SI Review: October 2012

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Straight Talk From the Customer

Pave the Way

How to develop a strong relationship with your VMS/MSP providers

By Tim Keefe

There is a perception in the staffing world that it is nearly impossible to develop a strong and long-term relationship with a vendor management system/managed service program. And it is even more difficult to parlay this into a relationship with the end customer. I have to disagree with this sentiment.

In 2008, overburdened managing more than 120 staffing suppliers, few of them true partnerships, CH2M Hill implemented a VMS/MSP staffing strategy. In the past four years, I have seen first-hand just how strong and successful the relationship can be between staffing suppliers and an MSP.

Be open. The decision to implement a VMS/MSP strategy is becoming more and more common for large organizations. Unfortunately, many staffing suppliers view an MSP as a roadblock, rather than embracing them as a partner who can assist in facilitating their success. In our case, and many others, as the relationship grew between CH2M Hill and our MSP, so too did the relationship and success of the top staffing suppliers.

You might wonder what the top staffing suppliers do differently, ensuring their success with the VMS/ MSP, and the end client. Here are my observations and tips.

First and foremost, they take the time to get to know the MSP team, learn their roles and express your interest in being one of their “go-to” suppliers. They ask to see the metrics showing how they are performing compared with those of their competitors. They ask for advice and tips for success from the MSP, then follow through. In this way, they develop that strong relationship with the MSP that others in the industry say can’t be achieved. And they continue building the relationship, placement by placement.

Try it. After you have some success under your belt, ask for monthly planning meeting with the MSP to understand future needs. Become a partner to the MSP.

Back to basics. There are several other keys to the top staffing firms’ success. These may seem pretty elementary, but often success is all about going back to the basics. They learn the technology and take advantage of any technology training that is offered. Many VMSs have similar features, but learning the nuances will increase your efficiency and success. Other ways to be successful are to follow the program guidelines. Understand if you can contact managers directly, or if all communication must be facilitated through the VMS/MSP. Direct communication with managers when it is prohibited demonstrates that you do not respect the program guidelines or the MPS. Learn and understand the required processes and procedures to efficiently onboard your candidates. Delays due to incomplete background screenings or onboarding paperwork frustrate managers, and they are a poor reflection of your knowledge of the client. Attend all events hosted by the MSP. Supplier forums and manager qualification calls are the perfect way to gain more insight, and get exposure to the end client.

Just rewards. Everyone knows the great rewards of becoming a preferred supplier. What many may not know are all of the ways preferred suppliers can partner with their MSP and client company, ensuring success. We have a preferred supplier that has placed dedicated representatives on-site at five of our locations. They travel with the MSP’s management folks to the various CH2M Hill locations to understand challenges and develop strategic solutions. For example, this preferred supplier not only identified 25 electricians in two weeks, but also escorted them to the project on the North Slope region of Alaska. They’ve also opened two welding training and testing facilities to develop talent to meet our staffing needs. These are just a few examples of their actions, demonstrating a partnership with the MSP, and ultimately, CH2M Hill.

Yes, it is very possible to develop strong and successful relationships with a VMS/MPS. As other Fortune 1,000 companies continue to implement these strategic programs, the staffing suppliers who embrace the program will also win.

Tim Keefe is vice president of enterprise talent acquisition and deployment at CH2M Hill.

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