VMS and MSP Do Have a Role

VMS (vendor management system) and MSP (managed service program) are acronyms that have changed the staffing industry landscape significantly over the past decade and, for better or worse, they are here to stay. Good software and well-run programs that are embraced by hiring managers can improve efficiency while reducing costs. Bad programs range from ineffective to costly; if systems are complex and cumbersome and processes are too restrictive and inflexible, managers may grudgingly comply until they find ways around it. Efficiencies will be ephemeral and cost savings short-lived. In my experience, the difference between good and bad is controlled communication.

The goal of any program is to provide contingent workers who have the requisite skills and experience as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. The more that a staffing firm, and in particular its recruiters, knows about a company and the position to be filled, the more successful they will be in doing so. A good MSP will provide ways to centralize and consolidate communication opportunities where it makes sense, while allowing for direct contact when and where it is most needed and most beneficial.

For example, it is a good idea to provide staffing firms with opportunities to learn about a company’s culture and intangible or soft-skill job requirements in addition to the specific requirements of each position that come with a requisition. Facility tours, job shadowing, and informational sessions that involve multiple providers are more effective than individual meetings or multiple calls from providers to hiring managers. Training on systems and procedures is obviously also the purview of the MSP provider. Whether internally or externally managed, an MSP should reduce the administrative burden on hiring managers and the types of activities can get providers the information they need without involving them. But programs that include prohibitions on direct contact and rely on the MSP to act as a middleman or gatekeeper will not be as successful as those that do not. One only needs to recall the childhood game of telephone, where a message is quietly repeated from one person to the next until at the end it is announced aloud, to understand why this is so. The results of the game usually demonstrate dramatic and often humorous changes but this is not what you want in business; that type of miscommunication wastes time and costs money.

A complete and detailed job description is the first step in efficient communication, but when there are questions about the nuances of a position, the hiring manager will almost always be better able to properly communicate this information than a program manager. This is especially true in the case of difficult-to-fill positions or where there is a need for specialized skills such as IT or engineering. ATR specializes in finding these kinds of contractors, so I know this firsthand. We have worked with all types and models of programs with varying levels of contact allowed, and consistently the most successful programs are the ones that allow communication and relationship development. No one wants excessive vendor solicitations, constant contact or unnecessary communications, but a good client/supplier relationship is none of those things. It is the basis for a truer understanding of a company’s business needs and CW goals that will result in long term efficiencies and more successful placements. Using an MSP provider as a screen deprives a company of these benefits.

Most of all, companies should consider the needs and desires of the end users when it comes to how a program is structured what decisions are made with regard to communications. Remember that one size does not fit all. Some hiring managers want more or less direct contact than others. What works in manufacturing may not be best for the IT group. I think the key is to be flexible and allow managers discretion, and when someone suggests prohibiting communication and contact, think twice. Take a look at the program and make sure that communication policies, however well intentioned, don’t make it harder to find the right candidate. When it comes to an MSP, outsource the administration, not the relationship.


Jerry Brenholz

Jerry Brenholz
Jerry Brenholz is president & CEO of ATR International, a firm that specializes in providing IT consultants and enterprise-wide staffing services.

Jerry Brenholz

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