CWS 3.0: July 31, 2013

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Global Schmobal …

By Erika Halverson

As companies expand their contingent workforce programs outside of North America, suppliers (of all types) are eager to show that they are also growing and covering increased geographies around the world. Global expansion has become imperative to many businesses and the ability to support numerous languages, currencies and cultures can make or break an expansion effort.

The marketing for CW programs around “global” can be confusing and misleading. Suppliers can tend to be in one of two camps: Those that boast “We’re a global company!” or those that try the softer sell of “No one is a truly global company but.…” Both messages can be true and are completely appropriate for the supplier to use when speaking to a buyer. It is then the buyer’s job to fully understand what that means and how a supplier’s global capabilities match their current and future requirements.

Buyers that just accept at face value a supplier’s claims of global abilities are most likely setting themselves up for disappointment; I’ve seen it many times and have fallen victim to it myself. Assumptions about a supplier’s capabilities purely through meeting discussions or marketing materials as opposed to flushing out the requirements in writing pushes the project further or gets the contract signed without uncovering the true breadth of a supplier’s geographic capabilities.

It is not rude or unfair to ask for specifics or matrices with explicit services. For example, supplier statements like “We can cover many countries within LATAM, EMEA and APAC” need a deeper look! Does “many countries” mean three countries? Does it mean 10? Even if 10, do they cover the countries that your company is specifically located in or looking at? Did they just start last month or have they been there for five to seven years?

It’s important to look further at the data because that begins to tell the story of their expansion progression. Ask probing questions like did they expand to 10 countries all in one year, but that was five years ago and since then not moved further? Or have they expanded gradually over the past five years, adding one to two countries per year? Or have they added all countries just within the last three months and hence haven’t quite settled all their operations? Are they actually providing the service or do they utilize a third-party partner? If that’s the case, you need to make sure your contract covers third-party deals and processes. Answers to these type of questions gives you an accurate picture of the suppliers’ abilities.

The fact is that marketing and sales teams are fantastic at their jobs (as they should be) at painting a picture of total confidence, describing excellent procedures and assuring any buyer that their team will be able to meet their needs. It is the buyer’s job to push past the marketing and sales pitch and the easy listening nod. The buyer must uncover the operational details of the supplier’s services. Let me be clear, suppliers are not always trying to trick their buyers. Most want to know exactly where their clients are set up so they can be forthright in where they can be successful. The smartest salesman knows that he should never pitch where his team will fail. But we can all point to instances in our careers where a salesperson was able to convince a room unjustifiably.

As a buyer, it is to your advantage to lay out very clearly what cities, countries and regions that your team is currently in and where you are going in the next two to three years. Be clear, concise and exact in what services your team needs in which locations. Then be very exact in asking your suppliers to show you exactly what services they can currently offer your team. Get everything in writing and don’t accept fuzzy details and lack of follow-up. There are several ways to do this and they will differ based on your company’s expansion strategy. The following tables are a sample framework to show how you can ask your suppliers to illustrate their abilities, or lack thereof.

Remember, it is your job to clearly articulate your needs and fully understand the supplier’s ability to meet them. And don’t be afraid to call out those that can’t (or won’t) provide details and transparency. Welcome the suppliers that highlight their abilities and call out their own weaknesses or areas of tough learning. These are the true partners you are looking for.

VMS
COUNTRY REGION IN COUNTRY SERVICE OFFERING SELF or
THIRD-PARTY
TYPE GO-LIVE YEAR
Australia          
  NSW VMS Self Full VMS Functionality 2005
  Queensland VMS Self Full VMS Functionality 2005
  South Australia VMS Self Billing Only 2010
  Northern Territory VMS Self Req to Check Only 2010
  Western Australia VMS Self Billing Only 2010
Country 2          
Country 3          
MSP
COUNTRY REGION IN COUNTRY SERVICE OFFERING SELF or THIRD-PARTY TYPE GO-LIVE YEAR
Australia          
  NSW MSP Self MSP  office in region 2003
  Queensland MSP Self MSP onsite at client 2003
  South Australia MSP 3rd party MSP remote team 2013
  Northern Territory MSP Self MSP remote team 2005
  Western Australia MSP Self MSP onsite at client 2005
Country 2          
Country 3          

 

Staffing
COUNTRY REGION IN COUNTRY SERVICE OFFERING SELF or THIRD-PARTY TYPE GO-LIVE YEAR
Australia          
  NSW Staffing Self Payroll & Recruitment 1999
  Queensland Staffing Self Recruitment & RPO 2004
  South Australia Payroll 3rd party Payroll Only 2013
  Northern Territory N/A N/A N/A  
  Western Australia Staffing 3rd party partner Recruitment Only 2013
Country 2          
Country 3          

Erika Halverson is global contingent workforce program manager at LinkedIn.

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