Why an MSP Is Like Yoga (and Yoga Pants)

76746889At the most recent Contingent Workforce Strategies (CWS) Summit, I detected an increased interest in managed staffing and having managed service providers (MSPs) help manage their contingent labor. The discussions spanned the gamut of models, providers and technology; all a bit much for the average HR or procurement professional to take in.

So let me simplify it for you. Choosing an MSP or a managed staffing program is like deciding to do yoga. Yes, yoga.

The yoga craze that has been slowly (and not so passively) sweeping the nation has many people questioning whether or not it’s for them (and then there’s the whole yoga pants thing, but more on that later). It’s the same with MSPs and managed staffing programs, with many questioning if they should start, stop or change their contingent labor program.

Why? Because much like yoga, choosing an MSP provider to work with is a personal or company-specific thing. If there was one way to do it, it would be easy and everyone would be doing it that way. But it’s not. There are tons of different yoga styles, poses and yes, yoga pants.

And like yoga, there are varying reasons for someone to start an MSP engagement. Maybe it’s to get your organization in shape, maybe it’s to drop a few pounds (or dollars) or just because it’s the newest trend. Whatever the case, the key is that it should be approached like yoga, by finding the right solution for you and your company.

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If you’ve never had an MSP, like yoga, you may find it uncomfortable in the beginning. You’ll get asked why you are doing this and likely get some push back from your managers and suppliers about the strange poses you ask of them. But stick with it. As many yoga enthusiasts will tell you, it gets better and with practice you (and everyone else) will get more flexible.

If you’ve done yoga before, there are many more flavors now. You can even do it from a trapeze (seriously, you can look it up).  The same goes for MSPs and managed staffing programs. You can choose vendor-neutral, hybrid, self-managed and several variations in-between. My advice here is to worry less about the labels and find out what will work best with your needs and your culture. The last thing you want is to feel like you are on a trapeze (or working without a net) because you’re not happy with your MSP.

On the other hand, maybe you’re the do-it-yourself type and don’t want to join a class or go to a gym. All I can say here is that it’s very hard to get the poses right and push yourself when you are self-guided. Nothing works like a knowledgeable instructor. The same applies to an MSP. Many companies successfully self-manage their programs, but it’s usually only after years of developing sound internal processes and with adequate resources. You can get much further, faster, with a good instructor or partner.

Then there’s the yoga pants. Much has been written about their effect on the male population, the meteoric success of Lululemon, and the overall impact of what really amounts to glorified leggings or basically nylons on the outside. My advice here is not to follow fashion. Go for functionality. You can dress up a managed staffing program, but the functionality and ultimate fit with your processes, requirements and culture is what’s most important.

Similarly, you can buy expensive yoga pants that make your rear end look good, but if you can’t bend your knees, you won’t get very far with doing actual yoga. This is an especially salient point for those who experienced MSPs and managed staffing in the early days. It may have felt more like Jazzercise in the beginning, but trust me, the programs (and the clothes) are much better now.

So if you are thinking about starting yoga (or a managed staffing program or working with an MSP), I would encourage you to do so. Just realize that you may be a little sore at first, people will stare and possibly laugh the first few times you try it, and there’s no one way to do it. But stick with it – you’ll feel better in the long run and possibly even live longer.

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Matt Rivera
Matt Rivera is the Director of Customer Solutions for Yoh, a leading provider of recruitment process outsourcing and staffing solutions. He writes for their blog The Seamless Workforce.

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