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Playing the procurement game: Are you in?

January 10, 2020


Ask Matt Perfect for an analogy to describe the relationship between procurement professionals and the recruitment and staffing industry and he’s quick to avoid a Game of Thrones scenario.


Even chess, he suggests, is too adversarial.


“We’re all on the same team,” Matt says, acknowledging that while the relationship between procurement and recruitment and staffing is something of a game, it’s one where there aren’t any winners or losers if it’s played correctly.


Fresh from an enthralling panel discussion at the World Employment Conference on the Gold Coast, Matt describes himself as a “recovering procurement professional” after more than a decade working as both a management consultant and practitioner with corporates including BHP, National Australia Bank and Toll Group.


The founder of Impact Spender, these days he works as an independent consultant, coach and facilitator helping improve the relationships between people in procurement and the recruiters who work with them.


His beliefs are fairly simple for such a complicated scenario - when commercial relationships work well, they more profitable for both sides.


With the rise of professional procurement in both the public and private sector, responding to tenders has become a necessary part of doing business for the recruitment and staffing industry.


The reality is that responding well is an expensive and time-consuming process with no guarantee of a favourable outcome, Matt says.


Even “success” will often mean agreeing to terms and fees that leave you questioning whether the business is worth it.


Particularly for smaller businesses, “playing the procurement game” is risky.


“As a recruitment professional, you need to be able to identity who the players are and what sort of game you are playing,” Matt says.


“It’s about strategy in many ways. Everyone needs to have an understanding what the other players’ intentions are and what they are trying to achieve.


“I’m loathe to use the phrase ‘win-win’, as it’s a bit tired in business, but success is getting the best outcome for all players in the procurement and recruitment game.”


It might be a game where everyone is working towards a common goal but Matt says it’s complicated by the number of players.


While members of both recruitment and procurement “teams” are answerable to their clients, there are many other players in the game.


“For example, there can be perception amongst recruiters dealing with a procurement professional that they are decisions-makers, when the reality is that they are managing a project on behalf of a customer and are consulting with a range of people including HR, legal, line managers or hiring managers,” he says.


“The key, as a recruitment professional, is being able to identity who the players are and what sort of game you are playing.


“Then you have to consider whether you should be playing the game at all.”


While recruiters are focused on growing their business and winning more work, the procurement professionals are often seen as the “gatekeepers”, focused on ensuring their organisation is getting value for money.


There’s no reason both can’t achieve their goals but it’s hard to get that message through, Matt says.