Why the VMS Promotes Second-Class Citizens

The subject of VMS arouses negative sentiments from most of the staffing suppliers I know — and for good reason. It’s not just about low margins. As staffing professional, we are reasonable human beings. Yes, we understand that the VMS does help the buyer of staffing services. At the same time, the tool creates a very negative environment. It promotes a culture of second-class citizens.

Clients or the managed service provider has a reason to limit contact with suppliers. Preferred suppliers can be aggressive and the customers want to streamline the endless questions that often accompany a job requisition. After all, that is what the tool is for. Clients don’t want to waste time explaining needs to a bevy of vendors.

At the same time, little if anything is done to clarify the questions that must be answered when a client requirement is entered in the tool. Who is responsible for this?  Is it the MSP or the customer program office? These folks should be trying to make the selected vendors their best friends, as the vendor’s success is their success, too.

For example, let’s take a sample of requirements that are entered in any one day. Are the technical capabilities and soft requirements for a business analyst on a large data project the same as the technical capabilities for a business analyst on an SAP project? Likely not, but how do we suppliers know that our efforts are being spent in the right direction? How can we make sure we are looking for someone with the right skills?

I contend that recruiters waste 40 to 60 percent of their search time chasing something that isn’t what the client wants. There must be a client/VMS/vendor-friendly relationship that promotes a desire to a team victory and not an adversarial relation that exists in most VMS accounts that I am familiar with!

Unless a solution for this issue is found soon, vendors will be less and less interested in these arrangements as the lack of candidate status feedback, rate card constrictions and vague and sometimes completely fraudulent requirements make profit margins well below those necessary to continue to grow the business.

James Downs

James Downs
James Downs is owner of The Downs Group, a human capital company specializing in information technology. He can be reached at jdowns (at) carolina.rr (dot) com.

James Downs

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2 Responses to “Why the VMS Promotes Second-Class Citizens”

  1. Chris Mortonson says:

    James- you makes some good points that reinforce the importance of process improvements and methodology.  This includes a focus on steps to review, validate and publish requirements on job templates or in job libraries from a client Project Management Office, or by the MSP or third party manager who should be reviewing postings before publishing,  to avoid suppliers & hiring managers experiencing the “Black Hole Syndrome.” 
    The “VMS” label is a misleading scape goat as the actual project management is either the responsibility of a client run talent management program, or a third party Master Services Provider who is measured by SLA’s, and performance to reduce time to fill, accuracy of a job posting and a  review & sign off of complex job requirements for professional positions. This should  minimize recruiting costs, reduce a suppliers SG&A and allow for a focus on matching verified skill requirements with the defined project scope if managed correctly.
    For first generation programs, a critical change management process needs to involve a number of key program participants including the program managers that publish requirements ( internal run and MSP programs), as well as hiring manager or project managers that need to be very granular in defining critical skills or prioritization on key elements that may dictate his/her hiring decision or priorities.
    Supplier forums including survey tools for many programs are aimed at providing a supplier voice that should be part of any program review to eliminate the bumps in the road you outline.

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