Something was different at this year’s CWS Summit in Chicago. It wasn’t just the fact that there were more attendees and sponsors present. More obvious was that the atmosphere was different. More interactive. Engaging. People were eager to share their knowledge. I’m not just talking about the attendees but the sponsors as well. CWS 2013 in Chicago brought these two groups together differently than I’ve seen at previous shows. Even before the event began we were talking with attendees and fellow sponsors with more anticipation than in years past. And once we were on site, that anticipation turned to true excitement and enthusiasm as the show kicked off.
What happened during the show was unique and I quickly became very aware of two things. First, the attendee audience was not only larger this year thanks to the talents and hard work of the SIA team, but they were very transparent and knowledgeable about their needs for a formal compliance program within their companies. Secondly, the competitive environment among the sponsors was decidedly absent this year.
I shared my sentiments with my colleagues at the show, and we all agreed that the event definitely took on a different vibe. Here’s our collective thoughts on the changes this year:
- Because of consistent updates and information through news outlets, industry experts and knowledge sharing, attendees are past the “should we do this” stage of implementing a compliance program and are now in the “we are doing this” stage. What’s causing this change? I see several obvious drivers:
- The IRS continues to crackdown on IC misclassification and all indications show that this practice will only increase.
- The IC population continues to grow, with some predicting that 26% of an average organization’s total contingent workforce is expected to be comprised of ICs by 2014
- The Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA) mandate is looming, prompting employers to consider how they will handle health care for their employees including W-2 contractors.
- Attendees seemed to have very clear objectives for attending the show this year. Previously, our team was often asked what questions attendees should ask internally as they began the process of building a world-class program. During consultative conversations with various attendees this year we found that they were confident, informed and ready to move to the next steps in their own program development. Conversations between attendees and sponsors seemed more insightful and more effective. Attendees’ positive feedback on the content of the show’s agenda was widely communicated at every turn. That’s good news all around.
- In the past, we’ve had attendees tell us they were nervous to venture out to the show floor because of the overwhelming scent of competition in the air. This year was different. Sponsors were genuinely welcoming to their competitors. Teams were sharing information with other teams. Co-opetition? Maybe. Here is our takeaway:
- Sponsors are recognizing that they can provide better client solutions by partnering with other sponsors versus trying to be everything to every client. If a particular client has program needs that one supplier can’t provide, having partners in place is essential in supporting the client. They invited other sponsors to talk with prospects. That successful overall solution is a win/win for everyone involved.
- Knowledge sharing in this industry is a must. As sponsors we can share expertise and support to other sponsors which leads to stronger, more cohesive solutions. Again, good news all around.
It was a terrific show. My team and I were pleased with the changes we witnessed this year and we think it made for a positive experience for both attendees and sponsors. As SIA approaches its 10th year of hosting CWS, we look for this trend to become the establishment going forward.