Why Staffing Needs to Get Smarter with Suppliers

ThinkstockPhotos-177030878Staffing businesses are very good at the supply side of supplier-buyer relationships. It’s what they do best: quickly and capably supply talent to their clients (buyers). However, when you flip the equation around and put staffing in the role of buyer, things get a little messy.

Staffing firms are excellent at meeting the high expectations of their clients. They have to be. But are they expecting and getting the same from their secondary talent suppliers? Not even close.

Lots of Secondary Suppliers, Little Management
Today there is a growing market of onshore and offshore secondary talent vendors that provide sourcing and recruiting support to staffing firms. To understand why these additional resources are so important, you only need to look at today’s 5.5% unemployment rate and the even lower numbers for knowledge workers (engineers, scientists, software developers, lawyers, doctors, etc.) and professionals across high-growth industries like healthcare and IT. Finding the right people fast requires a lot of speed, tools and resources. In many cases, it requires secondary suppliers.

And that is where it gets chaotic. In most cases, staffing firms are engaging secondary suppliers ad hoc or informally. Interactions are limited, sometimes frantic, and it’s without a program in place to manage, analyze or communicate results. It’s an approach that requires lots of manual work on the front end — emails, calls and spreadsheets to set terms and rates. It’s also an approach that allows for little-to-no follow-up on the back end. The result for both the staffing firm and suppliers is often lots of work and a scramble for limited, if any, gains.

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An Opportunity: Optimize Supplier Channels
Rather than risk poor client scorecards and lost revenue, staffing firms have an opportunity to change the game entirely with their supplier channels. An effective secondary supplier management program is a way to build an engaged and loyal vendor community that will help the staffing firm increase candidate volume and quality, accelerate time-to-fill and boost client satisfaction. When done well, a secondary supplier management program will fuel growth and profitability.

Core Elements of Supplier Management Excellence
A successful secondary supplier program has many important elements. It’s not just technology alone or central oversight that makes it work. It takes a combination of process excellence, committed engagement and technology to turn a pool of vendors onto a direct path of higher results and revenue. That combination includes:

Streamlined Administration
In staffing, a secondary supplier management program requires streamlined administration and work flows. All information going to and coming from suppliers must be standardized to allow for automation as well as the measurement and analysis of supplier volume, speed and quality. Streamlined administration is also essential to giving secondary suppliers visibility to their roles and performance in the fulfillment process. If suppliers are managed with different tools and processes, it’s too time consuming to provide them with performance insight.

Strategic, Rapid Requisition Release
Speed-to-market has never been more important for the staffing industry. The faster a staffing firm can release job requisitions to its suppliers, the faster suppliers are able to grab the best candidates from competitors and for clients. Rapid requisition capabilities allow staffing firms to quickly get the right requisitions to the right suppliers based on skill, geography and industry.

Structured Candidate Submittals
Recruiters who have to manage and navigate a myriad of candidate submittal forms are slower. It just takes more time to identify skill and experience matches hunting through different forms. Providing all suppliers with one, structured candidate submission form and process, saves time and gives recruiters a template and system for easily analyzing each candidate.

Measurement & Analytics
How do does a firm know its top suppliers if it is not measuring and monitoring performance (speed, responsiveness, candidate submissions/rejections, etc.)? The ability to measure and analyze suppliers and their work is a hallmark of supplier management excellence. It also allows staffing firms to establish scorecards standards for its own suppliers, giving vendors high quality and performance standards to aim for.

Vendor Visibility & Engagement
A strong supplier management program does a great job at engaging vendors in the staffing process by giving them insight into the success of their own contributions. In most cases, secondary suppliers never know how their candidates do once they are submitted. They don’t get the kind of scorecard feedback staffing firms get from clients.

A good supplier management program is one that throws back the curtains and shines light on the candidate submission process and results. Suppliers get to see how their candidates are doing—from acceptance to rejection rates—and they learn what it takes to get better results. It’s a way of strengthening relationships, winning loyalty and recognizing suppliers as collaborative partners.

While technology is key to a strong supplier management program, it is only what enables it and not what makes it. The best technology solutions will streamline and automate processes to make teams faster and eliminate bottlenecks. They will enable measurement and analytics while also encouraging the kind of engagement and collaboration that leads to better relationships and performance.

Supply Side Smart: It’s Time
It’s a competitive marketplace out there and staffing businesses need every advantage they can find. In addition to being great talent suppliers, staffing firms need to optimize how they engage their own suppliers. After all, what could be more advantageous than a loyal vendor community? What could be more helpful then having more experts on the job?

MORE: Staffing software metamorphosis: Eat or be eaten

Jodi Hon

Jodi Hon
Jodi Hon is president of MDT Holdings and iLabor. She can be reached at jhon (at) mdtholdingsllc (dot) com.

Jodi Hon

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