Things can only get better, right?

As the end of the year gets closer, the annual tradition is to write a review of the year, how it compared with our expectations from last year and the predictions for next year. However, let’s be honest, nobody could have foreseen the events that transpired 3 months into the year and nobody cares too much to revisit most of the events of 2020!

You cannot hide from the fact that it is highly likely that the world will never be the same again. No more so than in the way we work and the way organisations plan to recruit. 

However, it’s not all ‘doom & gloom’, there will be positives as we move through the recovery phase. So, let’s look to 2021 with optimism. Here are 5 predictions for the Procurement & Supply Chain community in 2021.

1. An Increase in ‘Permanent’ Recruitment

Green shoots of recovery are already appearing, with an increase of over 25% in permanent recruitment from Q3 to Q4 in 2020. This is predicted to continue in an upward curve in Q1 and Q2 next year.

Okay you would expect that more organisations would recruit in 2021 than in 2020, however, in our recent Covid Recruitment Survey Results there were some interesting and positive results including the fact that over 54% of organisations surveyed are planning to maintain or grow their permanent teams in 2021. (and this was before there were any realistic hopes of a vaccine).

Key reasons for increasing headcount in 2021 are different in each sector, however include projects such as; Sustainable cost reduction, where possible widening the supply base, reducing supply chain risk, developing robust supplier management, improving supplier partnerships to support innovation, sustainability projects, improving spend analytics and supply chain monitoring practices.

2. Growth in ‘Greenfield’ Procurement leadership roles

Over the years’ procurement has become more strategic as it moves away from pure cost reduction, to a focus on overall value add and has developed a seat at the boardroom table. However, there are still a surprising number of organisations in the SME and Mid-Cap market with multi-million spend, who still have no procurement leadership.

It’s evident from our own experiences in 2020 that more greenfield leadership roles are coming to market. Organisations with significant spend volumes, with little by way of a procurement or supply chain function are now facing up to the fact that the world is moving too fast to stay in ‘status quo’ mode. Whether it’s because of acquisition and mergers, supply chain partnerships or financial pressures, Covid has elevated the importance of ‘best practice’ procurement and supply chain in these organisations. We expect to see more greenfield roles with a focus on transformation, strategy and building teams in 2021.

3. Changes to our work-life balance

For some, the opportunity of a better work-life balance moving forward is one of the few positives to take away from the pandemic. Again, there will be a different approach in each sector.

The way organisations have adapted to remote working has seen a fundamental change in the landscape, to the extent that some will never go back to the 5-day ‘in the office’ working week. However, there will be a need to balance this, especially as all members of the team need to consider mental health awareness, training, guidance and personal interaction, not all of which can be delivered by Zoom or Teams.

Whilst some will argue it hasn’t worked for them, as they now ‘Live at work, rather than working from home’, the general consensus appears to be that flexible and remote working has been embraced and the pandemic has given employers and employees the opportunity to demonstrate it can work. The majority seem to be in favour of blended working, home based with planned office or increasingly post-vaccine travel days to suppliers and partners.

Others are happy to continue with complete remote working to expand their access to more experienced staff, and people who need the flexibility due to childcare and family support. Expect this strategy to be a popular one, with companies in locations that have limited access to the best talent.

Offering remote or blended working will ease recruitment challenges by widening the search parameters.

4. More uncertainty in the short-term

The key learning from this year, even though we’re optimistic, is that we must not get ahead of ourselves too soon. There is a long way to go in the recovery stage and Procurement & Supply Chain functions must continue to focus on preparation for the unpredictable and ensuring their strategies are robust.

Whether it’s Covid, Brexit, IR35 or other geopolitical tensions, there will always be disruptions in this never-normal world we now inhabit. And with uncertainty comes risk and opportunity, which requires a better understanding of what risks apply to your world.

Even though this can mean more hurdles to jump through when it comes to getting sign-off for increased headcount, this is an opportunity to challenge the norm and organisational inertia. Whether it’s engaging with transformation consultancy support, or experienced Interims who can support key business projects, there are ways to get key business initiatives moving prior to recruiting the right permanent team when the business has seen the benefits.

For Interims, who know that feeling of a role being put ‘on hold’, unfortunately there is likely to be more of this. Also, if IR35 goes the wrong way in the UK due to HMRC intransigence then the likely opportunities will exist in the mid-range consultancy market, where organisations take on consultancies to deliver transformation, fixed cost or gain share projects.

The closer we get to April the clearer the challenge and the opportunities will be.

 5. Procurement & Supply Chain value to grow to all-time high

Prior to Covid the functions largely operated in the background, only receiving limited attention in the national media, or people’s day-to-day lives.

The old adage: “You don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone”, is partially true, however the real truth is, we all knew what we had, we just never thought we would lose it. This rings true for a large percentage of the nation, who now have an opinion, or an apparent expertise in how to buy everything from PPE to Vaccines to Supply Chain challenges due to the down side of Brexit. National lockdowns and social distancing measures exposed serious weak points in the supply chain, causing delays and disruptions which affect people’s daily lives and now they want to know more.

This elevation in to the national psyche requires that business leaders cannot ignore, or be seen to ignore, the obvious benefits of hiring the right leadership and talent, whether it’s permanent, Interim, or from external support, to understand the numbers, the risk and the best way to manage how they develop the vision for the future.

This year has been an incredibly challenging year for everyone, and as we bring the year towards a close and with a vaccine on the horizon, lets wish everyone a much better 2021 where the recovery will bring with it opportunity. And what better way to finish off this year than reading an article without the word ‘unprecedented’ in it! Damn it, knew I couldn’t do it!


From all of us at ProSearch we looking forward to working with you in 2021 and would like to wish all our friends, colleagues and clients a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year (or at least as good as you can in a socially distanced tiered lockdown!)

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