In the wake of the pandemic, organisations are looking for more flexibility. The Great Resignation has begun: according to US Bureau Of Labor Statistics, 4.3 million people left their jobs in December 2021 in the US alone.
In 2021, many employees began to rethink their relationship with employment, chasing higher wages, better work-life balance, better childcare, better safety and more flexibility.
Gary Levitan, Global Head of Procurement, Sourcing and Supply Chain at WeWork, says that the pandemic has increased its appeal as a flexible working space and solutions provider.
“Employees are demanding flexibility and that is our value proposition at WeWork,” he says. ”Our vision is to provide flexible office solutions that are better for people and the environment.”
WeWork services are categorised under three pillars: space-as-a-service; WeWork access; and workplace technology.
Since he joined the business back in 2021, WeWork has become a public company.
“We are becoming a more mature organisation,” says Levitan. “We are creating processes and systems that are allowing us to scale and be profitable. But it’s not an easy transition from being a startup to being a company able to expand products and solutions to meet growing demand, in order to secure our long-term viability and profitability. This process is a day to day reality at WeWork.”
Data’s role in organisational efficiency
In his role, Levitan is not only responsible for managing the company’s global furniture-and-fixtures supply chain but also for procurement, category management, sourcing and spend control.
Of data, Levitan says: “It’s incredibly important. I know everybody says this, but we want to use data in a different way. Typically within procurement, sourcing and supply chain data is often underused in designing an efficient organisation and the employees needed to effectively run its operations.”
He adds: “Typically, building a procurement organisation is based on spend under management. There are industry benchmarks that most chief procurement officers use to guide staffing needs. So for example, a common industry metric is that for every US$50mn that you manage, there are benchmarks to say that you need X amount of full-time employees, then on top of that, the complexity of the category dictates the level of experience but typically that is then the end of the data. The major weakness of this analysis is that it doesn’t take actual transactional volume, organisational nuance or product delivery into account resulting in a mismatch between bandwidth and headcount.
“But employees that are not engaged, busy, or working towards a goal - even if you have the best culture, leaders and benefits, get complacent. People want to keep busy, feel valued, learn new things and then move on. So this traditional benchmarking method doesn’t really work.”
Instead, Levitan is trying to incorporate into WeWork the practice of gaining as much ‘real world’ transactional data as possible. He says: “If you base the staffing plan of an organisation on this practice you are able to create volume levers in the future, balanced workloads, and airtight business cases for decision makers when you need to grow.”
Category management: ‘It’s all about processes’
Throughout his career Levitan has been driven by different business strategies, many of which have fallen out of favour.
“At the beginning of my career, category management was a function that very few understood. I led some very specific categories, - including sustainability and renewable energy - but then I started to oversee more commodity-based categories, such as OPEX consumables, which are products and services that support day-to-day business. It was then that I realised industry expertise and subject-matter expertise is not as key to category management as I once believed. Now, I actually think it can be detrimental,” says Levitan.
He adds: “For example, I had stakeholders with the same subject-matter expertise as me, and that created friction because I was too focused on finding the perfect solution, instead of understanding their goals and delivering on their needs.”
“But I learned that if you have a great end-to-end category management process, all you need to look for is talented, like-minded, eager, and passionate people. With the run on talent right now, this is more important than ever.”
To this end, WeWork’s has a five-step category-management toolset that allows Levitan to identify anybody with a desirable profile.
“Simply filling out various templates, conducting market research, and putting that information into graphs, is a category strategy in itself,” he says. “This in turn organically develops expertise that wasn’t there before.”
But the fact remains that - although the pandemic has raised the stock of procurement in boardrooms - procurement and sourcing are not typical go-to college topics. “There is no educational framework for it,” says Levitan.
“It’s not something kids are typically passionate about. This means we are missing out on like-minded people with the right talent attributes. So we can help the industry by creating these opportunities for people who may not necessarily know about procurement, sourcing and category management.”
How technology is changing procurement
When it comes to technology in the procurement function, Levitan predicts there will be a shift in how technology is used in procurement.
“I think we are going to move away from self-contained procurement and supply chain ecosystems to best-in-class technology providers for each portion of the end-to-end process. Complete supply chain ecosystems are notoriously difficult to deploy, because not every function in supply and procurement is necessarily deeply related or integrated, especially in certain matrixed organisations.”
But one tool to do all that can leave gaps in the functions. Rest assured, Levitan sees emerging technology such as smart contracts, AI-supported demand forecasting, long tail spend management software, and intake and approval workflow platforms filling the gaps for each of these functions in procurement and supply chain.
When it comes to deploying any kind of technology, Levitan is a firm believer in
Looking before you leap. “You need to assess what is most important, then deploy best-in-class tools that serve your organisation best.”
He also stresses that organisations must not forget about change management. “I have seen too many supply chain platforms fail because the change-management project plan was too light.
WeWork and its partnerships
“Partnerships are critical,” says Levitan. “It’s a bit of a cliché, especially in the procurement world. Our global supply chains are posing never before seen complexities and only by pro-actively leveraging true, collaborative partnerships do organisations stand any chance of mitigating these potentially existential risks.”
“Empire Office is an example of a partner who helps us buy furniture directly from multiple global manufacturers. Although our product is space, that space comes furnished with fixtures and technology, and we need to get those products to our customers and members on time,” says Levitan. “Without a centralized, proactive collaborator such as Empire, we would have a very difficult time delivering fully furnished space on time and on budget.”
This partnership helps WeWork create clear communication and clear expectations on both sides, at a time when having a reciprocal relationship is more critical than ever.
Cushman & Wakefield
Cushman & Wakefield - a global commercial real estate services firm - believes in flexible office space as a viable option. They are invested in WeWork and the kind of service and amenities that it offers. They are going to be a valued collaborative partner going forward, especially since they have a lot of experience in large real-estate portfolios. There will be a lot of synergy between WeWork and Cushman & Wakefield.”