percent
• Females: 46 percent
• Hispanic or Latino: 10 percent
• White: 73 percent
• Black or African American: 9 percent
• Asian: 6 percent
• Two or more races: 1 percent
Hyland says diversity and inclusion require deep cultural change within an organization—there are no easy, quick ‘fixes.’ “Indeed, attempts at diversity training can often do more harm than good when they focus on the legalities and the need for the organizations to ‘control’ bias and discrimination.”
Hyland says several organizations have had more positive results with tactics that don’t focus on control. “They apply three basic principles: engage managers in solving the problem, expose them to people from different groups, and encourage social accountability for change.”
He adds that college recruitment programs have worked well in achieving open engagement from managers. “Mentoring schemes create opportunities to meet and support different groups; this helps reduce the tendency towards bias,” Hyland explains. He says transparent publication of average performance ratings and pay raise data by race and gender of separate departments and divisions can be useful in working to achieve improved diversity and inclusion in an organization’s workforce.
San Antonio, Texas, works with eThink Education (a Totara vendor) to use the Totara LMS to promote and cultivate career development for city employees at all levels. “eThink provided good insight on managing audience groups, certification of course completions, and customized reporting. Their due diligence as a Totara partner has resulted in better execution of compliance training to 10,000 employees across 37 city departments,” says Michelle Martin, learning and design architect for the city.
Plans are going forward on a Phase 2 of the project. With eThink’s help, project directors plan to add single sign on (SSO) capabilities using security assertion markup language (SAML), so users are able to gain easy access to any of several related systems with a single ID and password.
Totara offers a procurement guide: “Avoid Buyer’s Remorse: A Guide to Procuring Learning Technology.” The guide spotlights topics including where organizations are going wrong in their current procurement process, how to avoid buyer’s remorse and buy smarter, and what to look for in your organization’s learning technology.
Michael Keating is senior editor for American City & County. Contact him at [email protected].