Expanding your contingent workforce program globally can be likened to following a recipe for a great dish — follow the recipe and you will likely end up with success and many happy customers. But what happens when you deviate from a proven recipe? Unlike experimenting with food, you can end up with something that does not meet expectations and have unsatisfied customers. Here’s a quick check-list of key mistakes that CWM program leaders may make when expanding their CWM program globally:
Lack of sponsorship. If you don’t have full support from the top, you are operating in a danger zone. CWM is a complex category and you need full support of an executive champion who has a clear understanding of the investment required to expand globally. Are they prepared to do battle on your behalf? Have you fully communicated the vision and future state of the program?
No clear ROI for the business. The return on investment may be clear for you and your organization — cost savings, improved supplier performance, fulfillment of open jobs, and so on — but for the business, expansion of the CWM program may seem high risk or even detrimental to the day-to-day operations. Make sure you have vetted a clear ROI not just for procurement and HR, but for the key users of contingent labor in your firm.
Moving too fast. In some cases it may be okay to expand aggressively and cover multiple geographies at the same time or at least in a relatively short time. Some organizations can withstand that level of speed for internal change and growth, but in my experience, most organizations cannot. The strategy of underpromising and overdelivering tends to work well in building stakeholder ownership. A more-managed approach with the expansion will help to strengthen your business case and build a stronger portfolio of satisfied internal customers who will likely say positive things about the program.
Minimal project planning. Amazingly, many firms jump into a global expansion with little up-front planning. Project planning is very important and acts as the hub for everything you will do during the expansion. Step-by-step plans for what will happen when, who will be responsible, desired outcomes, and so on, are all important components of a CWM program expansion initiative.
Skimping on appropriate resources. A key word here is “appropriate.” Everyone has to do more with less these days, but that does not mean you can skimp on the appropriate resources when expanding your CWM program. Going global is going to require that you either free up enough resources to make the transition happen, or you will need to consider “borrowing” resources from other parts of your organization. Even though great advances have been made in technology, this is still very much a process- and people-driven approach.
Not involving your suppliers. Many firms feel that they have enough experience internally to handle a global expansion but fail to realize that their supply base likely has presence and experience in the new growth geographies. Don’t be shy to ask for help or input from your key supply base, or consider hiring a local market expert to provide insights and lessons learned.
Misjudged localization requirements. Once you step outside of the United States with your CWM program, localization takes on a much more intensive role. Don’t underestimate the amount of research and due diligence it takes to ensure that your program can be adapted to fit local requirements. You may have your process ready to go and the technology team ready to implement, but if you miss key localization requirements, you set yourself up for additional risks as well as delays in getting the program started.
Inadequate budget. Nothing worth doing is free, so make sure you allocate appropriate funds to cover the cost of the expansion. You may have internal employee costs, technology costs, consultant costs, and other third-party costs to account for when expanding globally. The good news is that your business case should easily justify the investment cost by establishing a real ROI back to the organization. However, if you run out of budget in the middle of the expansion, you will leave yourself and your stakeholders very frustrated.
Not engaging all the stakeholders. Procurement, HR, finance, legal, IT, facilities, key business users, suppliers, and any other key stakeholders need to be involved in your planning phases from day one. Failure to engage these stakeholders will cause delays and possibly other hardships later in the process. It is sometimes more time-consuming to do this up front, but doing it later is more painful for everyone.
Underestimating change management. Like any new program expansion, change management is almost more important than the program expansion itself. Often, the amount of change management planning is underestimated in this category. Be prepared to tenaciously and continually communicate with all key stakeholders throughout the change process.
Steven Scott is a contingent workforce management consultant and advisor with more than 16 years of experience in the contingent workforce and talent management industry. He is a principal with Cornerstone Business Solutions and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-403-5754.