The realm of supply chain and procurement is undergoing a transformation as the profession takes on a more critical role in navigating volatile supply chains. The confluence of factors such as the Ukraine conflict, the ongoing pandemic, and shifts towards protectionism in trade has elevated the importance of procurement professionals. This has sparked a surge in demand for talent in the field, especially among young, ambitious individuals.

The increasing significance of this profession is evident from the fact that 11% of CEOs at Fortune 200 companies have backgrounds in supply chain or procurement. Notable leaders like Tim Cook of Apple, Annette Clayton of Schneider Electric, Luigi Sigismondi of Dole Sunshine Group, and Beatrix Praeceptor of Greiner Packaging all had supply chain roles before ascending to the C-suite.

This growing allure of the sector is reflected in the rising number of applications for supply chain-focused Master’s in management courses, which saw a 45% increase in 2019, 57% in 2020, and 46% in 2021, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

While demand for procurement and supply chain roles is on the rise, what attributes are recruiters seeking in top-tier leadership positions?

  1. Holistic Commercial Supply Chain Understanding: Pietro Mazzocchi, who leads the supply chain practice at Spencer Stuart across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, observes a need for leaders who possess a deep understanding of the entire commercial supply chain. This includes proficiency in planning, customer services, logistics, and delivery. These leaders must be customer-oriented and excel at collaboration and influencing across functional partners.
  2. Balancing Sustainability and Basics: The pandemic has prompted a resurgence in focusing on fundamentals such as cost savings and risk diversification. While sustainability and diversity and inclusion remain essential, some companies have veered too far in that direction, leading to a need to reestablish the basics of procurement. Striking the right balance is crucial.
  3. Embracing Sustainability and ESG: Sustainability and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) aspects have come to the forefront. Supply chain professionals now play pivotal roles in managing compliance with regulations related to carbon reduction and plastic use. This focus on sustainability has created opportunities for professionals to take on specialized roles and ensure ethical and sustainable supplier relationships.
  4. Global Mindset for Risk Management: Managing supplier risk now requires a global mindset. Supply chain management has shifted from tactical to strategic as businesses navigate changing trade agreements and supply chain disruptions. Understanding the global economic landscape is essential for mitigating risks.
  5. Technology Adaptability: The rapid evolution of technology necessitates professionals who can embrace and adapt to change. Technology platforms and data continue to transform the field, requiring agility and openness to change.
  6. Transformation Experience: Companies seek leaders with strong transformation experience who can drive innovation, streamline supply chains, enhance supplier relationship management, and lead digital transformation efforts.
  7. Proven Leadership and Communication Skills: Leadership capability, communication skills, and the ability to build strong relationships with stakeholders are crucial for top-tier roles. Effective communication regarding the value of procurement within the organization is vital.

As the supply chain and procurement field continues to evolve in response to an unpredictable trading environment, changes are opening doors to diverse candidates. The profession’s future looks dynamic and promising for those who can thrive amid uncertainty.

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