SI Review: June 2013

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Expert’s Corner

Variety Is the Spice

Helping clients meet their staffing diversity goals

By Ron Shahani

The U.S. is one of the most diverse nations in the world and minority groups are predicted to become the majority by the middle of this century. This shift promises to affect the business world, making designing and implementing a specific supplier diversity plan (SDP) a necessity to serve the ever-changing customer base better.

Achieving  SDP objectives poses several challenges for many clients, including finding qualified diversity staffing firms.

Staffing suppliers can take advantage of this environment to maximize their opportunities for growth and advancement. Here are some strategies that can help the process.

Get certified. Clients have many sources to identify qualified diversity suppliers, so those suppliers should ensure they are members of as many of these groups as possible. The National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), which has regional offices in major cities throughout the United States, is an excellent source for finding qualified, certified minority-owned firms. The regional councils conduct extensive due diligence to confirm and assure the ethnic background of each business they certify. The NMSDC also has a Corporate Plus membership program that identifies minority-owned companies with proven capabilities for national and international scale contracts.

Additionally, the Small Business Administration and third-party certifiers (private, non-profit and federal/ local agencies) offer a variety of certifications for minority, veteran and/or woman-owned businesses. Securing those certifications can help ensure prospective clients can find you when they are looking to meet their SDP objectives. Examples include Certified Woman-Owned Business, Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Business and HUBZone Business. The certification requirements are stringent in order to limit the risk of fraud and ensure that only eligible companies receive the intended benefits.

Clean house. Staffing firms should ensure that their house is in order. Client companies might wish to target high-quality minded diversity suppliers by asking to see their financial records. Further, obtaining external quality certifications (e.g. ISO) and referrals can help attract certain customers.

When clients award business, it’s not just about achieving percentage goals defined in a SDP, but about creating meaningful relationships that address their immediate and future needs. I believe that under the most successful SDPs, business is awarded in proportion to the capability level of selected suppliers and expanded over time as those capabilities grow.

This, in turn, helps the clients to effectively balance their spend between diverse and non-diverse suppliers and maintain long-term SDP objectives. Be cognizant of the fact that the dynamically changing business environment requires a regular assessment of your performance using a flexible tool, like a scorecard, customized to address each client’s objectives.

It is not enough to just be a diversity supplier. While very important, it is secondary to meeting your client’s demands through high-quality services. It would be imprudent to not to design a sound customer-centric business strategy. The staffing industry is highly competitive and all companies face numerous challenges. Staffing firms need to evaluate their strengths and fix weaknesses constantly. They need to stay ahead of the competition. Benchmarking, customer feedback, tracking and analyzing industry trends will help in crafting new and creative offerings that can set you apart from competition.

Further, being able to differentiate and innovate is a key success factor when tailoring solutions to your clients’ specific business needs. And, diversity notwithstanding, the most important thing is to establish ongoing relationships with your clients that extend beyond just winning contracts and include a proactive effort to obtain feedback to make sure you continue meeting or exceeding the stated expectations.

So at the end of the day, an SDP is a smart business decision for buyers and suppliers. It’s because each community, its workforce and its customers are becoming more diverse and demand to work with more diverse business entities. An effective SDP makes it easier to better serve the ever-changing customer base.

Ron Shahani is president and CEO of Acro Service Corp. He can be reached at rshahani@acrocorp.com

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