Do conventional career paths even exist anymore? What is the 'skills gap' referring to? And what effect does this have on Government Commercial? Proxima addresses all this and more 

If you are not a Millennial, or Genz-ennial, you could be forgiven for seeing your working life as a race against the machines. Will there still be a need for “old dogs” in a world where all we read about are new tricks? Most commentators say ‘yes’, or at least, there will be a need for some of the core skills and capabilities that traditionally come with experience. Let this not, however, be an excuse to rest on your laurels.

Throughout this year Proxima have been researching, publishing and commentating on the capability crisis facing public and private sector procurement. One key message to take away is that out of every crisis comes opportunity for those with a plan. This would seem to be a view shared across academia, talent management consultancies and commercial functions up and down the country. So what is happening ‘out there’ and what can commercial professionals be doing to create that all important plan?

‘Out there’ the dynamics of the workforce are definitely changing. Behind the change are many of the technological factors that we increasingly read about but there are important human trends too. Worldwide, approximately one baby boomer is retiring every eight seconds, so a lot of skills and experience are leaving the workforce. But conversely the workforce is growing, as Generation Z (our largest yet) are expected to make up 20% of the workforce by 2020. Gen Z are ‘digital natives’, bringing with them outstanding technology skills, but often less in terms of human experiences and communication skills.


This is creating a skills gap

Research from Korn Ferry suggests that there will be a capability crisis by 2020 as demand for senior leaders far outstrips supply. The research estimates a shortfall of 85 million managers in ten years’ time, varying across sector. Conventional wisdom would expect millennials to step up and take the opportunities, however further research suggests that millennials are struggling to make the transition into and out of repetitive work.

Jan Ferri-Reed highlights in her research that millennials were the most affected of all generations during the last downturn, will further economic gloom impact Gen Z’s chances of making a flying start?

Do conventional career paths even exist anymore?

This may actually depend upon your age, working age, and your development thus far. It may be that for new entrants into the workforce the traditional career path no longer exists as much of what was once done in early roles is now automated, or carried out in “low cost labour” locations.

Entry level jobs are different today and provide different experiences. Being good at something will provide a chance for progression but, at the same time, the risk of being pigeon-holed as a specialist (should this not be desired). The transition into and out of entry level jobs will continue to challenge many, at least until the unconventional becomes the norm.

For Millennials and Generation Zs, today’s challenge is how to navigate a career path that is no longer characterised by vertical progression through hierarchical functional job roles; and how to develop competencies and experiences that are relevant and valued further up, or across, the chain.

Conversely, for those a little further into their careers, there is a clear and distinct opportunity to push on and fill the management void. These workers may not be as tech savvy as their younger co-workers but they do possess important skills and experiences which management roles currently require. “These skills can and need to be developed over many years – ideally through people having experienced various challenges”, explains Bernhard Raschke, Senior Partner at Korn Ferry.

Put bluntly, as procurement matures and technology advances, there are clear and immediate opportunities for future procurement leaders, deputies and category leads to step up and into leadership roles. For now, the experiences, leadership and communication skills that this workforce possess is in immediate short supply.

The future looks good, if the desire is there – it should be noted the Generation Z have been observed to spend less time at work than their younger peers, and have aspirations of shorter careers. This point about desire is important - organisations will move on, if the talent doesn’t step up.

A leading headhunter recently put to Proxima that there is a real and pressing problem with the number of leadership candidates in the market. So a great opportunity for some, career guidance for others.


So old or young, what are your new tricks?

At Proxima, we recently undertook a skills survey amongst procurement professionals asking seasoned pros what skills they thought had been the most useful to them in developing their careers thus far. The goal was to highlight to some of the next generation of procurement stars where to develop alongside technical skills.

The results? Well they may or may not surprise, but ‘technical procurement skills’ came in bottom of our list of options. Communication, engagement, influencing and problem solving were by far and away the capabilities most often cited as career enhancing.

Your technical knowledge has a half-life of 5-6 years, however procurement, as a career, has a shelf life.

Old or new dog, it may be time to learn some new tricks.

You can read Proxima's report - The Capability Conundrum: Resourcing challenges in Government Commercial - here. 

Read the most recent articles written by Proxima - Consultancy Playbook: How to get the best result when sourcing consultants


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