SI Review: November 2012

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Straight Talk from the Customer

Be a Star Supplier

How to serve your clients best

By Peggy Thomann

I manage procurement of global staffing for Merck, which has more than $175 million in annual global spend for temporary labor. Our regional programs span North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. With a guiding principle of “securing the right candidate, at the right time and at the right price,” our strategy is to competitively source our requirements and establish regional relationships to manage our spend and to launch the vendor management system technology in larger mature markets. Our first VMS/MSP program launched in 2007. Today, we utilize VMS technology in six markets. We source all skill sets through our programs from general staffing to highly specialized technical roles.

It’s a tough industry, characterized by the expression “you are only as good as your last fill.” It’s hard to get into new programs and stay in mature ones, but it is possible.

While our VMS/MSP in the U.S. is the most mature of all our programs, I see common threads to superior performance across all these markets. There are things our top suppliers do consistently, which ensure they stay at the top. Here are a few things you should focus on to be sure you are considered a top performer.

Numbers matter — and I mean FILLS. It doesn’t help if I have a great bill rate if I can’t fill the job. Quality candidates are “Job 1.” That means every requisition is an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to source candidates to a new user. Don’t write off any single requisition. But also don’t throw an unqualified candidate at a role. A handful of fills could mean the difference between staying in a program and exiting one. So you should strive to submit qualified candidates for as many reqs as possible.

Niche skill sets. We have some highly specialized roles. Tap into the same resource pools that your pricier competitors do (you know, the professional firms that play both sides). We need agencies that can source to that talent pool. Also, be sure to use your own workers to identify potential candidates. You need to convince the candidates who would prefer a professional service firm that, though that firm may provide them with more options, you can serve them better. The attractive ness of the client should be the draw for the worker.

The MSP is your client too. There’s no way around it. You must work well with your MSP, so you need to treat the MSP as a client as well. At the risk of sounding harsh, the MSP is your advocate but not your friend. What I mean by this is that it’s not just about meeting the numbers. You need to demonstrate it may reach out to your company for other accounts as well.

Flexibility goes a long way. You need to be willing and able to accommodate change. We challenge participating suppliers in new and demanding ways. For example, we have implemented new job-specific screening requirements that our agencies must accommodate. As we outsource work we may ask a supplier to accommodate the transition of their workers to the new model under the new outsourced provider. Our recent extension to payment terms is another good example. Our agencies need to embrace these new requirements. Flexibility is another key element to long-term survival in a program.

Beware playing both sides. Play both sides of the fence at your own peril. If you provide statement-of-work services and contingent labor, you need to follow the defined rules of engagement. You risk both categories by exploiting your position in one category to gain advantage for the other. Remember, the MSP is watching.

These are challenging times. Even with continued high unemployment, companies such as mine struggle to find the right candidates. You’re in the perfect position to help us. Show us you’re not just at the top of your game but that you have what it takes to help us succeed.

Peggy Thomann is associate director, global procurement responsible for sourcing global staffing requirements at Merck. Merck is known as MSD outside of the U.S. and Canada.

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