For the March issue, CWS 30 features Laura Schuchardt, talent acquisition program manager at Autodesk, a leading provider of 2D and 3D design software for many industries, including manufacturing, building, engineering, media and entertainment. The company's $150 million contingent workforce program is global and utilizes 2,000 temporary workers across a range of skill sets from admin/clerical to IT. Among Schuchardt's goals is to implement a vendor management system. Read how she administers the program worldwide with the help of a vendor on premise and what her views are.
Q: What are the goals for your CW program?
A: Besides implementing a VMS, we really want to try to standardize on some of our processes. We spent the last fiscal year really looking at cost savings initiatives, and doing so helped us to really think about where we can gain efficiencies and strengths. So I want to see us pursue and continue that throughout the world. We are especially looking at Europe and Asia. We also want to reduce the number of suppliers that we're using worldwide, create a more specified or preferred supplier list. And centralize the ownership of our contingent worker program worldwide.
Q: How did you get into contingent workforce management?
A: I've been with Autodesk for 13 years. When I started, my role was more on the customer support side, and then I moved into procurement. So when I came to work with HR to manage this program, I was able to leverage the knowledge that I had of contract and supplier management.
Q: So at Autodesk the CW program is under HR supervision?
A: That is correct. It is. But now procurement and HR kind of share that function. And that's part of the reason why one of our goals for this coming fiscal year  is to centralize the ownership. We need to figure out where the responsibility should be, to define the responsibilities a little bit more clearly throughout the world.
Q: How long have you been doing this? And has anything changed?
A: For a little over three years. When I first came in there was one supplier for temporary staffing and we weren't successful at filling assignments in all areas/aspects that our business required. The year before, we had another supplier and the year before that, another! We didn't have longevity and a strong partnership when it came to our temporary staffing supplier. So, there was constant turnover. We also had no 1099 compliance, and we had no contingent worker policy. With no tool and no policy, people didn't really know what they could do or couldn't do.
So now, while we still only have one supplier for temporary staffing, we've had the same supplier for the past three years. We have multiple suppliers for other contingent categories. But we've also done a little bit to work on streamlining some of those processes on the suppliers that we use. And then we implemented a contingent worker policy and 1099 screening. The policy went live last year and the 1099 screening went live in 2007.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Challenge. Challenge. Challenge. Lots of challenge. Every day is different and presents a new challenge to solve. I enjoy working with people from all over the company. It is a pleasure to support those that are creating of some of the company's products and offerings -- we provide those resources for them to be able to produce those amazing results.
Q: What don't you like about your job?
A: We don't have a vendor management system. Until we have a tool to help us manage compliance and supplier performance and cost, my job will always have unnecessary challenges.
Q: Outline something to me that saved your skin on the job.
A: I think in order to have a successful partnership in temporary staffing, whether you have an MSP or not, as the program manager, you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and jump in. You need to listen to your managers, to the population, to the community that you're supporting. You need to listen to your suppliers equally. And you really need to leverage the relationship that you have with both of those groups as well as your own experience and knowledge to create the best program. If you don't roll up your sleeves and really get in there and understand what's working, and what's not, I don't think you're going to have a successful program. And being able to do that has helped me tremendously.
Q: What advice would you give to others trying to do this?
A: I guess that would tie in to what I just said: take the time to really learn as much about your company's culture as possible. I think a lot of times contingent workforce managers have a lot of great ideas, but if you don't socialize them and think about your culture and the timing, things can go not how you expect them to. Learn how your company, your organization, perceives contingent workers. How they want to acquire them. Listen carefully to their needs and wants and use best practices. Benchmarking is also key. You need to create the best professional climate and culture for your contingent workforce. You can never talk to enough people -- peers and advisors. Constantly socialize your thoughts or ideas and seek out advisement. I think it helps to reinforce whatever solutions you decide to go with.
Q: Describe some specific challenges that you've faced in the last couple of years.
A: Convincing executive staff that we need a VMS. This is our primary challenge to date, but we are breaking some ground! Also, raising awareness that our contingent workforce is 20 percent of our population. We use contingent workers to fill a variety of needs -- short and longer-term assignments and projects. It is rare that we have an assignment or project with terms of one week or less! Thus, sourcing for quality contingent talent with decreased funding is a challenge for us currently.
Q: How do you convince your C Floor?
A: I am fortunate, personally, in that we have an executive VP of HR who really understands the significance of the program, which is helpful. Ironically, I believe the recession helped to bring more awareness to our contingent worker program. If it weren't for the recession, I'm not sure our executives would have had as keen an interest in looking at the numbers and the spend and where it all resides. This gave us the boost we needed to show that we don't know where all the spend is or where we haven't always been compliant. And without a tool, we won't know! And that's probably the reason why we're going to be able to get a VMS this next fiscal year.
Q: And what is your opinion of contingent workforce management as a profession?
A: I absolutely think it's a profession. Contingent programs continue to grow, and sizeable programs require leadership and maintenance. I would recommend it as a profession. It is interesting, challenging, and provides the opportunity to work with a greater part of your organization's community and suppliers. See many different angles of the business. Have a deeper-rooted understanding of your colleagues' needs and requirements.
Q: And what skills do you need to be a good one?
A: Problem-solving and strong oral and written communication skills. And I do feel that it helps to have some background in negotiation and management. I think that there is great overlap in this profession between procurement and HR, so wherever it resides in different organizations, it's helpful to have either one of those backgrounds or a little bit of both!