Procurement learning trends in Europe and Asia

Here at ADR International, our team of procurement experts are currently working with supply chain professionals from more than 30 countries. Many of these are European and Asian buyers at various stages in their career who are taking part in continuous professional development.

In this article, we will explore the observations of our consultants, in their role as instructors, about European and Asian procurement learning.

We will discuss:

1. Highlights of European and Asian procurement learning trends
2. The types of learning used by procurement professionals
3. Reasons for selecting learning mode
4. Which learning mode is most effective for these learners and why

1. Highlights of European and Asian procurement trends

  • “Blended” learning is the use of a mixture of training deliver modes. Blended learning is common in Europe, instructor-led classroom training is prevalent in Asia
  • Corporate accreditations are becoming more popular in Europe, Asian learners favor university or institute accredited programs
  • For digital learning, self-directed eLearning is well utilized in Europe but Asian audiences prefer instructor-led online courses
  • Individually-driven learning like reading and attending seminars of personal interest is common in Europe. Manager-directed education is more typical in Asia

2. The types of learning used by procurement professionals

The main types of procurement learning in use in both Europe and Asia are:

a. Instructor-led classroom training
b. Instructor-led online training
c. Self-paced eLearning
d. Self-directed learning
a. Instructor-led classroom training is typically made up of structured sessions, to a pre-agreed agenda, involving a mixture of lecture, discussion and individual or group exercises

  • In both Europe and Asia, the program is often structured over 12 or more months
  • Both regions typically manage the courses in small groups of around 12 to 16 learners per class
  • ADR’s course feedback typically shows that learners value the interaction, discussion and having an expert tutor on hand to facilitate the discussion of real-life experiences

The main features and differences across the 2 regions for instructor-led classroom training are:


European Instructor-Led
Procurement Training
Asian Instructor-Led
Procurement Training
  • In-company training used predominantly
  • Corporate accreditation or institute accreditation often available
  • Both public training and in-company training used
  • Industry-recognized / transferable accreditation preferred


b. Instructor-led online training is a computer-based learning session where individuals or groups are taught by a tutor using resources visible to them on their device’s screen using specialist software

  • Often held as webinar events, up to 120 minutes in duration
  • Typically single-topic courses for “bite-size” learning
  • Virtual classroom software or online meeting tools such as Webex provide a platform for interactivity
  • Distance learning is a good format for teams who are geographically dispersed
  • ADR’s course feedback typically shows that learners value the fact that they can take part from their desks, travel time and cost is avoided, and that bite-size learning is easy to digest

The main differences across the 2 regions for instructor-led online training are:


European Instructor-Led
Online Training
Asian Instructor-Led
Online Training
  • Interactive features most used for experience sharing
  • Usually part of a blended learning program
  • Interactivity most used for quizzes and testing
  • Sometimes part of a blended learning program


c. Self-paced eLearning is individually-led, self-paced, computer-based learning

  • Topic-specific modules, usually linked to an organization’s competency profile
  • eLearning modules / courses are often up to 2 hours in duration and include interactivity such as quizzes
  • eLearning course completions, test scores and individual progress is often recorded on an organization’s learning management system (LMS). The LMS is often an enterprise-wide tool used for Human Resources and Training management

The main differences across the 2 regions for eLearning training are:


European Instructor-Led
Online Training
Asian Instructor-Led
Online Training
  • Participation rates vary vastly across organizations and countries
  • Typically, end-of-year “cramming” is observed, when individuals are asked to complete courses by line managers
  • A less frequently utilized learning mode
  • When used, participation is relatively consistent across countries and time


d. Self-directed learning is any form of formal or informal learning that is typically instigated and managed by the learner themselves. Examples include:

  • Attendance at seminars or industry events
  • Mobile learning (just-in-time information or insights accessed at a specific time of need)
  • Reading on a specific concept
  • Industry, supplier or category research
  • Role-playing behaviors in preparation for a human interaction e.g. negotiation
  • Peer review / challenge
  • Experience sharing / telling others about your knowledge or project
  • Lessons learned discussions
  • Learning by teaching

The main differences across the 2 regions for self-directed learning:


European Instructor-Led
Online Training
Asian Instructor-Led
Online Training
  • A popular learning method. The effort / time spent is sometimes recorded in a learning management system (LMS)
  • Sometimes undertaken following coaching with a line manager or mentor
  • A typical learning method in Singapore and Australia, less applied in other regions
  • When undertaken, it is often assigned by line managers


3. Reasons for selecting the learning mode

In ADR’s experience, organizations and individual procurement learners cite multiple reasons for selecting the method of learning.


Learning Mode
Why Organizations Select this Mode
Why Individuals Select this Mode
Instructor-led classroom training
  • Apply common ways of working
  • Enforce a consistent vocabulary
  • Opportunity to meet colleagues and share experiences
  • Some are better able to learn away from the desk
Instructor-led online training
  • Easy to coordinate geographically dispersed learners
  • Less time away from the daily work
  • Interest in focus on a single topic
  • Less time away from the daily work
Self-paced eLearning
  • Cost effective
  • Wide course topic range
  • Accessible on mobile devices for on-the-go learning
  • Less time away from the daily work
Self-directed learning
  • Encourage learners to use their initiative in planning their personal development
  • Networking outside the organization can bring new ideas
  • Follow personal interests
  • Opportunities for career development and networking


4. Which learning mode is most effective for these learners and why

It is often the organization that makes choices about learning mode on behalf of their teams. These decisions are driven by budget, availability of learning and people development strategies across the business. The organization must also consider what approach will yield the best outcome in terms of business benefit and employee satisfaction.

In Europe, blended learning is a popular form with a mixture of learning modes depending on location, learner preferences, budget and topic. Some of the reasons blended learning may be effective in Europe are:

  • Individual learners may expect to manage their own personal development over their careers
  • Learners enjoy collaborating with peers to discuss and solve procurement challenges
  • Learners like a wide variety of choice, to suit individual learning style
  • The learning is often part of a structured program, resulting qualification or accreditation
  • Millennial learners expect a digital offering

In Asia, instructor-led classroom training is a popular form with a mixture of lecture, group discussion, break-out exercises and role play. Some of the reasons classroom learning may be more effective in Asia are:

  • Individual learners may expect their managers to identify the learning that is required
  • Good sponsorship and support of the training from senior leaders in this region
  • Due to regional culture and school education style, a facilitated approach is preferred
  • Learners value institute or university qualifications and would rather travel to learn than receive online learning
  • Learners appreciate access to an expert tutor, to whom they can pose questions related to their own procurement challenges



Procurement professionals face common challenges regardless of their physical location, including shifting market dynamics and variability in supplier performance.

However, our ADR tutor team observe that European and Asian Procurement professionals and their managers do approach learning and development in different ways, to suit their culture and needs.

For the global procurement leader, this is a reminder to avoid a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to learning. One must take into account the learning needs, business needs and how learners learn best.