Next week is our annual Contingent Workforce Strategies (CWS) Summit in San Diego. In its eighth year, it is set to be our largest buyer event ever. As we prepare for this event, I find myself considering the state of the contingent workforce industry and how it is constantly evolving.
These changes are not as market-driven as others industries, but the forces that act upon the contingent workforce are complex. We have to contend with legislative and regulatory changes, the ever-increasing sophistication of buyers/providers and the technology that supports all. In years past, contingent workforce program managers were primarily interested in addressing temporary workers procured via staffing firms, now they are expanding their scope to include global categories of workers, consulting and complex statement of work categories of spend. By this expanded definition, we are talking about a global addressable spend worth north of $1.5 trillion — about the size of Canada’s gross domestic product, according to United Nations estimates. And according to many studies on the topic, companies will be using more and more.
This means we need to be ready. I’m a big believer in hiring people, not résumés. So when I consider what makes people ready, I look for evidence — specifically, evidence of an ability to make things happen and get results. This to me is more important than any bullet on a résumé. I have found that this serves well in almost every single hire. The core skills that allow people to be successful can be illustrated by what I call the execution cycle: ideate, communicate, execute, maintain and optimize.
Ideate. The ability to look beyond the obvious, absorb and interpret data and create a solution to a problem.
Communicate. The ability to take that idea, communicate it within the organization, build a business case and gather executive support.
Execute. Then, execute the idea in line with what you’ve committed to through your business case.
Maintain. Make sure that you deploy a sustainable solution that can continually support your corporate goals.
Optimize. Make sure that you are deriving the most value possible from your solution.
As you consider your career, think about how many times you’ve gone through this cycle. Be honest. Most people are brought in at some point in this process. For example, many times you’re hired to maintain an existing program. Other times, you’re simply tasked with executing against a larger vision that’s been established for you. But what truly separates excellence from mediocrity is the ability to create a vision, communicate it, execute against that vision and then maintain and optimize the reality that you created. Look for those opportunities. If they don’t exist, create them. And the same should hold true for your providers: Ask them to give concrete examples with references that demonstrate their mastery over the execution cycle. Evaluate the ideas. Are they truly unique or just adequate?
The next decade will be about where we fit into corporate labor strategies. The only way we can be competitive in this changing space is by demanding more of ourselves while we push for excellence.