This issue of CWS 30 features Lucille Safarian-Schweitzer, global buyer of contingent labor at Nestlé, a leading nutrition, health and wellness company. Nestlé's headquarters is in Vevey, Switzerland, though the company has operations in many parts of the world. Safarian-Schweitzer operates out of the United States, where Nestlé's main businesses include Nestle USA, Nestle Prepared Foods, Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, Nestlé Waters North America; Nestlé Nutrition, which includes Nestlé Performance Nutrition, Infant Nutrition and Jenny Craig; and Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. The company's global contingent workforce program, which is upward of $400 million, utilizes temporary workers across a range of skill sets, from IT to heavy and light industrial to finance and marketing. Safarian-Schweitzer manages the program internally with the help of SAP software. Read how she administers the program worldwide and what her challenges are.
Q: Describe your contingent workforce program.
A: We are a global program. Nestlé has factories or operations in almost every country in the world, and most use temporary or contingent labor. The skill lines that I manage include IT contractors, and light and heavy industrial skill sets, which we use significantly in all of our plant locations. Additional skill lines that I manage include finance and accounting, clerical admin, scientific and marketing contingents. Marketing predominately involves the merchandising types of roles and some of the creative roles as well.
I am the global buyer. Some of the global markets that we're focusing on at this time include the locations within North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Q: Without a VMS, what kind of software do you use to manage your contingent labor?
A: We use our internal software and our internal systems, which are predominately our SAP systems. We also use Ariba for our sourcing.
Q: What are your goals for the year?
A: Essentially for the remainder of this year our goals are to continue to implement value-added efficiencies that will generate savings on a global basis. What this means is that we're taking a deeper look into our locations, particularly our large spend plant locations.
We want to look at these large spend locations and determine how we and our suppliers can better manage our temporary labor, what can we do better and in what way can we improve that will deliver value as well as generate cost savings. We have identified specific locations where we are looking further at these efficiencies. We're also looking at standard practices and ways of working. We're continuing to work on standard contracts, standard RFIs, RFPs across a global landscape. We are continually looking at delivering savings on a global foundation by continuing to leverage our global spend and executing our global strategy.
Q: Describe the contingent workforce arena when you first entered it.
A: I've been in this contingent workforce arena for over 20 years now. In that time we have certainly seen a shift in paradigm in this industry and I believe that this shift is going to continue. When I first entered, it was predominately about consolidating your supply base, leveraging spend, and then providing exceptional customer service, particularly to your internal stakeholders. The interesting thing is that much of this was done manually, without sophisticated technology. And it was amazing what we accomplished at that time.
Today, the industry has become much more complex and highly developed. Certainly we have seen that technology has enabled the development of many new innovative tools that have come and gone from the market. These tools allow us to manage the contingent labor category more closely. With all of the technology, we now have much better visibility and analysis into our spend. We have more robust reporting capabilities. We can do much more benchmarking, which allows us to make better-informed decisions in a global and virtual environment. Aggregating our global spend has provided us much greater leverage now for negotiation. Of course with this comes the need for more standardization of processes.
Q: What do you think the reasons are for this continuous shift in the industry?
A: I believe today there's more visibility around contingent labor and in particular around indirect spend. I also think that as we continue to gain further exposure to global markets and the virtual workplace continues to emerge, we will continue to see a shift in the industry to accommodate these ongoing changes.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: I love my job and the ability to do it here at Nestlé, a global leader. The scope of my job is extensive and complex. This role provides me with great visibility into many different areas within our company, with a high level of exposure globally. I enjoy looking at the trends in the marketplace and understanding how those trends are going to affect business here at Nestlé. My job is dynamic, very fast-paced and exciting. I have the opportunity to make a tremendous impact. I think that's what I like the best, I can make a tremendous impact with what I do and the decisions that I make.
Q: What do you mean by tremendous impact?
A: I can make an impact at the corporate level by providing value-added services, and at the same time always impacting the bottom-line by identifying savings. I also believe that with contingent labor, we are impacting people's lives in a very positive way as well.
Q: What don't you like about your job?
A: I cannot think of anything at this point that I do not like about my job. It's very dynamic and exciting, and to make this impact that we're talking about is extremely rewarding to me.
Q: What about constant supplier interaction? Does that drive you crazy?
A: Of course we are solicited by a great deal of suppliers that want to do business with us. I feel that when these suppliers contact me I always have something to learn. There's always something new in this space. I'm going to be meeting with a supplier next week and I'm excited to see what offerings they have. Yes, it gets challenging at times , there's no question about it, and some have more to offer than others. But in the end, I have always worked to have a very collaborative relationship with our suppliers. I have developed a rigorous process for suppliers trying to become a preferred supplier, and once a supplier is a part of that preferred supplier mix we want to approach the relationship as a partnership. It becomes more of a collaborative partnership and really great things are accomplished that way.
Q: Outline something to me that saved your skin on the job.
A: I would say what saved my skin on the job the most would be my strong experience in understanding this space from the corporate side and from the supplier side. At an earlier point in my career, I owned my own [staffing] company, and that experience provided me with the strong knowledge of contingent labor strategies from a supplier perspective. This really gives me an edge in my negotiations, in contract development, in management and process development. This experience and knowledge from a suppliers' perspective, along with my 20 years of experience in this industry, has been invaluable to me.
Q: So were you a supplier when you had your own company?
A: I was a supplier. It was predominately in the IT space, supplying contractors and doing permanent staffing as well.
Q: How long have you been in Nestlé?
A: I have been here at Nestlé now for 13 years in a variety of roles. I started in IT and that was really valuable to me as I developed the procurement process around the acquisition of IT contractors.
Q: What advice would you give to other contingent workforce managers?
A: The obvious piece of advice would be to seek strong executive support for your programs. I would say also that strong internal stakeholder support is extremely vital and I recommend to contingent workforce managers that they always work to develop and maintain strong relationships with their stakeholders. You have to garner their respect and trust and I believe you do that by learning their business, knowing what's important to them -- what's of value -- and listening to them, so that they feel like you are a part of their organization. This allows you to be actively involved in their initiatives upfront, from the planning stages where it's most important, rather than being an afterthought.
Q: Any specific challenges that you faced in the last couple of years that you would like to talk about?
A: Obviously a key challenge for us has been the economy within the contingent labor marketplace. We know that the trends in contingent labor are directly related to the state of the economy. Also on a global basis, identifying that correct balance with your supplier mix can be a challenge. In other words, finding the correct balance between large global providers and the value that some of the smaller local suppliers can provide as well. The very complexity of our programs itself provides for challenges.
Q: What is your opinion of contingent workforce management as a profession, and would you recommend someone to enter it?
A: I would highly recommend it. I think it's an emerging profession. I believe that this profession's going to continue to grow, because corporations are beginning to take a good, hard look at how much they spend in this space, and when you look at that spend, how much of that spend is really controlled, and how much of it is leveraged and aggregated to its fullest potential. I believe that there is tremendous growth potential in this area and that a good, experienced contingent workforce manager can provide real value to an organization.
Q: What skills do you need to be a good one?
A: An important skill is the ability to lead and influence in order to execute and meet the objectives of your program. You need to know how to work with and influence people in both a local and global environment. Having a vision in order to develop a contingent workforce strategy and the ability to execute and deliver on that strategy is important. A CW manager needs to be results-focused and a strong communicator with an emphasis on the listening skills. And finally, experience in negotiation, contract management and in developing innovative processes are also essential.