SI Review: June 2011


Straight Talk from the Customer

Changing the Game Plan

Establishing rules can help everyone win

For most of my company, ESPN, the term “end around” refers to a football play in which an offensive player takes the handoff from the quarterback and tries to gain yardage in an unexpected or unconventional way. In the human resources world though, the term refers to vendors who try to circumvent the human resources department to win business directly from company managers.

In the past, when companies only used temp workers occasionally and the rules were simpler, it was acceptable for managers to decide which vendors to use. Not today. Temp workers are too valuable and compliance rules far too complex to leave anything to chance. To adapt to the new reality, we changed the rules and told our vendors that if anyone outside our department contacts them, then they are responsible to report back to the HR department.

Our vendors understand this straightforward rule and they follow it but now this needs to be taken up a notch.
We plan to change the expectations and the game plan. We want to transform our relationships from ones that are transaction-based to strategic alliances.

Our hope then is that both sides benefit. The vendor benefits because a partnership means more of a consultative
relationship and a more continuous stream of work. HR benefits because the partnership will likely lead to increased customer satisfaction, reduced rates and better customer service. When and if problems occur, a vendor that is treated as a partner will be quick to address
and resolve issues.

But for this to work, all stakeholders must have a clear understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.

HR’s Role

Let’s start with HR’s role, because it sets the expectations for the vendors — vendors take their cue from us.

  • Understand needs. HR needs to understand the assignment or hiring manager’s need. HR must ensure hiring managers take the time for an intake session.
  • Detailed job description. HR must provide vendors with a detailed assignment description. The requirements of the assignment and the qualifying and knock-out questions should be spelled out.
  • Processes. HR has to invest time to clearly communicate the company’s processes and be sure to understand the vendors’ processes. This helps to effectively manage vendors.
  • Policies. The HR department should create policies that are sensible, clear and consistent across the entire organization.
  • Know the vendor. HR needs to know the vendor’s team and develop frequent communications to create a long-lasting partnership.

Vendor’s Role

Once the rules of the game have been established and communicated, vendors will be clear on how to proceed. Here’s what they need to do to win the game.

  • Vet candidates. Vendors must be sure to submit candidates who have been properly vetted and are qualified.
  • Train the team. Vendors’ sales teams and back-office staff must be trained in the hiring company’s policies.
  • Deliver. Don’t promise more than you can deliver.
  • Listen. Vendors need to listen to understand the customer’s needs and also provide insight on industry trends, labor market trends and best practices.
  • Follow the rules. Even if a company allows you access to hiring managers, be sure to follow the rules.
  • Think long term. Focusing on providing high-quality service over the long term enables vendors to become a crucial part of the supply chain.
  • Do your homework. Study the company’s policies and business goals to make sure you know your customer. This will enable vendors to deliver a service that meets the customers’ needs and provides a fair return.


These days, it is no longer acceptable for managers to rely on an adhoc method for choosing vendors. Companies must establish rules to ensure their contingent workforce programs are compliant and meet the needs of their internal stakeholders. Vendors that follow the rules of the game will find it easy to bring in the right candidates companies want to engage.

Those are the vendors that HR will like to work with. They will help HR succeed. They are the winners of the game.


Peggy O'Neill is director of contingent workforce management at ESPN.


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