Procurement Office Development Pulse Blog In 2010 the best basketball player in the world, LeBron James, decided to broadcast “The Decision” the now infamous television event to announce where he was going to play next season. Would LeBron be coming back to his old team, or would he sign with a new one? He surprised many when he said, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.” In an instant the effects of LeBron’s decision had major implications and changed the NBA landscape. The next season the team he left was one of the worst in the league, and the lucky recipient was a dominant force for years to come.

Is your procurement office in the position to recruit top talent? Is there a “LeBron” out there to change your office into a champion? Is there top talent already on your team, but being courted by external opportunities and could have one foot out the door? Do you have a team of quality veterans, but they are ready to retire? If top talent has already left, what is being done to maintain success with the team that you have?

Talent management and talent retention was a challenge for procurement offices pre-pandemic. Now, the challenge is dire because the pandemic has affected the labor force in so many ways and completely changed virtually every market segment. NASPO has heard the words: desperate, critical, difficult, frustrating, unfeasible, and demoralizing from procurement officials to describe the current employment situation. Competition for talent is fierce right now, the demand is high, and the supply of talent is scarce. One procurement official put it this way to describe what’s going on, “It’s a sellers’ market and I’m trying to buy a house. I make an offer on the best house, and someone else swoops in and offers cash. There’s no way I can compete with that!”

In April 2021 alone, nearly 4 million people quit their jobs and this record pace has not stopped since. Those who quit cite a number of different factors  that went into their decision:

Working from home ended
Early retirement
Change in priorities
Work/life balance
Better pay from another employer

Another market factor is that labor experts are confounded to see that unemployment levels are still high, while there is a historic number of open jobs, 10.1 million, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. With so many open positions the leverage is turning toward the labor force and the possibility of finding something better has never been greater. In this market, wages are being raised and flexibility like working from home are the attractive highlights that employers need to be aware of. A new era of employment has emerged, those that don’t adapt will be at a huge talent disadvantage.

What do these labor market factors mean for the procurement office? Procurement officials have shared many challenges that are impacting their ability to staff vital positions.

Lack of awareness or little to no interest in the public procurement profession
Applicants are not qualified, pool is limited
Money offered is not commensurate with the talent requirement they are looking for
Training and mentorship programs are not available or good enough
Public hiring procedures are inefficient
State decisions on remote work and flexibility
Current staff seeking and taking external opportunities
Budget cuts due to lower tax revenues and effects of the pandemic

States are trying to find ways to innovate and get creative to respond to the challenge of talent management in one of the most critical times of labor disruption. Varying hiring statutes and restrictions have made some aspects of countering the hiring problem worse. Some procurement offices are thinking about exploring talent and hiring outside the state or creating new part time positions that have flexible hours. This also raises concerns about the consequences of implementing new measures. States could be competing with each other for talent if states can hire outside their borders. One state could be disadvantaged if their statutes restrict virtual workers from outside the state.

Here are some questions for your office to consider:

What statutes are limiting your innovative ideas on hiring and retention?
What can be done to incorporate or simulate some of the private sector hiring practices?
What can you market to make working in procurement attractive? What are some selling points that your state has highlighted to compete for talent, pensions and benefits for example?
Are salary increases possible? Are they being considered for current employees to retain talent?

Post-pandemic trends of succession planning need to be adjusted and new rules have been established in the employment marketplace. These difficult times are ripe for changes and advancements that can benefit talent success. Innovative methods can take shape and be the perfect remedy to correct long standing roadblocks.

NASPO would love to hear more about what your office is doing. What has worked and what hasn’t? What creative measures are seriously being considered to implement?