CWS 3.0: May 4, 2011 - Vol. 3.11

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In the Spotlight: People Are Not Commodities

This issue of CWS30 features Sanjay Shah, senior director of workforce management at Automatic Data Processing Inc., a $26 billion provider of business outsourcing solutions including HR, payroll, tax and benefits administration. Headquartered in Roseland, N.J., the company has a $100 million plus contingent workforce program that utilizes around 1,700 temporary workers across a wide range of skill sets — from IT to light industrial to clerical/admin. Read how Shah administers the program in-house with the help of a CW team and a vendor management system and what he thinks the future holds

Q: What are your goals for this year?

A: Our immediate goal is to finish our program rollout in Canada. We’ve implemented a French Canadian version as well as an English version, and we’re looking to go international, but not just yet as we only went live in Canada just a couple of weeks ago.

Q: What has the program done for your company?

A: It’s provided us visibility into our spend. It’s provided support from a compliance aspect, and streamlined the process for the company. So, no matter what division or department you’re in, everyone is following the same processes as far as using contingent workers.   This provides a window into process and overall spend that was not available to us before.

Q: And do you have cost savings?

A: We do have cost savings. We’ve had average savings of 16 percent quarter over quarter for the past three years.

Q: Let’s talk about what the contingent workforce arena was like when you first entered it and now.

A: I’ve been in the space now for approximately six years. The space has changed dramatically since then. Earlier, the VMS was used for only time tracking and billing. Now, it’s being used as a knowledge base. People in the industry use the VMS to plan their workforce. The whole industry is getting involved in this.

Q: What do you like most about your job?

A: I love the excitement. I love the fact that we positively impact lives every day with our programs.

Q: And what don’t you like about your job?

A: I don’t like the frustrations from folks trying to get around the system. Such as suppliers who are trying to get around our CW program and end up not complying with our rules. They’re trying to take shortcuts. I think that everyone should play by the same rules and I get frustrated when suppliers try to go outside that area.

Q: Are you referring to rogue spend?

A: It’s not just rogue spend, but there are those managers that don’t completely understand the potential risks of not following the program guidelines and who reach out to suppliers outside our process. These folks tell suppliers not to worry about processing the requirements in the system.  This can generate exposure for the company from a compliance and legal standpoint, which we are looking to eliminate.

Q: And this comes mostly from hiring managers?

A: No it’s across the board. It could be managers but also suppliers telling the managers not to worry about it.

Q: Is this one of the biggest challenges are that you face in your job?

A: I think the biggest challenge is the fact that you’re working with individuals. People are not commodities and you want to treat them as individuals. However, they’re not employees of your company so it’s tough to walk that fine line when dealing with consultants and contractors. The most difficult part is that fine line on how does one treat them as individuals but not as employees?  

Q: How are you taking the CW program up a notch?

A: We’ve done a couple of different things, one of which is learning and staying on top of the latest market research on how things are being done in the industry. We are trying to be market leaders in the Contingent Workforce Landscape. We’ve also done a lot of networking and speak in conferences and participate in round tables. This gives us an idea of how others are doing things. In this process, we collect best practices and apply them to our program.  Our program  is run as a three-way partnership between us, our VMS tool and the suppliers. We have learned to always solicit feedback.

More importantly, we pay attention to the feedback given to us by our suppliers.

As a result, one of the things that we’ve put into place, which some other programs are walking away from, is allowing the suppliers to talk to the managers. So, as opposed to our team being in the middle, the managers are able to tell their requirements directly to the suppliers. So there’s no middle man.

Q: And that helps get a quality worker.

A: Yes.  A better quality worker. The manager can tell you on a piece of paper that he requires five years of experience in MS Office, the hard skills. But it’s the soft skills the manager can emphasize in conversations with the supplier. We are not going to be able to do that. But the specific hiring manager can.

Q: What advice would you give to other contingent workforce managers trying to do this?

A: I would tell them to network, to talk to other folks, find out what others are doing. I would tell them to research the marketplace and also start being proactive about where the industry is heading. They should select a tool that is going to grow with their program and not build their program around the tool. I don’t think enough folks are looking at the future of our industry. We (at ADP) are starting to talk about it, but I haven’t heard a lot about it from others. Folks running programs today are so focused on the daily operations of their program that they are not looking at how the program is going to evolve tomorrow.

Q: You want people to start looking and thinking about the future of CW programs.

A: There’s going to be a big evolution in CW programs. The tools are going to have to change to meet these needs. Mindsets are going to have to change. And the programs as we know it are just the first step. Now there’s going to be another step.  

Q: What is your biggest contingent workforce success in the last year?

A: Our biggest success is that we’re able to roll out a program to Canada where we’ve met all the requirements as well as being able to provide a dual-language system (French and English for the VMS).

Q: What did it take to do this?

A: All documents had to be translated. We had to work with our VMS supplier, so they translated all their Web pages. Each individual manager can select on the fly what language they want to see. All the documents, the legal contracts were updated.

Q: Is there a mentor who’s really made a difference to the way you’ve handled this job?

A: I have a mentor (a CW professional) whose mindset and attitudes have really helped me. I’m able to discuss with him where I think our industry is heading. And he’s able to help me in my thought processes. Also, I have a mentor at ADP who has been very instrumental in this, she has been terrific in providing guidance and support allowing us to build this successful program.

Q: What is your opinion of contingent workforce management as a profession?

A: I think it is definitely a profession. I think it’s a job in and of itself and not just something a procurement person or an HR person does.

Q: Would you recommend someone to enter it?

A: I absolutely would. I think that this is probably one of the most exciting areas to be in right now.

Q: Why?

A: Based on changes and where our (CW) landscape is going. The programs are going to evolve and it’s going to touch all aspects and business units in companies, not just HR and Procurement.

Q: What skills do you need to be good at this job?

A: I think you need to have passion for this. And you need to understand human capital. You need to have a grasp of analytics, or perhaps have someone on your team who can help you with the analytics. Understanding aspects of employment law are crucial or, again, having someone on your team who can help you with it. It could also be your employment law group.  The ideal person is someone who possesses all these skills or capabilities within themselves or can meld them from their team.

Q: And where do you see all this going?

A: I see us as being leaders in the next evolution of our programs, of our industry. This program will evolve to the point where we’re incorporating it into every aspect of a company’s operations. Contingent workers are going to be used everywhere. They are going to be more and more crucial to a company’s success.

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