CWS 3.0: February 8, 2011 - Vol. 3.4

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In the Spotlight: The MSP has revolutionized the CW space

For this issue, CWS 30 spoke with Gary Campbell, manager, procurement operation services, at Bayer Business and Technology Services LLC. The U.S. subsidiary of Bayer is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Penn. Best known for its aspirin, the company has a slew of products ranging from pharmaceutical and medical products to car tires to refrigerator insulation to pest protection for crops, homes and pets. Campbell's group provides procurement operation services to the company's North American operations. He manages a $125 million CW program that uses a VMS and 2,000 workers across a variety of skill sets. Campbell's priority is to ensure the smooth running of the program. Read his views on contingent workforce management and what the future has to hold.

Q: What are your goals for the coming year?

 A: We've just recently gone through a supplier optimization process, where we worked closely with an external consulting firm that specializes in CW solutions to align with industry best practices. As a result, we have some pretty detailed service-level agreements built into our contracts that we're looking to implement with our suppliers. Then hopefully we'll build a much better delivery system and that will be a win/win for both the suppliers and us. 

And how many suppliers do you have?

We will have 34 after the optimization is complete. 

How do your customers rate the program? Are they happy with it?

Yes. We've had a couple of surveys. We ran an internal survey back at the first of 2009 and utilized a more comprehensive third-party survey in late 2009. The customer base rated us above average, and all were very happy, with no negative feedback. 

Describe the CW arena when you first entered it and what it is like now. 

I entered the staffing industry back in 1995 in a vendor-on-premises engagement. Back in the '90s, the vendor-on-premises concept was the preemptive approach to MSP. Since then, I've bounced back and forth between the staffing industry and human resources to procurement. My career, however, has always been geared around recruiting.

What has the evolution been like from when you first entered staffing to now?

We've gone from just having the ability to manage and be strategic with a segment of the contingent workforce to really being more engaged with the entire enterprise. And all skill sets are now managed under more of a structured process. And technology has really aided that. The VMS technology has provided the avenue for that management. It's much more transparent now and customers are seeing its value. Initially, I think they saw the value in the cost savings and being able to monitor their head count and how much money they were spending. Today we view staffing as more part of a human capital solution and how a contingent workforce can aid the strategic competiveness of a company.

What do you think the biggest challenges are that managers face when it comes to using the VMS smartly and efficiently?

I think a lot of it is that some managers may use the VMS only once or twice a year. I think there's always the hesitation or apprehensiveness to change from what they're accustomed to. I've always been a proponent of being more strategic, so we want to make sure that the managers all have the appropriate tool kit at their hands to understand how to use the technology. So the goal is really to help them understand the use of the technology and what benefits they can get from the technology. 

How do you do that at Bayer?

Well, we hold a number of business review meetings with our internal client groups. We have ongoing training and refresher courses for our managers and our team works very well with their various business partners. Individual team members are assigned to a particular division. That person gets to know all their users (especially the power users) and then those that use the system less frequently. We provide one point of contact for a particular group.

What can the CW manager do to make the VMS really work for the company and help take the CW program up a notch? 

I think essentially you have to make certain that you've got a compelling business case, and really show the value of what the formal management of your contingent workforce is to that C level. And you have to be able to impact the bottom line of the organization. You need to show the executive suite how contingent workforce management can make a difference and have that impact on not only the bottom line but the company's revenue. I think that's the key. It's hard to build it from the ground up. You have to make sure you get that support from the top down.

Let's talk about what do you like most about your job?

I've got a passion for HR, for human capital. I've got a passion for what I believe benefits an organization, and when I was introduced to the MSP concept back in 2006, I was really convinced that this was beneficial for all parties. This really was going to revolutionize the space. I just realized that there were so many benefits to the managed service provider concept from an organizational perspective, as well as from the contingent workforce point of view, and even from the staffing industry. 

What don't you like about your job?

There's still a component of having to sell the success of a solution no matter where you are. So any time you bring on new customers, there is some challenge there. We know the CW program works. But there's the occasional naysayer you run into. We don't run into that as often here anymore because it's been successful, and people have benefitted from the program. But we still on occasion have to go back and reintroduce the value.

What was your biggest success in the last year?

There have been a few. In my opinion the biggest one is our success with bringing Germany on board. As Bayer's global HQ is based in Germany, we have partnered with our colleagues there to implement a VMS and CW solution to manage a pilot program. The success of this pilot will determine how far we can go.

Any specific challenges that you've faced that you want to talk about?

I think the challenge is really just to make sure we carefully balance the cost of contingent labor. Issues like rising costs and SUTA place pressure on us. Then there is the cost of managing the contingent worker. We try to manage any price increases as carefully as we can. One of the reasons we do a good job is because of our links to the staffing industry. We all come from the industry. The challenge is really defending where we are and our pricing and we'll continue to do that. Related to this is the challenge of not losing suppliers to any cost pressures.

What advice would you give to other contingent workforce managers?

Make certain that you really have a good handle on not just your contingent workforce, but around employment regulatory issues in general. Have a firm understanding on what your customer wants and needs. The fact that we are in step with our customer is one of the reasons for our success. So when you build a program, or are managing one, make certain you are in touch with your customer.

What is your opinion of contingent workforce management as a profession, and would you recommend someone to enter it? 

I certainly would. Personally, I believe that in the course of the next 10 to 15 years we'll see a shift, given what we've just gone through with the economy I see a shift in the makeup of organizations with their contingent workers becoming more prevalent. It comes down to a total human capital management solution. Companies need to be competitive around CW solutions and differentiate themselves.Those days of CW managers looking at temporary workers as just backfilling for someone who may be out for a week or two are gone.

Today, given the different solutions like outsourcing and constraints like limited head count, a contingent workforce offers a flexible solution that allows companies to do the job competitively. So, from that perspective, individuals that start their careers dealing with CW issues, there's going to be a future for you. And I think I would embrace it. Get to know it. Understand it. Read as much as you can on it. And I'm still waiting for a professional certification around contingent labor. Much like the Society for Human Resource Management has for human resources. 

Where do you see the VMS going? 

I think for now you're going to still see the VMS solutions that are offered today. I think, though, they're going to constantly get tweaked from a scalability perspective. They're going to get better. They will continue to be integrated with organizations, their own enterprise resource planning systems. I still see the VMS being very much a player in the contingent workforce arena over the course of the next 10 to 15 years, especially as the definition of contingent worker continues to evolve. The technology will therefore continue to evolve with it. I think you will also see smaller companies increasingly looking at solutions that are more tailored to them.

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