“Once you get a joint success, that builds trust”, says Mark Yeomans, Head of Procurement for the Environment Agency, about relationships between HR and Purchasing in this organisation which employs over 11,000 people in more than 100 offices across England and Wales.
The Environment Agency believes HR and Procurement professionals are both in the same business: managing resources. “Once you engage at that level, it is amazing to see how aligned our views are”, according to Yeomans. Head of Employee Relations Mandy Eddolls agrees, pointing out how Procurement’s shared knowledge of the HR legal framework is “particularly helpful”.
However forming an effective partnership is a process, which needs effort from both sides. Mandy Eddolls explains “we are now at the position where the procurement team are aware of the broader impact of their decisions on
people, and that only came about through their close alignment with HR”. As Mark Yeomans confirms, “both specialisms have to work hard at understanding each others’ viewpoints.”
One impetus for that work came three years ago, with an Environment Agency analysis of all non-pay expenditure. Spend on temporary staffing, amounting to around 1% of the EA’s £820m operating costs, emerged as a big target. Tackling the sometimes fragmented approach in this area, improving business processes, and producing effective management information promised major efficiency and value gains as well as savings.
The essential starting point was a joint HR and Purchasing Workshop. Carefully structured using a procurement analytical tool, crucially this also created an open forum. Here both professions explored what benefits the organisation was looking for, as well as what management information HR needed to improve their decision-making. This ensured that objectives were aligned from the start, and was then linked to a supplier development programme managed by Procurement, which helped identify suppliers willing to engage with this process. The Workshop also began to fine tune what Procurement identified as the “soft edges” of some initial HR approaches, and led to the development of tangible criteria against which the EA could determine the award of contracts.
The success of the managed agency solution that resulted (currently delivered by Reed) has led to more collaboration between HR and Procurement in other areas. HR professionals now regularly approach Procurement for their input, and new joint projects are tackling everything from training and pension fund administration to HR software and outplacement. It has also raised the profile of both HR and Purchasing across the Environment Agency, ensuring both are consulted as full business partners when restructuring and outsourcing projects are being considered.