Subadhra Sriram's Blog

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You ….

Actually, we’ll be using our VMS to inform you about what our candidate needs are. We don’t need to chat. The dreaded no-contact policy is revered by many buyers and — obviously — disliked by the supplier community. Many buyers believe allowing a relationship between the two parties raises costs and created a conflict of interest within a vendor-neutral program.

“You cannot have a vendor-neutral program without a no-contact policy. It keeps the process fair, supports the MSP, whether internal or external, improves quality and reduces cost. It is just a fact: you pay a higher margin for the suppliers that have “relationship” sales,” says Greg Muccio, manager of Southwest Airlines’ people department.

Many companies including Southwest initially issue a warning when suppliers break the no-contact rule. Then the req flow is turned off. If suppliers still persist, they are removed from the program.

Suppliers have mixed reactions to this. For example, IT staffing firm Project One prospers outside the VMS environment. President and CEO Gary Zander believes  a personal relationship is not going to matter; hiring managers’ jobs are on the line, so they’ll always be motivated to go with the right candidate. But preventing any contact in turn prevents the supplier from truly understanding the hiring manager’s needs, which can result in candidate mismatch.

“Forcing a level playing field actually hurts the client by preventing hiring managers from knowingly dealing with the best performing suppliers vs. having to always start from scratch,” Zander says. “It’s also a disincentive for suppliers who want to earn a reputation at clients that reward them with greater business opportunities than always treating them as average.”

The policy is a reaction to the “dark ages” of staffing when supplier reps would tread the client’s halls, often accosting harried hiring managers. The idea was that in conversations with the engagement managers, vendors would hear about job openings and future resource requirements of the group.

Donuts, Danish and coffee would be offered to sweeten the pot. A relationship is established, conversations become easier and more in-depth. The vendor would grow to understand the particular group, its requirements. With time and more interactions in and out of the office, it just becomes easier for these managers to contact their “preferred” vendors for their hiring needs.

Along came VMS/MSP and the rest is history. The tool/program brought with it its own set of advantages driving the use of contingent work.  Contingent workforce management evolved, program offices and MSPs became the rule of the day. What is interesting is often the MSP is the gatekeeper that decides whether suppliers can talk to the manager to get a better idea of the candidate requirements. CW managers/MSPs found that it made sense bottom-line wise to limit contact between hiring managers and suppliers. As the space advanced, the thinking became more radical.

The fact is that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Both sides of the equation have to work their way to a process where there is “supplier contact with hiring managers in an organized incentive-based way,” Zander says. Muccio on his part asks his managers to be equitable with the supplier pool.

At the end of the day, it’s about what works best for the business. Folks need to remember they are selling people, not pencils. Often a quick conversation is what clears the fog. Suppliers should not be penalized for attempting to meet the client’s needs. On the other hand, a box of donuts is a sweet thought, but is it really necessary?

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