CWS 3.0: December 1, 2010 - Vol 2.23

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In the Spotlight

In this issue, CWS 30 chatted with Monica J. Mahler, human resources project consultant with Fiserv. The $4.1 billion company, headquartered in Brookfield, Wis., provides technology solutions for the financial services industry. Among other solutions driving change in the industry, Fiserv creates electronic banking solutions so its clients can deliver digital banking services to their consumers. The U.S. market leader in account processing services, Fiserv processed nearly 1.3 billion online bill pay transactions for financial institutions in 2008. Mahler shares responsibility for the company's $20 million temporary services program with a strategic sourcing procurement professional. In addition, the program relies on an external managed service provider and a vendor managed system. Read about her challenges and how she views the profession.
Q: Could you describe your program?
A: Our temp services program focuses on our U.S.-based Fiserv businesses and includes all types of our temporary staffing needs. We provide temp staffing services for clerical, light industrial, professional and technical skill sets in our program. We do use an external VMS and an MSP partner for the program. The program includes all of the recruited positions that our MSP secures as well as our payrolled temp workers.
Q: How many temporary workers do you use a year?
A: Annually it runs around 350, give or take. We've used as many as 600; the volume depends on business needs.
Q: And what is your primary skill set?
A: It's actually a fifty-fifty mix between the clerical/light industrial and the professional/technical skill sets. It is balanced because we are very diverse, and a fair amount of our businesses have clerical and light industrial roles. For example, our core processing areas use have clerical and light industrial workers to support their businesses, while some of our electronic banking services require the support of a number of professional and technical divisions. So it's about a fifty-fifty mix.
Q: You manage a temporary workforce program sitting in HR. More and more, we are seeing procurement in charge of CW programs. How is it working out?
A: We do have a strategic sourcing procurement function. As a matter of fact, our executive sponsor for the (CW) program leads the strategic sourcing function. And, in addition to me, one of the members helping us lead the CW program is a Fiserv strategic sourcing manager. So while I am the "manager" of the program, our strategic sourcing procurement function is a key component to it ensuring its continued success.
As a result, our program is a partnership between the human resources function and our strategic sourcing function. I just happen to be the program manager and am in the human resources function.
Q: What are your goals for the contingent workforce program for the coming year?
A: There are a few key areas that we're working on. First is to make sure that we continue to meet the needs for our users. Second, we'll continue to focus on reducing the cost of temporary services across the enterprise. In addition, we are working diligently to ensure we receive best-in-class, consistent performance results from our MSP partner. And we are always in the process of enhancing our operational efficiency. We are continually seeking processes that maximize efficiency, as well as mitigate the risks involved in the use of contingent labor.
Q: How long have you been in the contingent workforce space and what do you think about it?
A: I have been very actively engaged in it since about 2007. One of the things I observed when we first got into it was that a lot of suppliers in the market leveraged their recruitment/staffing capability and tacked on the MSP services to their offerings. The suppliers were focused and evaluated on acquiring talent.
Since then, I've seen a shift in the market. The end users of contingent labor have been requesting that the suppliers offer expert MSP services in addition to providing great talent. The market has helped the suppliers refine their MSP skills.
The other piece, which I think is more due to the evolution of business operations, is how organizations are using the function of contingent workforce management. Even three or four years ago, CWM was seen more traditionally as just managing a contingent workforce. And I think now businesses are seeing CWM as a means to manage their business more efficiently and effectively. CWM is being viewed more strategically. And I think that will continue to be used in this way as we get out of the recession into a better economic climate.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I like to see how the temporary labor solutions that we enable provide positive impact for our business. We've helped our businesses be more flexible and adaptable. When business volumes change significantly, we're able to provide valuable temp staffing solutions to address the need. We've also provided specific niche skills needed to satisfy specific client engagements. And it really charges me up when this direct positive on the business is evident.
The other part of the role that I really enjoy is the fact that it's at the intersection of different functions. I have to balance what's the right thing to do in terms of human resources policies while managing suppliers from a strategic sourcing perspective. Meanwhile, the CW program has to protect Fiserv and mitigate the legal risks embedded within all those areas. It's fun to see all of these objectives come together. It's fun and challenging, too, because sometimes the objectives compete. But it is a fascinating space to be in.
Q: What don't you like about your job?
A: I think one of the biggest challenges we have is managing the program well, given the resources that are available to support it. My role is HR project consultant in addition to managing the contingent program, and being able to do both well is sometimes challenging. Now we're adding resources to the program, so something that we're looking to change.
Q: Outline something to me that saved your skin on the job.
A: It would be our executive sponsor. We made a significant shift in our temporary employment services program. Before actually having a program, our businesses bought their temp labor from whomever they chose. We changed that by moving to an enterprise-wide, consistent, standardized method with an MSP provider. That was a significant organizational change.
Previously, hiring managers might bring in anyone (contingent worker) they liked. Now, they use our VMS and connect with the MSP program management office -- perhaps someone that they don't know. That's a significant change. It was our executive sponsor who was engaged in setting the vision of the CW program and setting the course for what the enterprise needed. He was quite active and engaged in identifying what the objectives were and was involved in selecting the MSP.
He helped reinforce the process, as well as connect and engage leaders when they were getting accustomed to the enterprise program. He did the same with many stakeholders, asking them to accept the change and even providing coaching when required. He continues to do that even today. His support has not waned. He saved my skin more than once.
Q: What advice would you give to other contingent workforce managers?
A: Invest time to understand the business, investigate and confirm the right scope that you want for your program. Contingent workforce includes anything from the traditional temporaries to independent contractors to those on a statement of work. And if you're starting out, you need to know your business objectives to know what's going to be right for your program. Even with that, it is best to identify a three- to five-year plan to manage what's going to be right for the business.
Do your research. Don't underestimate the value of that. Research what's occurring in your own organization as well as the contingent workforce space. Study the suppliers, and get to know who is doing what. The other key piece is understanding your service-level agreements and key process indicators so you can hold providers accountable. Last, use a VMS -- it's the most effective means to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.
Q: Any specific challenges that you faced in the last couple of years that you want to talk about?
A: Moving from a distributed decentralized process to a standardized centralized program was the most significant challenge. We needed to support the early adopters and challenge some people to move toward the change. So we did a lot of training on the VMS. We reviewed and confirmed that people were in compliance with the program. We also did our best to reinforce leaders in compliance.
Q: What is your opinion of contingent workforce management as a profession and would you recommend someone enter it?
A: It will continue to grow as companies are seeing the strategic value of CWM to manage their businesses. Organizations are going to see a way to be able to use staffing as a competitive advantage. It will also continue to grow as workers age and change. Would I recommend someone enter into it? Yeah, go for it. Jump on it right away. It's the intersection of a number of disciplines that provides great development and growth for individuals, too. Organizations will continue to use staffing as a competitive advantage and this is a marvelous intersection to be in.
Q: What skills do you need to be a good one?
A: In our organization, change management skills as well project management skills are important. Vendor management and strategic sourcing skills are needed. Understanding the human resources profession and the related laws and regulations are also an asset.
I also think personal character plays a part in being a great program manager. For example, courage in the face of change is one component -- that persistence to focus on the value that the program brings to the organization as well persistence to ensure that the value of the program is confirmed throughout the organization. The other piece would be interpersonal adaptability: being able to adapt to the many players you encounter in this role. You may have to deal with the contingent workers, the hiring managers and the exec sponsors all on exact same day. Thus, interpersonal adaptability will result in a more effective program manager.

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