Keys to a Successful Contingent Workforce Program

In September, I attended the Staffing Industry Analysts’ CWS Summit in San Diego. And this year, for the first time, the SIA held what it called a Case Study Competition. The case studies were presented with great care and detail by each of the finalists and each one was unique. However, there were ideas that cut across each of them. Here are four best practices that were evident with each of the finalists:

1.     Executive sponsorship
Whether you are just starting out or upgrading and expanding the scope of an existing program, you are engaged in a change management project at some level, and to be successful you need to have the backing and active commitment of senior leadership. This fact was mentioned again and again by the presenters. It’s not exactly breaking news, but you can never be reminded of it too much. It is so critical to have your executive team on board. First, it shows you’re really ready to proceed and have planned and prepared to begin the process appropriately. If you can’t convince a relatively few people of the need and benefits associated with the project, then how will you convince the larger user population? Second, depending on the culture of your company and the scope of your project, you’ll need this senior level support to guarantee, or at least foster, cooperation and adoption.

2.     Stakeholder buy-in and a customer focused sensibility
You must understand the needs and concerns of all stakeholders (HR, IT, hiring managers/your internal customers, etc.). This is again something that you’ve heard before but the case studies showed just how important this is and showcased some interesting ways of really focusing on your internal customers to drive program success and satisfaction.

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.

Everyone 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.

It is important to remember that 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.

Jerry Brenholz

Jerry Brenholz
Jerry Brenholz is president & CEO of ATR International, a firm that specializes in providing IT consultants and enterprise-wide staffing services.

Jerry Brenholz

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