John started his career as a research chemist, moved into technical sales, marketing, commercial team leadership and for the last 9 years he has worked in procurement. He is currently working as the Head of Purchasing for EMEA at Solvay.

International assignments for the Solvay Group include expatriation to Singapore, China, UK, France and now resident in Belgium for the last 5 years. John is a member of the Purchasing & Supply Chain Excellence Function for Solvay and most recently lead the purchasing integration work stream for a multi-billion acquisition.

What do you consider as the most pressing challenge in your industry and do you see any solution for this issue?

Talent management and building and retaining a high performance team culture. Solutions including rigorous selection process, exiting underperformers and positioning the procurement organisation as part of the business – a problem solver and a strategic lever the business can activate as needed. Skills needed include agility, cross-cultural understanding and diversity in terms of gender, culture, background and education/experience whether procurement or not.

How to align, collaborate and partner with the business?

Play a challenger and support role but base your relationship on trust and mutual commitment. Fact based conversations and aligned priorities. Genuine understanding of what really matters to the business. Proximity and ability to ensure purchasing is a simple interface for the other parts of the business.

How does digital disruption affect the process of transformation in most major businesses today?

Technology will continue to force process simplification/automation and sometimes processes that should be stopped. Digital will bring more transparency and ultimately greater agility to respond to the changing business needs. People will of course be heavily impacted so the skills/talent we have today will not be what we need tomorrow, therefore selection and attraction of talent will be a big challenge as well as opportunity.

How to overcome the lack of available and qualified workforce?

  • Invest in your people via academies
  • Recognition of the best talent and exit of the poorest
  • Bring in external talent and/or talent from outside specific zones such as moving talent from one zone to another

Short term missions to improve global vision but position the procurement organisation as part of the business – make it attractive/inspiring – be proud of what we do and people will take notice