When Johnson & Johnson looks for procurement talent, it doesn’t need to go far. It looks at the talent it grew in house, which J&J has been doing for the last 12 years. That’s because, in 2008, it launched the Procurement Leadership Development Program (PLDP), which so far has trained 119 employees.
"The PLDP was formed to create a strategic pipeline of diverse, high potential talent into the procurement pipeline," Theresa Lopez, director of procurement capabilities and leadership development at Johnson & Johnson, wrote to Supply Chain Dive in an email.
It’s helped J&J fill the global enterprise’s procurement needs right when talent is hard to find and the job function is changing radically with new required skills and technologies.
The procurement talent crunch
According to a 2019 Accenture survey, 94% of CPOs say digital will significantly transform procurement over the next three to four years, but one third say that they don’t have the right skills and talent to approach this transformation.
Procurement talent is retiring at the same time that younger generations "are not viewing these roles as a strategic position and giving them career opportunities," Kristin Ruehle, managing director of procurement business process services at Accenture, told Supply Chain Dive in an interview. "There’s a perception that it’s truly a back-office function and that it’s not contributing to the growth of the business, and therefore it’s a landing point and you just stay there."
At the same time, today’s procurement professionals need a gamut of skills as the role is no longer in that back office, including demand management insights, critical thinking, social and digital skills, she said.
That’s where a program like Johnson & Johnson’s comes in.
The program: An entry point to procurement roles
The PLDP is a two-year, full time program focused on "developing business leaders with procurement expertise, which includes developing procurement fundamentals, business acumen, global mindset and leadership skills," Lopez wrote.
The program focuses recruitment on recent MBA graduates. Many have a supply chain management concentration but it’s not required. Candidates must also have at least five years of professional experience, though the company "does not recruit other hires (i.e. from other companies) for this particular program," she wrote.
Participants work on projects involving development category strategies; designing, planning and executing innovation events with Johnson & Johnson suppliers; developing sustainability and risk mitigation strategies; leading sourcing events; managing cross-functional teams and performing cost/benefits analysis.
"Projects might include working with suppliers to successfully adopt their technologies and innovations for Johnson & Johnson’s supply chain, or developing or expanding procurement relationships to ensure a diverse, global supply base," she wrote.
"We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the competition for top talent, particularly as the supply chain and procurement functions have been recognized as differentiators."
Director of procurement capabilities and leadership development, Johnson & Johnson
Lopez added that it’s not only the entry point for new MBA graduates to join Johnson & Johnson's procurement, but it’s also a recruiting tool to attract new talent into the company. It "provides new MBA talent an amazing opportunity to build their career while developing as business leaders," Lopez wrote. Participants receive a senior-level mentor.
The first class in 2008 included 14 new, full-time hires, and classes now average 10 to 12 participants a year, globally. So far, 119 participants have graduated from the PLDP.
"After graduation, PLDPs are placed into their next role by the program office. It will vary based on needs and openings but might include Strategic Sourcing Manager or Regional Category Lead, for example," Lopez wrote.
Ruehle said she has not heard of any other program like the PLDP, and that she finds it exciting. "It is a fantastic opportunity to really elevate that role. It demonstrates that procurement is a revenue and growth generator. It supports that it should have a seat at the table," she said.
The changing face of procurement
Lopez wrote that such a program has been vital to keeping Johnson & Johnson’s procurement talent pipeline healthy. "We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the competition for top talent, particularly as the supply chain and procurement functions have been recognized as differentiators and competitive advantages for companies," she wrote. "This, coupled with declining admissions in MBA programs and historically low unemployment rates, have created a perfect storm for recruiting top talent."
Ruehle said different skills are critical as the procurement function changes. "As we continue to elevate that role and think about the entire business and where the business is going, now you need to have a much more strategic thinker who is able to be curious, solve problems, have good social skills to think through and have those discussions with the business to understand what their overall objects are," she said, "and then think about how that then translates into how procurement can help achieve those in more efficient and effective manner and be more proactive."
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