Wake Up and Smell the Roses: Where contingent workforce programs go wrong

It has been said by many that foolishness — even the definition of insanity — is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different outcome. And according to “theory,” we should be learning as much from our failures, as we do from our successes. So the question remains: Why do so many CW programs not heed the lessons of the past and learn from their own mistakes or that of their peers?

Years ago, a neighbor of mine ran a training company that conducted disaster simulations with the numerous contractors involved in the extension of the London underground Jubilee Line.  As it turns out, this was just after a tunnel collapse had occurred during the construction of the Heathrow Express line, connecting London’s Paddington Station with Heathrow Airport, causing significant fallout and other problems.

As you can imagine, there are hundreds of contractors — representing numerous skillsets — involved in such a colossal project: those who deliver the concrete, steel, all the tunneling equipment; the crews who install all of those materials; the geologists who plot the course of least resistance, just to name a few. What if just one of these contractors, the geologists, were to get it wrong and the drilling contractor encounters an unexpected lump of granite, causing a chain of delays resulting in lost time and profitability for other (innocent) contractors?

Simply put, you would have two choices: You could get the lawyers in a room, bring on the blame game and have a fight. But that gets expensive. Or, you can accept that what has happened cannot be undone and instead collaborate with all affected parties to achieve an optimum outcome. This is what my friend’s training company was doing … simulating disasters to help people develop skills and techniques to work together to overcome them. It’s what I call “pro-active collaboration,” and it is something I think all CW program owners should do — because accidents WILL happen.

I know this from being involved in hundreds of these programs since I started in this industry back in 1990, when an HR lady in a major defense company wrote my name on the back of a cigarette packet and promised to call me if she needed any contractors. Over my 28-year career in the staffing industry, I have seen MSPs from many perspectives: as a staffing provider earning its first MSP program win in 1994, as an MSP/VMS provider, as a solutions consultant, through implementation to steady-state delivery. Over the coming months, I will draw from this experience to share eight key program failings I have seen and where, even today, the lessons of history have yet to be learned:

  1. Taking on baggage
  2. Poor stakeholder engagement
  3. Listening to what you want to hear
  4. Overestimating short-term change and underestimating long-term change
  5. Setting an inflexible long-term strategy
  6. Overly rigid delivery models
  7. Allowing contingent workers to become business critical
  8. Driving countdown cost at the expense of quality

Look for my next article in Contingent Workforce Strategies 3.0 for the first of these topics, due in June.

Peter Reagan, CCWP

Peter Reagan, CCWP
Peter Reagan, CCWP, is director, contingent workforce strategies and research (EMEA, APAC & LATAM) at Staffing Industry Analysts. He can be reached at preagan (at) staffingindustry (dot) com.

Peter Reagan, CCWP

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One Response to “Wake Up and Smell the Roses: Where contingent workforce programs go wrong”

  1. Rich Smith says:

    Peter, I’m looking forward to this series of articles. Your 8 “lessons of history” all resonate with me. Regards, Rich Smith

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