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The State of Play in Contract Hiring for Supply Chain and Procurement

January 5, 2022

In this era of disruption, more companies are hiring high-skilled contractors for Supply Chain and Procurement roles. Here’s our intel from the front lines of contract hiring.

The shift to contingent (contract) staffing has been one of the biggest economic stories of the 21st century. Everyone, it seems, knows someone working on some sort of contract — either as a consultant, a gig worker, or in some other kind of temporary employment arrangement. According to some estimates, as many as 1 in 5 American workers are now contract workers, with some estimates showing that temporary workers may outnumber permanent employees within a decade.

The popular image of contract workers is also the most common kind: picture Uber drivers, Warehouse staffers brought on to navigate front-line logistics for the massive holiday spending rush, or temporary office employees. But there’s another major growing segment of the contract workforce: high-skilled, consultative white collar contractors (also known as contingent workers).

Companies bring these people on for a variety of reasons, including business transformations, project-based work, backlogs, or leave coverages. Hiring Managers use them to fill all manner of crucial strategic business functions, including Procurement, Strategic Sourcing, and Supply Chain Management roles, which are most relevant to us at Argentus as recruiters specialized in this space.

There are huge benefits to the model. Still, according to the Association for Supply Chain Management, only 16% of poll respondents work at organizations with concrete strategies for their contingent workforce. There’s tremendous growth to be had in terms of companies leveraging contingent workers.

Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen a marked increase in companies’ needs for contract workers in these areas. So much so, in fact, that we’ve tripled our number of contractor placements.

Today, we’re writing this post to give a sense of what we’re seeing on the ground: in 2021, who was hiring for contractors in Procurement and Supply Chain? What industries were they in? What were their specific business needs?

Here are a few of the searches we successfully filled:

Procurement resources for a global retail brand.

This universally-recognizable company had several, very different contract needs. First, they needed a junior Procurement resource to manage front-line supplier relationship management and support their sourcing team during a high-volume period. Later on in the year, they tapped our network to find a Strategic Sourcing Manager to help navigate their indirect spend for high volume, complex spend within indirect categories (e.g. Marketing, Real Estate, Information Technology).

A Category Manager for a well-known Food Services organization.

This company had a leave coverage within their Procurement department. They needed a candidate who could step in fast to provide end-to-end procurement (using various Rfx processes) for their Food & Packaging categories. After tapping Argentus’ network, they had a candidate with significant category experience ready to go within two weeks.

A Supply Chain Manager for a worldwide Chemicals distributor.

This company had a leave coverage as well. They needed a resource who could manage placing purchase orders, source competitive freight rates, and arrange for transportation of goods, while also navigating transportation regulations, duty/tariffs, and other supply chain considerations. The client needed someone to manage the 3 month coverage, with the potential to move into a permanent role afterward. We filled this role within a week.

Junior and Senior Procurement resources for a leading Logistics company.

This major 3rd Party Logistics Company had several needs over the past few months. One was for a junior resource to help them with supplier relationship management, and managing a backlog of projects in their Procurement department. The other was for a much more senior role — an IT Procurement expert who could act as a true consultant by evaluating their IT spend, as well as the supplier marketplace, and deliver complex procurements within the category. Both candidates came from our internal network.

A Senior Procurement Consultant for a Public Sector organization.

This long-time client is in the midst of a Procurement transformation toward a centre-led model, and this search was a bit different. After identifying a top-flight consultant in strategic sourcing, we reached out to this client, and they actually created a consultant position for this individual. On a contract basis, this candidate’s role is to identify and develop Procurement strategy at the highest level, minimizing total cost of ownership for a variety of categories — resulting in continuous cost savings for the organization.

As you can see, these companies hired contractors for roles up and down their supply chain and procurement functions. They’ve chosen to utilize a contract hiring model for leave coverages, but also for other strategic reasons: project-based work, increased volume, software implementations, and consulting.

So why hire on contract, instead of bringing on permanent employees? Our clients regularly report a few key benefits:

Contract hiring is faster.

Often, hiring managers are able to separate their contract recruiting process from their permanent recruiting. Hiring managers are often able to use departmental budgets to hire high-skilled contractors for short-term projects — in effect pulling from a different “bucket” of funding, which allows them to circumvent lengthy HR processes.

It allows you to tap different talent pools.

For permanent search, many of the top candidates come from the passive candidate market — candidates who are already in jobs. For Argentus, contract searches pull from a base of pre-vetted, high-skilled dedicated resources who are looking for their next contract. These candidates can quickly hit the ground running without training or lengthy onboarding.

High-skilled contractors save money compared to permanent employees.

While companies often pay a higher up-front hourly rate, they save immensely in terms of payroll taxes, overhead and other costs for permanent employees. And much of this talent pool is made up of individuals who choose contract work for the flexibility of the arrangement, and the variety of work it affords. There’s a myth that contractors will jump at the first permanent opportunity they see. In reality, a vanishingly small number of the contractors we place for our clients fail to complete their contract terms.

It’s a flexible model.

Once a project is complete, the contractor will end their assignment and move on to their next contract. Alternatively, if new needs arise — or if the contractor is an exceptional fit — it’s very easy to move them into a permanent role, where they already understand the company culture and goals. This flexibility allows companies to bring people on for project-based work, without the long tail of upsizing your permanent workforce.

As we begin 2022, supply chains everywhere still face continuous disruption — both to staffing, and to the physical shipment and fulfilment of goods. Whether you’ve hired on contract before, or are exploring a different hiring model to help navigate this difficult time, we hope our front-line experience in the trenches of supply chain hiring can be of help.

If you want to explore how to use contingent staffing to boost your supply chain and procurement, or simply have questions about hiring in these areas, reach out to Argentus! Call 416 364 9919 or email


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