contingent workforce programThis column continues our look at the Case Study Competition at the SIA’s CWS Summit in San Diego (read part 1 here). They invited submissions from CW program managers that highlighted recent challenges, solutions and successes and six finalists presented at the conference where a winner was chosen. Previously, I covered the importance of executive sponsorship and support and understanding the needs of your internal customers. They are critical to achieving program success, not just when you first launch your program but on an ongoing basis as well. The following are two more pieces of advice from the frontlines:

3. Don’t accept “one-size fits all”

Each of the presenters made this point in one way or another; whether it is your MSP, VMS tool, or any of the procedures and processes you have to put in place, change what you need to fit your company’s unique culture and requirements. All of the stories contained this kernel of wisdom and their presentations highlighted at least one, if not many ways in which they had tailored things to meet their needs and achieve greater program success. For example:

A. To combat low survey participation and meaningless results, one company developed a survey to measure user satisfaction and built it in to the time card approval system so that hiring managers were required to give feedback one month after the start date and twice a year. The data gleaned from this process was invaluable in continuing to meet their customer’s requirements.

B. Another program manager was getting significant complaints from all sides about their payroll vendor; the process was rigid and the supplier was inflexible. They ultimately chose a new supplier and mapped out a process that addressed specific customer frustrations and pain points and automated key steps uniquely important to their business like headcount approval, background checks and systems and building access.

C. A third presenter discussed their extensive training efforts and ongoing support of a geographically far-flung user population. The challenge of rolling out a program within such a decentralized company meant they needed to develop and deliver training via webinar, conference calls, online, and in face to face sessions as well as develop and maintain a robust internal web site. They offered this level of training and support to their suppliers too.

Everyone one on the panel stressed how valuable the expertise of VMS and MSP providers can be and how critical it is to understand when you don’t have the skills or experience and need to partner with an external supplier. But they also were quick to point out how important it is to insist on tailoring things to meet your company’s unique requirements and culture:

4. Your supplier relationships are critical to your success

It seems obvious that this is true but what was really noteworthy about the case studies were the ways in which they sometimes bucked conventional wisdom in working with their suppliers to achieve success. Everyone says they want to partner with their vendors but that’s a vague phrase that doesn’t mean anything until it’s put into action. The presenters shared some interesting things that they have done:

A. Quality was of paramount importance to the hiring managers but the lack of incentive for suppliers to focus on quality as top priority, combined with a sourcing process that incented the quickest candidate not the best one was a problem. The program manager realized he needed to reassure and reward suppliers. They explained that there was no benefit to getting a resume in on Day 1 vs. Day 3, since all resumes would be pooled and reviewed together. This transparency helped reinforce that quality was their biggest concern. They also developed bill rates by talent type based on the quality of worker performance and give bonuses if a contractor exceeds expectations.

B. A program manager for whom efficiency and cost savings was a significant driver, but whose contractor labor consisted primarily of more expensive technical and engineering professionals, wanted to leverage an MSP but was concerned about their ability to successfully source these challenging requirements. She partnered with the MSP and used their tools and process but her own supplier network which included a number of smaller, niche suppliers. Cost savings were realized through innovation and working together.

C. Another program director also needed to revamp and strengthen their procedures which had become inadequate given their recent growth. She wanted the structure and efficiencies that an MSP brings but was adamant that “no brick wall go up between hiring managers and suppliers. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Her managers had long standing relationships with their staffing suppliers and wanted the contact; she made sure it stayed that way even when the new program was rolled out.

D. Still another presenter said that in their view, their suppliers represent the company, and are a member of the extended family, so to speak. They want them to feel this and they really work at developing close, loyal relationships. The behaviors that support this range from encouraging contact with hiring managers and program staff alike, to considering what information and reports would be useful to their suppliers when they were building their own VMS, to sending them a gift bag with company swag as a thank you. This is certainly a different model than the sometimes adversarial relationships that seem to be the case in some programs and it is getting them good results.

As I said last time, everyone’s situation is unique and the solutions that work for you will vary. It is useful though to see what others are doing and how you can benefit from employing some of the same best practices. We’ve seen tremendous change in contingent workforce usage in the past decade and all indicators are that CW strategies will continue to be a significant and important part of overall workforce planning. As the industry has grown and matured, so too has the complexity and sophistication of the CW programs and it is invaluable to hear from industry colleagues and learn what they’re doing that might help your program function better. I hope that my overview has been helpful. Please let us know what’s working for you or contact me directly if you’d like to discuss trends and solutions in more depth!

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO
ATR International

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