The COVID-19 Supplier Engagement Planning Checklist

With the evolving COVID-19 situation, many office workers are being encouraged to work from home. This is particularly important in retail where we need to protect the people involved in key parts of the value chain like logistics and operations to make sure customers can get the products that they need.

This has created a small industry of online advice about remote working through channels like LinkedIn. One of the pieces that has particularly resonated with me is around “over-communicating”.

In this spirit, I thought this a good opportunity to share some advice and practical guidance with the supplier engagement community. It’s focused on helping those who have been given the challenging task of engaging and aligning suppliers during this complex, emotive and constantly evolving situation.

At S4RB when we talk about supplier engagement, we're talking about two key things:

  • Tactical supplier engagement; and
  • Cultural supplier engagement

    Supplier engagement three pillars

In a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic where it's a fast-paced, quickly evolving situation, you need to be focused on the tactical elements.

The COVID-19 “Three Pillars” Checklist

We summarise these tactical elements under “Three pillars of Supplier Engagement”:

  1. Communications
  2. Transparency
  3. Support

The first practical takeaway is: when you are planning your supplier engagement activities during the COVID-19 outbreak you must ensure you are covering all three pillars.


  1. Have you got a forward-looking communications plan in place?
  2. How are you segmenting communications to ensure relevance and reduce unnecessary noise?
  3. Are you utilising the most appropriate channel for the size of the audience and complexity of the message?


  1. Are you proactively sharing where your business is struggling and asking for help?
  2. How are you informally recognising and thanking suppliers who are going above and beyond
  3. Do you have channels to candidly share feedback where suppliers need to be doing better?


I’d put money on support being an area that will most likely be overlooked as we all try to keep pace with the situation. However, this is a perfect example of where you can “move slow to move fast”.

If you only take one thing away from this article: spend 30 minutes on a Google Hangout or Zoom or WebEx this week and identify the Top 10 Questions that your suppliers are going to ask during this situation and publish these on your supplier portal on your knowledgebase.

What this activity will do is help take away those distractions from your key teams: your buyers, technical managers, quality managers, logistic teams. It will help take noise away from them by removing those frequently asked questions, so they can really focus on making sure that you get your product to the customers.

Move slowly and take the time to reflect, allowing your key commercial personnel to move quickly over the coming weeks.

S4RB is currently supporting retailers with the planning and execution of supplier engagement for COVID-19. If you’d like to contact David for practical advice and guidance about your organisation, please click here.

Tags: Supplier engagement, COVID-19

David Taylor

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