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Acquiring skills: first recognise what you need

September 22, 2014

According to Workforce magazine, “It’s easy to recognize a vacant position in your company, but it’s much harder to identify the skills a potential employee will need to fill that void. The inability to match qualified people to vacancies is costing companies billions of dollars in lost revenue.”

When it comes to contract and commercial management, this statement certainly appears true. We know that weaknesses in these areas are indeed costing billions of dollars a year. We know that the market for suitably qualified staff, already tight, has become almost impossible as demand levels grow. We know that the sources of new recruits are very limited – this is not a traditional career path and there is virtually no graduate-level recruitment or training.

There is every sign that demand for contracts and commercial staff will continue to grow at a rapid rate, especially now that Government and companies have awoken to the need for these skills to supplement (or in some cases absorb) traditional procurement activities. Unfortunately there is no quick fix that will suddenly generate large numbers of suitably experienced candidates. Therefore the point made in my opening sentence is crucial – the importance of ‘identifying the skills a potential employee will need’.

At IACCM, we have a well-established skills profile for people filling a contracts or commercial role. It is used as part of our professional certification program. But given the shortages of supply and the relative immaturity of defining the contracts / commercial job role, we know very well that organizations must be open-minded in their recruitment or development of contract and commercial staff. This means that they must be ready to use skills assessments as part of their recruitment process (several major corporations already use the IACCM skills profile). It is an approach that enables them to look beyond established practitioners and potentially identify people from other – often related – job roles who can successfully make the switch.

Some organizations consider that the best way to tackle their needs for improved contracting may not be through recruiting specialist contract / commercial managers, but instead by raising competence levels in other functions. Once again, the smart way to do this is by first assessing current skill levels, thereby identifying the people best suited to an enhanced role and also identifying major gaps in proficiency.

Either way, whether recruiting new staff or improving the capability of an existing workforce, it is essential to have clarity over the skills required and a robust method to assess and test the personnel who will ‘fill the void’.

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