Back to School (Training)

Posted by Andrew Bartolini on September 2nd, 2010
Stored in Articles, General, People, Strategy

In the course of any year, there are a few unique windows that present themselves for planning and reflection. We’ve talked about spring cleaning as a time to get your procurement house in order and course correct as needed. We’ve also talked about the dog days of summer as a time to take advantage of the slower office pace and get a jump on a few key projects.

Summer’s over. It’s Zep-tember, September and time to refocus on the matters at hand. To quote Stanley Kirk Burrell in his ode to ‘not touching and being hype’ (among other things), “Ring the bell, school’s back in.”

School -> Knowledge -> Training….

Quick question: how often do you assess the skills of your organization and think about training requirements for the upcoming year? Depending on the size and structure of the organization, a Chief Procurement Officer may have complete control over the department’s training budget or may need to collaborate with some other internal group to ensure that the organization’s needs are addressed. Whatever your structure and process for training development, it is a very worthwhile topic. If procurement is truly a value-added function, investing in the people that drive that function should pay ample rewards. Here’s a Back to School Checklist for Staff Training in 2011:


Back to School Checklist for Staff Training

___ Immunizations – Make sure the staff has all the latest updates and information needed to prepare them for new market risks and changes to the business and department. Depending on the risk or issue, you may need to incorporate this information into the formal training agenda to immunize the department against these risks. For example, in early 2008 (before the big market implosion), one Best-in-Class procurement organization brought its entire direct materials team back to headquarters for financial risk assessment training and contingency planning focused on minimizing supply disruptions due to supplier bankruptcy.

___ Curriculum – What are you going to teach? Have you established role-based competency matrices for your organization? If so, when was the last time they were updated and how focused is your team on building out its individual and collective competencies? Where are the big gaps and what is the best, most economical way to address them? One CPO I spoke with this summer develops an annual training agenda with one over-arching theme. The overall training curriculum will include some of the standard process and system-focused coursework that is delivered quarterly by his staff and often includes a program led by outside training specialists. In the recent past, the emphasis has been on Six Sigma training while this year the theme has been value-focused sourcing.

___ School Supplies – What tools can be leveraged to gain the greatest value out of the course materials that you develop or buy. How are you leveraging your IT infrastructure to support your knowledge/training programs? Are you recording your training sessions for replay? Do you have the technical capabilities to host on-demand training modules? Also, what publications or online information services can be accessed and used by the department to improve their supply market or category knowledge (or other knowledge areas).

___ Extracurriculars Obviously, knowledge and skill development does not have to happen strictly within the confines of a formal training program. There are outside classes run by universities or trade associations, conferences, and webinars where relevant topics are covered by experts and best practices are shared. For example, in each of the past few years, I have delivered, on average, 20 webinars and spoken at roughly 10 events; I’m certainly not the only one giving these kinds of presentations, which means that in any given week there are probably several interesting and topical presentations/events (many which are free) that could have real value for your staff.

___ Stay Involved – As any good parent knows (CPO Knows Best!), knowledge retention and growth are greatly improved when the lessons learned are reinforced outside the classroom. So, try to integrate some of the training topics into your regular staff meetings and talk about the practical usage of the theories learned. Also, remember that since most education happens outside the classroom, fostering a knowledge-based and knowledge-driven department/workplace can have huge benefits. And, if you happen to be one of those leaders that has a thirst for knowledge and for personal development, sharing your interests, experiences, and strategies with your staff can have a powerful impact, particularly on your junior staff.  Reflect on how you developed into a Chief Procurement Officer and consider sharing your story with the members of your organization. Who doesn’t need a good role model?

Get me outta here… can’t touch this!

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