The Singapore Procurement Market – 2016/17

Posted on November 27 , 2016. 
By Ben McDonald

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Due to it’s positioning as a ‘dynamic regional hub’, the Procurement market in Singapore is rapidly changing; providing unique new challenges and opportunities for candidates and clients alike.

I have had the privilege of recruiting in Singapore and focusing on the Procurement space for a number of years now, as such I wanted to share some of the major trends that I am seeing as well as my predictions for 2017.

2016 in Review

2016 has been a year of transition in the Procurement market in Singapore.

Even though there has been some widely experienced scaling back and de-centralization of Procurement away from Singapore (notably in operational and tactical Procurement), we have also seen increased recruitment activity across the higher growth industries as well as the tier two companies that are now positioning their regional and global roles in Singapore.

As such, the current state of the market is best described as steadily progressive with pockets of challenges and opportunity, depending on your profile.

Opportunities for Candidates

Current growth industries include Life Sciences, Healthcare and the New Tech sector with many companies attracted to Singapore for its Manufacturing, R&D and Supply-Chain capabilities and well positioned for regional/global corporate functions.

Additionally, we are seeing a trend of more and more tier-two companies creating new job opportunities in Singapore, replacing the tier-one organisations that in some cases have dispersed into the region as the emerging markets have developed their independent capabilities in-country.

We are observing job opportunities being created within global companies that are experiencing challenging times in their respective industries; most notably Mining, Industrial and Financial Services. There are major companies that are increasing reliance on Strategic Procurement functions to deliver value, gain efficiencies and transform to meet the needs brought about by current market conditions.

The positions we see frequently arise in the market are at the Global/Regional Category Management level (<200k); Operational to Middle Management level with increased vacancies for Singaporean and PR candidates.

Tips for Candidates

Due to the transitional nature of the market, there are challenges for Procurement candidates at all levels.

My advice is to keep abreast of the market changes; be open minded in your job search and when considering a potential role always look for opportunities to refresh your skills and functional expertise. This will help support future career opportunities and make you more attractive to future employers.

I have often worked with candidates who face the common dilemma of choosing between a job that offers a substantial salary increase and one with a no salary increase but an opportunity to gain new skills in a high-growth industry.

My advice is to always look for a balance of remuneration and skill development, this will help future proof your career.

At the senior level (>200k) where the market is more competitive and roles are scarce, I have been working with many candidates making the move from Procurement to broader Commercial and Supply Chain roles. This has opened up a larger range of opportunities available to them and has been happening more so in Property, Corporate Real Estate, IT, Professional Services and Marketing Communications.

It is encouraging to see that there are an increasing number of contract job opportunities available in the Procurement job market in Singapore. Whilst traditionally these opportunities were not looked upon as favorably in Singapore (compared to other regions where contract work is more often the norm), if you are open to contract roles you will have more choice in the current market.

Procurement candidates that are open to contracting roles have a great opportunity to develop new skills at a time where fewer than normal permanent jobs openings exist. Contract roles in the current market have a less stringent skills and knowledge selection criteria.

How Companies Are Overcoming Candidate Shortages

There has been a notable trend within the industry to overcome recruitment challenges and staff shortages by adopting the ‘hire for skill and character, train for knowledge’ approach. This is where companies will hire individuals who do not possess direct industry or commodity knowledge, instead preferring to provide training and development. This approach can greatly reduce the time and cost associated with recruitment in the shorter term and can reap additional benefits as a longer term strategy.

Candidates that can access these opportunities are gaining valuable new and sustainable knowledge with companies able to access a deeper talent pool, thereby curbing excessive salary growth whilst securing candidates that generally see opportunities for the longer term, resulting in a lower staff turnover. Examples I have observed include several Services, Consumer and Life Sciences businesses hiring from industries that have seen a decline including Financial Services, Oil & Gas and Electronics.

2017: The Year Ahead

The hiring activity of most companies will continue to be steady in 2017 at a time where there is a much publicized slowing of growth in the Singapore economy. Most of our clients are talking about 2017 as a period that will be challenging for a range of reasons but they generally see a continued or increased reliance on Strategic Procurement. As such there is generally positive intent to hire.

Specifically, opportunity in the market will be within growth industries, particularly for middle-management roles with strategic oversight. Additionally, there will be continued demand for Singaporean and Singapore PR candidates as companies continue to localize contracts and further develop their local skill base.

We are also approaching the time of year where bonuses and AWS payments are made which will pre-empt the traditional uptick in recruitment activity from March 2017.

Ben McDonald


Consumer & Industrial Markets


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