CWS 3.0: December 11, 2013

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Suppliers’ Concerns for 2014

What is on the minds of suppliers as they look ahead to 2014? There are some common themes that are ever present in our discussions with them. We take a look at a few.

RFPs and bidding. Specifically, suppliers are becoming choosier in what they bid on as they strive to be more strategic with how they spend their time and recruitment efforts. So they are looking beyond the often high profile account name into the details of the contract. Accounts — regardless of the brand appeal — with too many discount structures, strong “no-contact” rules and low/dictated margins require just as much effort to support as those without as many restrictions. Staffing firms care about delivering quality service, which becomes more difficult to deliver if the contract limits their ability to get the best candidates at a market rate.

Buyers, please be reasonable in your RFP demands, or you risk losing out on working with some suppliers that can provide quality talent and strategic insight.

Recruiting based on relationships. No staffing firm is interested in providing sub-standard, low cost or quality candidates to support an account. Doing so would make them look bad to the buying company, the contractors and their own internal staff. Staffing and recruitment is a people business, built on trusting relationships. The entire process affects people’s livelihood and reputation. As much as some may think that technology can do the much of the job of the recruiter, the truth is that recruiters may be more efficient with the use of technology, but in the long run, they will always depend on their relationships with the candidates and ultimately building their pool of candidates with referrals from other contractors.

Don’t squeeze your suppliers. Let them do what they know best: recruiting based on the relationships they have spent their lives building. Their reputation matters to them. Let the staffing firms do their jobs and buyers will get the right workers in place.

Quality. At the end of the day, buyers care about quality. Gone are the days where cost was the most important factor associated with choosing a supplier or candidate; now most are more concerned with the quality of the placement and are willing to pay more for it. But quality means something different to everyone. Some define quality in the process by which the candidate is engaged, was it a quality process, easy, and did it meet my expectations? Others will dive into how well the candidates acclimated in the first week and how long it took them to be productive. There are some who measure quality of the workers provided by early turnover, others by the actual quality of work submitted. If a worker from inside the company was assigned the same task as a temp worker would it be of the same or better quality?

Quality interpretations notwithstanding, buyers of staffing services need to spend time with staffing firms working out their collective definition of quality prior to engaging workers. Regular assessments of what quality means should also be addressed as the relationship progresses. This way both sides benefit.

Partnership. Partnership is another word we often hear from both sides of the equation. But the term often is abused by both buyers and suppliers. What does it mean? The Webster’s dictionary defines partnership in the following ways:

  1. the state of being a partner: Participation
  2. a legal relation existing between two or more persons contractually associated as joint principals in a business
    1. a relationship resembling a legal partnership and usually involving close cooperation between parties having specified and joint rights and responsibilities

To me, personally, “joint rights and responsibilities” is the most important part of that definition. How many times is the word partnership used in cases where the expectation is that one partner is more culpable than the other? Maybe in 2014, both sides could consider swapping the word “partnership” with “joint rights and responsibilities”; just imagine how the nature of business dealings and simple conversations would change!

2014 is just three weeks away, and we can all work together to make it a great year. Consider how you work with your suppliers, from how you write your contracts to how you interact when times are good and, even more important, how you resolve a problem. Make it your responsibility to respect your “joint rights and responsibilities” and expect the same in return. 

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