Meet Henrik Larsen, Chief Procurement Officer at A. P. Moller - Maersk Group. Henrik has worked in procurement for more than two decades, giving him extensive knowledge about workforce changes and challenges. We had a discussion with Henrik about the Future of Work, required strategies and best practices when it comes to the external workforce.
Could you tell us a brief description of your background, and your responsibilities?
I'm the Chief Procurement Officer at Maersk, which puts me in charge of a team of 850 people working at roughly 15 locations worldwide. We are influencing virtually all the group's operational spending, amounting to approximately $20 billion per year.
I have worked at Maersk for 40 years and have been involved in the procurement process for over two decades. Some 20 years ago, we found that consolidating our procurement at the group level could result in synergies. In 2016, when we underwent our transformation, I was offered a position as CPO at the group level, a role I accepted. A role I still hold.
What are the critical challenges in terms of the external workforce for Maersk?
At Maersk, we are involved in the whole process, from ensuring the candidates are adequately onboarded to offboarding, which means there are two focal points in the process, not only in terms of security but also transparency. Do we know who the individuals are, in which departments they're working, why they're there, and what they are costing us?
"Achieving 100% transparency is probably the biggest challenge we face at Maersk, along with ensuring our onboarding - and offboarding processes are standardized."
Concerning transparency, we are also looking into whether there are systems that can help us achieve that kind of total transparency while also being able to help us with the entire onboarding and offboarding process.
At Maersk, the use of an external workforce in recent years has risen, and I expect this trend will continue.
It is widely discussed that the freelance workforce will keep growing. What do you think of this trend?
I think we're going to see a significantly more network-based setup where people's networks play a role in locating the right individuals with the right skills for a given assignment.
A company needs to consider whether it's an ideal strategy to maintain in-house resources or rely on external vendors. I would argue that keeping the resources in-house is beneficial if the assignments involve obtaining or maintaining a strategic or competitive advantage. On the other hand, if the assignments are less permanent, e.g. emergency tasks, there's a clear advantage in using external resources.
When bringing in a vendor to perform an assignment, you always have to consider what they will be doing, as well as whether these are skills that we will have a long-term need for or if the assignment relates to an urgent short-term issue.
In my view, there are several strategic considerations associated with these resources. First, the more strategic they are, the closer you want to bring them to the company.
Does Maersk have a strategy to manage the increasing demand for an external workforce?
The strategic need for an external workforce ranges from HR-related aspects over IT security to business considerations. In my view, the external workforce involves virtually the whole business; simply because a company needs to ensure that everything is done correctly, from onboarding to operation to offboarding.
We've had a steering group working on this process, with the involvement of HR, tech, cyber security, and other relevant departments, as it cuts across the entire business.
Do you have a tip for those who work with the external workforce?
As mentioned earlier, transparency is the most important aspect; you know where your resources - internal and external - are placed, how long they will be around, and the structures they are part of. This ensures that you avoid - to the greatest extent possible - onboarding external resources that aren't needed simply because no one in the company has the necessary overview.
It can also prevent the emergence of a structure/culture within the company where external people hire other external people because the assignments in the company are not delineated. So, to me, the key is transparency, onboarding, and offboarding - if those three things are under control, everything else is manageable.
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