How burnout is catalysing rogue spend & bad decision making

An increase in rogue spend and bad-decision making could be the result of intensifying procurement burnout numbers

Keelvar's take on burnout

According to founder and CEO of Keelvar, Alan Holland, there had been a “significant increase in demand” for automation as a result of rising burnout among buyers.

Holland provided his thoughts to the official CIPS new outlet, Supply Management, adding that “Sourcing professionals have been swept up in a perfect storm of global volatility, geopolitical disruption, and inflation and they’re struggling to stay afloat.”

While predictive AI has gained some traction for helping teams anticipate future outcomes, it’s doing little to solve the workload crisis they’re currently facing, according to Holland. "As a result," he says, "we’re seeing a significant increase in demand for automation.”

Keelvar's report, 2023: The Year of Autonomous Sourcing found that 86% of procurement professionals saw an increase in their workload last year, while 52% reported they had less resources to act on it.

The data also revealed that 72% said they had a flat or declining workforce, and 55% said they were suffering higher levels of stress and burnout.

Keelvar also discovered  that these burnout numbers were leading to more rogue spending.

Holland told Supply Management: "A quarter of procurement professionals (24%) said they were cutting corners to ensure supply, and 22% said they had purchased outside approved supplier lists."

The exacerbating issue in supply chains, resulting from procurement burnout, is one that Procurement Magazine has commented on repeatedly.

Talking to Dr. Howard Price on the issue, Procurement Magazine asked Why procurement teams are increasingly suffering burnout? Dr. Howard Price, Head of Procurement Content at Skill Dynamics offered his insights and advice, saying: "The term that’s increasingly coming up is 'burnout'. It’s not just another buzzword - the World Health Organisation has identified it as a global problem.

"Burnout happens when a person is repeatedly faced with work tasks that exceed the time and resources needed. The WHO says that burnout resulted in 2.8 million deaths in 2019."

Price adds that research has highlighted five main causes of burnout: An unreasonable high workload, lack of control over work patterns, “always being on call”, unfair treatment by managers and lack of social support.

He says, “if we look at these factors, it becomes clear that action needs to be taken quickly to tackle this effectively, both at the individual and organisational levels.”

Advice for the future

According to Dr. Price, the CPO needs to take a hard look at whether they are creating the right conditions for success or contributing to a toxic environment. “It’s never easy to recognise that you might be part of the problem, but research suggests that the company is often the major cause of burnout.”

He says that the questions we have to ask are:

  • Is the team given enough discretion over managing their work?
  • Are they given enough time to go offline from constant messaging traffic and actually solve problems?
  • Is the CPO putting the right people into the right teams who can support each other and contribute different skills?
  • Do the team members feel empowered to speak up and ask for help when overloaded and long before they become ill?

Another key aspect to help teams avoid burnout is training. “There’s clear evidence that training gives employees improved confidence, showing them that the company values them and is committed to their development,” he says. “Greater skill improves efficiency, providing a way to handle increased workloads. Upskilling will undoubtedly help them cope better with the unprecedented challenges procurement now faces.

“For the individual procurement professionals, I’d offer three pieces of advice,” he says. 

“Firstly, take as much control over your work environment as possible. If clear priorities still need to be set, set priorities yourself. Communicate them clearly and assume silence means consent. 

"If possible, go offline from email and messaging communications for fixed periods of the day and use these for quality thinking-time. Message chatter is the enemy of clear thinking.

"Secondly, prioritise your personal health, take regular breaks and exercise. Don’t hesitate to speak up if you feel anxious, overloaded, or mistreated. And remember that your colleagues and suppliers may be suffering too, so watch for signs that others may be struggling and be supportive.

"Finally, however challenging things feel right now, remember that these chaotic and difficult times present the perfect opportunity to learn and develop. Prevailing through challenging times helps us become more adaptable and build new skills we never thought we would have!”