SI Review: April 2012

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Straight Talk from the Customer

Your Significant Other

Both sides have to work together to create a top-notch program

By Bernita Jenkins

When contingent workforce managers seek out VMS or MSP partners, we look for specific qualities. We are looking for a provider who knows more than we do, whose company culture melds with ours, and who has the resources to get it all done. It helps when a vendor understands what is at stake and works with us to deliver.

We need the vendor to demonstrate expertise in implementing and managing a program of our scope and nature, the methodology that will be used to conduct discovery, implementation and ongoing management, and provide references from multiple, similarly scoped clients that we can actually speak to. But that’s not all.

Culture Matters

A vendor’s culture can have a big impact on the success of our program. A good partnership starts with a clear understanding and respect for an organization’s values. As a vendor, you can help us. Here’s how:

  • Show the core set of values that you operate on. Reveal how these values are consistent with the client’s values and be sure to demonstrate them through the course of the selection process.
  • Be sure the client knows and meets who will manage their account once the sales process is complete.
  • Synch communication styles to methods that work for both companies.

Along for the Ride

Beyond the initial relationship building, we need a vendor that is along for the ride and can respond to unexpected changes. For instance, there were unanticipated changes in our organization during the selection process that had a significant effect on our resources and implementation process. Make sure you can respond to growth and declines seamlessly.

  • Agree on a set of parameters that will signal the need to revisit the agreement.
  • Exhibit your ability to flex with the needs of the business and maintain the required level of service.
  • Show how temporary, unexpected spikes in volume will be handled.

How else can you as a vendor best support the client? Here’s how.

Balanced Equation. The best relationships come when there are strong parties on both sides of the equation. Evaluate that the client you are taking is internally structured to enable you to take the program to the next level. If the client’s internal house is in disorder, you are not going to get much done.

Due Diligence. Scope the client’s program out. Is there already some in-house expertise? What is the driving philosophy behind the program? Is it cost savings, quality or efficiency? Will there be regular audits? Are they open to putting an escalation process in place? Do they treat their other vendors with respect? The client needs to be able to take your input and expertise and expand the CW program.

Supportive structure. Your prospective clients need to be realistic and open with you about how decisions are made internally, so help them make sure their hierarchical culture supports the plan that they want implemented. This will result in a more realistic project plan and give you more confidence in that launch date you’ve committed to.

Standing up. Clients often expect the moon, but sometimes we need to be reminded to pause. If a client asks for something that is not reasonable and/ or not the best thing for the program, stand up to that.

Less palatable, but still a reality, is that you may not have the resources or know-how to get it done. Be truthful. Step back and put that request in perspective. Honesty and the willingness to build that expertise creates goodwill and strengthens the relationship between the two organizations.

Truth is there’s no one article, book, webinar that will lead you to the perfect partner and perfect contingent workforce program. The best programs are built over time with two willing partners with the same goal in mind — excellence.

Bernita Jenkins is human resources business partner, people operations at Google Inc.

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