SI Review: July 2013

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Straight Talk From the Customer

United We Stand

The complex CW ecosystem calls for cooperation among all parties

By Shelley Williams

The contingent workforce is expanding along with the solutions and services supporting it. No longer are staffing companies just sourcing temps for their clients — they are offering end-to-end process management, automation, independent contractor management, recruitment process outsourcing, workforce management strategies and much more. Along with the growth of services, new players have emerged whose focus is not on sourcing the temps but the management of compliance and systems around the process. At the same time, mature players are evolving their services to capitalize on new technologies and ideas.

Numerous options. In the midst of this, the user or buyer is left perplexed, wondering how best to evaluate and compare the plethora of proposals. Beyond the traditional staffing companies, which have grown to mammoth sizes, exist specialists that are attractive because of their specific subject matter expertise, such as independent contractor engagement service (ICES), and recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) providers.

The models in the contingent workforce space are many and varied and have been changing over time. For instance, the traditional question of a preferred supplier list or managed service program changed to deciding whether the MSP should be vendor neutral, which again altered to whether the program should be run externally with a VMS or internally with a VMS. Now, many organizations have found themselves with a vendor-neutral MSP with a separate statement-of-work (SOW) service and an ICES, all automated by a VMS. Often, these services have been added as layers — sometimes in sequence — as opposed to part of a single strategy.

What does this all mean? Gone are the days of simple supplier relationship management. Performance management can be tricky with a number of different parties providing parts of the service. The disadvantage of this situation to a client organization is easy to see — it is spending more time managing the category; further, it is probably spending more money (at least in the short term) on the different services and automation and time on figuring out the complex benchmarking. This leads the customer feeling not entirely confident that things will work out.

It’s not all bad news, of course. Clients buy these services for a reason. With the plethora of services come benefits like efficiencies, compliance and risk management, transparency and better user experience around the management of contingent labor. Given the state of affairs, what can vendors do to make things easier for the buyers of contingent labor and vice versa?

Cooperation amongst different suppliers, clients. Let’s start with the need for better cooperation not just between the client organization and the supplier but also among the various suppliers that comprise the end-to-end service. In order for there to be a seamless process, a better user experience and a transparent way of calculating performance and benefits, all parties must come to realize that they need to work in the spirit of partnership.

Involve vendors from the get go. HR, procurement or both will launch an initiative to examine the challenge and requirements around the use of contingent labor in the company. My advice to them is to start involving some of the potential vendors right from the outset to gain an understanding of how other organizations solve their challenges.

Throughout the exploration phase, the suppliers can help define the client’s requirement and provide subject-matter expertise around what solutions are available. If this can be done with an open mind, then the supplier builds a good working relationship with the client organization and in the process should learn more about the client’s challenges.

I have been fortunate to have worked closely with open-minded suppliers that have put the client’s needs first. The best suppliers work to support the client organization in an organic fashion without forcing it down any particular path. In the end, if the client organization is able to define the requirement well and choose the best solution, then the supplier that has been part of the discovery process will have a good understanding of the qualitative criteria of the sourcing process.

Overall, when suppliers work collaboratively with each other and transparently with clients, it will enhance the award, implementation and relationship management process.

Shelley Williams is the global transformation lead, Contingent Workforce, at Bloomberg L.P.

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