CWS 3.0: March 12, 2014

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Best Practices to Make Your Program Top-Notch: A Baker's Dozen

A marketplace advances through competition, innovation and the establishment of industry best practices. Some of these best practices are implemented to meet customer priorities better, create competitive advantage or react to changes in operating market requirements. This article covers many best practices found in successful contingent workforce programs today. 

  1. Establish an annual CW program strategy plan. This plan should be aligned specifically to the business’ current fiscal year plan but should also include a long-term vision to support the organization’s overall goals and objectives.
  2. Execute a strategic and tactical operating program focus. Any calendar year will allow for only a few critical, CW program growth initiatives. As a contingent workforce manager, make sure each of those initiatives has a big impact that aligns to the business’ key goals and objectives.
  3. Create and communicate business rules and procedures. This is a core block-and-tackling CW program management element. CW engagement rules and procedures will set the standards in how you manage risk mitigation, cost management, efficient program operation and quality performance. Because no one should be expected to memorize a program’s business rules, they should be published in an easily accessible spot via multiple distributions channels and platforms
  4. Implement a strongly enforceable and supported CW program. This is more easily said than done, but a CW program’s maturity long-term will be directly dependent on the “enforceability” of the program’s rules of engagement. A CW program needs to be backed by an active senior executive (preferably at the C-level) and “mandatory” program business rules and procedures. As the CW program matures globally and takes on new worker categories such as statement-of-work (SOW), voluntary program participation will not support the organization’s overall CW resource goals and objectives. One potential strategy is to invite an internal auditor to sit on your steering committee and chat with them about managing CW risk, mandatory regulations and rules that might be just around the corner.
  5. Engage transparent cost management. Today’s bill rates include multiple-moving cost components, each of which affects various elements of your program in terms of access to required quality talent, an invigorated/competitive staffing supply chain and the ability to execute a balanced cost management strategy that achieves annual budget requirements. So it is essential to mind and manage your bill and pay rate levels as an overall program management best practice. Arbitrarily executing aggressive cost management strategies without visibility and understanding of bill rate fundamentals could create a program that can’t attract required talent, engage staffing suppliers to support the program, and/or worse, one might be overpaying for CW resources engaged.
  6. Conduct an annual risk assessment and mitigation review. CW program statutes at the federal and state levels, along with ongoing court judgments, are occurring at a rapid pace in today’s marketplace, so conducting an annual CW program risk assessment is a required best practice to keep up-to-date. There are a number of established methods to effectively execute a risk assessment, and one can be completed in short order internally. The key elements of this assessment is to identify potential possibility and impact of a risk element and then engage a risk mitigation policy that is proportional to the potential possibility and impact of the risk.
  7. Conduct a program maturity (capability) assessment review. Also on an annual basis, CW program managers need to look beyond their performance statistics and evaluate the status of their program’s capability. The review should include at least these five capability dimensions: comprehensiveness, strategic, governability, measurability and sustainability. This annual capability assessment will help define the most impactful priorities in one’s annual strategic operating plan.
  8. Build a focused metrics portfolio structure. Simply stated, some programs have too many operational metrics (service-level agreements and key performance indicators), which distracts and leaves the overall program management unfocused. CW program management metrics portfolios need to align with an organizations business goals, objectives and annual priorities. The rest is a waste of time and costs for everybody involved. If a metric is engaged, make sure it is meaningful.
  9. Institute an ongoing change management/program communication. The key word in this best practice is ongoing. Most, if not all, CW program are changing on a regular basis, along with the base of engagement managers who use them. This phenomenon of ongoing change will require constant communication, updated program documentation and even training platforms that provide just-in-time counsel on effectively and safely engaging CW resources in one’s workforce. Think professional program services marketing for the best results.
  10. Form a CW program advisory board. A CW program advisory board should be a combination of key internal and external stakeholders who carry significant roles and impact in the organization. It is a special platform to inform, discuss and review the significant, growing role that CW resources play within the company and how increased, safe, leverage of these assets can assist in achieving the organization’s goals and objectives. It’s also a great platform to introduce and launch new CW program growth and capability initiatives.
  11. Implement quality management. Quality in CW program management is proposed to be the most wanted and important virtue evaluating a program’s performance and capability. Unfortunately, it is the least operationally executed best practice. There are a number of fairly reasonable quality management actions that program managers can execute to make a rapid impact in program quality. The first is to understand what the most important CW quality priorities are among their engagement managers and program stakeholders, such as talent quality, cost management or risk mitigation. Once this is understood, the rest of quality management is straightforward.
  12. Execute reliable business decision analysis/CW program data management. It’s the age of big data and CW program activity can create numerous transactional data points. The key practice here is how you representatively and reliably leverage this treasure trove of data to drive strategic and tactical insight. Tactical to enhance program performance and engagement manager satisfaction and strategically so one can further leverage CW resources to support the achievement of the organization’s strategic goals and objectives.
  13. Leverage supply chain partner’s expertise: It’s obviously important to engage the right supply chain partner in terms of a vendor management system and/or managed service provider(s). You certainly need them to be able to tactically deliver the role and management capability they have contractually promised. But too many managers do not leverage the program management expertise that many VMS and MSP vendors can offer via the knowledge and experience they have gained across multiple customer engagements. Supply chain partners can and need to provide more strategic value to the ongoing CW program development efforts. 

These are some of the CW program best practices we see daily in our CWS Council advisory work. If you have other program management best practices of note, please don’t hesitate to let us know. You can share it with other readers in the comment section below.

In addition, many of these best practices above are incorporated in Staffing Industry Analysts’ Certified Contingent Workforce Professional certification program. More information about CCWP can be found here

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