Communication is key

Image: Thinkstock
Image: Thinkstock

To some, the term “supplier diversity” may sound more like a corporate social responsibility program than the domain of the procurement department. At the very least, supplier diversity can be an area that procurement practitioners deal with off the sides of their desks and not one of the main focuses of their jobs.
While supplier diversity can have tangible, bottom-line benefits beyond an enhanced corporate image, those results take time to chase down unless the words “supplier diversity” appear in one’s job title or description. After all, time can be at a premium in organizations large and small. It can be hard for one person, let alone an organization, to pay supplier diversity much mind.
But it’s well worth the effort to keep supplier diversity on the agenda of not only procurement organizations but the C-suite as well. There’s no shortage of benefits for organizations that engage with diverse suppliers. For example, an inclusive supply chain means a more diverse pool of thought and talent. As well, diverse suppliers are often smaller or medium-sized businesses, which means that they offer flexibility and can be more nimble than their larger counterparts. And as Canada’s population becomes more diverse, the ability to engage with diverse suppliers becomes more of a business advantage.
Diversity fair
Those advantages were highlighted during the 2014 CAMSC Diversity Procurement Fair, held April 15-16 at Toronto’s Allstream Centre. Each year, the fair aims to support supply chain diversity by connecting aboriginal- and minority-owned businesses to major corporations through ‘access to success’ and best practice workshops, strategic sourcing roundtables and one-on-one meetings between suppliers and purchasing managers. The event featured best practice workshops, strategic sourcing roundtables and one-on-one supplier meetings.
One of the themes that stood out for me during the fair was the importance of communication between diverse suppliers and procurement—after all, they can’t benefit from opportunities if they don’t know about each other.
This was highlighted during a panel discussion at the fair entitled Accelerating Opportunities: Stories of Success. One of the panelists was Poonam Kathura, owner of Trillium Talent Resources Group. She cautioned the suppliers in the room that, while it could be a challenge to learn about opportunities, there’s no point blaming corporations for going to well-known vendors. At the same time, she encouraged corporations to list opportunities with organizations like CAMSC so that suppliers are aware of them. Reach out to as many minority suppliers as possible. Fellow panelist Simmi Sakhuja, owner of Stelfast, echoed this sentiment. She recommended large organizations work to inform diverse suppliers of what their needs are and what their organization is all about. Networking was important, she said, and encouraged diverse suppliers to have a presence at conferences and other events. The third panelist, Paula Nedeljkovic, director of MRO at Flex-N-Gate, dispelled the misconception that minority suppliers lacked competitiveness. Since increasing their efforts to find minority suppliers, Nedeljkovic said that the company’s minority spend has increased from $2 million to $14 million. Once the door was opened, she noted, it was illuminating how quick and easy it was to find minority suppliers.
During the fair, CAMSC president Cassandra Dorrington also noted that it was worthwhile for diverse suppliers, if they don’t understand something, to go back to an organization and ask questions. While she was speaking to suppliers, I think the advice applies to procurement as well. Procurement should establish that a diverse supplier is suited for the job, and that they understand what’s required and can provide it. Ensure your message to them is clear. When it comes to working with diverse suppliers, just like with any supplier, communication is key.
Since it’s such an important topic, PurchasingB2B magazine, in partnership with CAMSC, will host a panel discussion at the SCMA National Conference in Edmonton, Friday June 13 from 11am to 12:30pm. The panel will be comprised of industry leaders and will offer a step-by-step approach to setting up a supplier diversity program. Panelist participants will discuss topics like how to get C-level support of supplier diversity initiatives; identifying diversity within the current supplier base; seeking out and engaging with diverse suppliers; the legal considerations of supplier diversity and more. As well, and editorial report on this session will appear in the August 2014 edition of PurchasingB2B:
Best Practices for Inclusion: Establishing a Supplier Diversity Program
Friday June 13 11am-12:30pm
SCMA National Conference, Edmonton, AB
Click here for more details.