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Is Your Job Secure?

January 29, 2009

It is inevitable at a time of such economic turmoil that we wonder about our own job security. So how threatened are those in the contract management, legal and procurement community? And are there steps we can take to bolster our position?

Of course, it has now become the flavor of the day to issue lists of ‘The Top Ten Secure Jobs’. There is surprisingly little overlap in the views of the ‘expert’ commentators on what these ten jobs are. And I am quite sure we could found counter-positions for many of them.


But there are some trends and some opportunities. For example, it is generally true that public sector jobs – at least short-term – may be more secure than private sector. But for how long? And to what extent will shifts in public policy result in new opportunities for some, but work elimination for others?


Another key area relates to the management of trading relationships, at both an individual and portfolio level. Company survival depends on the ability to oversee effective supply and customer relationships. This means not only superior selection of the right partners, but also continued oversight of performance. As one of the ‘experts’ puts it, “with the widespread awareness that excessive risk-taking got banks – and so the wider economy – into their current difficulties, companies are stepping up their efforts to monitor potentially disastrous transactions and to comply with the tighter regulations that the financial crisis is bringing.”


This recruiter calls such professionals’ Compliance/Risk Officers’ – and indeed that is one possible title. But interestingly, this is an area of development that has not proven especially successful. Most risk specialists seem to be focused in rather narrow areas of financial risk and are somehow blind to wider commercial risks and policies.


Compliance is another area that has failed to deliver the expected benefits. Once again, the role has tended to attract quasi-auditors who police the wrong-doing of others, rather than seeking out the reasons for delinquent behavior and driving innovation and change to address its root causes. As a result, compliance specialists tend to be viewed by many in the business as a source of risk (and to be avoided), rather than as managers of risk (and to be welcomed and included). After all, how many people welcome visits from the auditors? And what executive really equates audit with long-term business growth and profitability?


Business success in these tough conditions will depend on people who have the characteristics needed to make balanced and objective decisions. In the area of trading relationships, there are several criteria for success:

  • Breadth of view. Creating the right commercial offerings and deals requires people with a cross-functional perspective and an innate understanding of the sources of risk and complexity. They must have a strong appreciation for business capabilities and potential – in other words, does this commitment make sense?
  • Communication skills. These are roles that demand the ability to both listen and speak. They require clarity of expression and a talent at making complex situations easy to understand.  This means building rapport with key stakeholders and speaking in terms they understand. It means being assertive, not confrontational; encouraging openness, not secrecy or blame.
  • Objectivity. Much of the need for compliance is driven by the skewed behaviors driven by corporate management and measurement systems (including bonuses, incentives etc.). Therefore it is critical that those who are required to make these ‘balanced business decisions’ are not part of this bonus and incentive structure.

In such uncertain times, many groups vie for positions of increased power and influence. It is human nature to do so. But having the loudest voice or historic influence does not mean that they are equipped for this dramatically different world that we now face. Indeed, they were frequently part of the problem, so may be singularly ill-equipped to be today’s solution.


There is little doubt that some within the commercial, contracts, legal and procurement community have the personal skills and knowledge that fit them for this key role in ensuring effective governance in the formation and management of commercial policies and trading relationships. Others have some elements of the required skills, but must acquire more if they are to deliver enhanced value.


The challenge for most is the issue of leadership and credibility. Among the questions you might ask as you ponder your future are:


·         Do you have the functional leaders who are prepared to put their heads above the parapet and position themselves for this critical role?

·         Have you prompted those leaders, have you encouraged them by demonstrating your readiness for the challenge?

·         What evidence do you have to show your readiness for these tough times, or the steps you are taking to differentiate yourself from those around you?


Times of great uncertainty are also times of change – and therefore represent opportunity. But those opportunities do not simply seek out those who sit and wait. They fall to the people who demonstrate their readiness to bring solutions, to drive improvement and ensure economic survival for their company.


So the final attributes that can get you noticed are those of determination and innovation – taking the initiative, promoting new and improved ideas, demonstrating personal commitment. These are all areas where IACCM can help – indeed, is helping many individuals and functional groups right now. At times like this, the true leaders draw on their networking skills, discover and develop ideas, equip themselves with the facts and the data that get them – and their people – to a position of greater status and security.


Discover more about how IACCM can help by writing to and outlining the challenges you would like to tackle. In addition to advisory services, IACCM can assist with research, benchmarking, training, professional certification, networking, job search, process design and amny other areas of personal development or organizational capability.

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