Procurement mentoring – a winning formula

On-job mentoring for procurement capability development – why it works

Real, tangible changes in workplace practice are incredibly hard to achieve. Even more so where there’s a mature audience who are, understandably, resistant to change.

Busy procurement managers have little appetite for exams, lecture-style teaching or theoretical text-book study. And reliable indicators of their individual capabilities in procurement should not depend on RFT documents prepared in the past as a result of team inputs.

These attempts to improve procurement capability are the proverbial ambulance at the bottom of the cliff! It’s become obvious that none of them have proven effective in assisting stressed procurement managers with hectic day jobs to streamline and improve their tendering practices. After all, isn’t that what we’re all keen to achieve?

In the re-vamp of the NZQA Procurement Qualification, we recognised that the only effective way to achieve improvement to procurement capability was to change the way we worked with candidates for the qualification.

A winning formula was developed. It involved ongoing expert support for candidates, including frequent written and verbal feedback on their procurement plans and RFTs, professional discussions, and a readily available sounding board to address the inevitable dilemmas and challenge the rationale for critical procurement decisions.

Over a period, that’s typically between 6 – 18 months, our people have a procurement mentor on tap to bounce ideas past, help tease out their thinking on the best value for money tools and processes and introduce them to the latest and best procurement tools that are being developed by keen procurement professionals from around New Zealand and the world.

It’s a time of enormous personal growth –  and for the lucky ones, it’s an opportunity to contribute in a practical and powerful way to the efficiency and effectiveness of procurement practice in their organisations. This means that the process of getting NZQA qualified doesn’t only help the candidate, but their colleagues and their organisational practices get a shot in the arm on best procurement practice.

There’s been a sharp rise in the number of people who have signed on to get their qualification through this mechanism. These days, only a tiny minority choose the more traditional route of preparing a portfolio that’s assessed at the end of the process (and therefore, often doesn’t meet today’s requirements).

Moreover, we’re seeing an exciting increase in the breadth of procurement contexts of the candidates come into the training and the qualification. They’re procuring classrooms, roads, health and social services, public advertising campaigns, security services, engineering and legal consulting, health equipment, and more.

The skills of effective procurement planning, developing targeted, cost-efficient tender documentation and implementing scoring systems that place the right value on suppliers with qualities that will save money - are totally transferable and applicable to many different contexts in complex procurement.

As the NZQA Level Six Procurement Qualification continues to gain in acceptance and scope, we’ll see more and more procurement managers recognise that not only are the skills encompassed in the qualification exactly those that need to be addressed to improve capability, but the methods of training, mentoring and assessment have powerful and far-reaching potential to lift procurement capability across the board.

Caroline Boot