Author Archives: Chuck Austin

An insider’s view of MSP … from an outsider’s perspective

by: Mark Sawicki


An insider’s view of MSP… from an outsider’s perspective

So here I sit, 90+ days into a new job, a new company, a new team and a new industry, amazed at how much more there is to the world of the MSP and contingent workforce management than I already knew. And I thought I knew a lot. With more than 20 years of experience in operational leadership for publishing, media and internet companies as well as HR/management advisory roles in the retail, pharma, construction and hotel industries; I had firsthand knowledge of how organizations can optimize people, process and technology to impact results. I did not, however, fully appreciate the cornucopia of colors, shapes, textures and flavors available to an employer that views an MSP as a strategic partner in workforce management. Far more than a means to optimize the human capital supply chain, the MSP can unlock the potential of the workforce to drive competitive advantage.

Sharing a few highlights of my exploration of the MSP in contingent workforce management.

One of the reasons I was invited to join the Bartech team was for the fresh perspective I brought to the business, it makes sense to me to share some of my observations after immersing myself in the space. Hopefully, the views of a recent transplant will provide some insight to those who are trying to better understand/plan their approach, and just maybe, there will be a couple of nuggets in here that open some of the veterans’ eyes (or at least confirm their thinking/approach).

Whether you insource or outsource your contingent workforce program management, just do it!

The value of creating a program management office is well documented. If you haven’t explored it to date, you will find that implementing a program will drive consistent and improved processes, cost savings and better relationships with suppliers, contingent workers and your employees.

Leverage the VMS technology available to you and always push for solutions that work for your business.

I’ve spent time with most of the top VMS technology providers over the last three months, and it’s clear they can all deliver very viable solutions to help automate your processes. That said, they each have slightly different go-forward strategies from a solution and user-interface perspective. They also have very different personalities. If you’re considering utilizing (or changing) a VMS system, be sure to listen to all of their pitches and look to build a relationship with the team that would be supporting you going forward. They will be your best friends!

Start with reporting, end with analytics.

Everybody is talking about big data and the same is true in the staffing and contingent workforce space. If you’re just getting your program started, be sure to use that data to improve visibility, crystallize understanding and influence decision making. As your program matures, you need to determine how best to leverage all of that data to make better day-to-day, real-time decisions about what your team needs, when you need it.

At the end of the day, staffing is still all about the people.

The staffing industry is, and always will be, about people. Sure, technology automation has introduced a ton of efficiency, which companies absolutely need to take advantage of, but we can’t forget that it’s the people and the relationships we have with those people that will make programs successful. Whether it’s your suppliers, your core staff, your VMS or MSP partners or your contingent staff, building relationships that are based on open, honest feedback and solution-driven approaches will result in a successful program.

There is still much to learn and much to do.

Sometimes it feels a bit like “drinking from a firehose,” but it’s a really dynamic drink. I’m glad I made the move. It’s an exciting time to be in staffing and contingent workforce management. Every day, I see more of the tremendous potential we have, to transform how we all work in the future – in ways that will drive greater productivity, greater engagement and greater results for all of us.

Pricing/Proposal Development Checklist

By: Bridget McRell, Finance Manager

Have you ever tried to build a bicycle without instructions? What about recreating a family recipe that calls for a dash of this and a pinch of that? Starting any project with unclear guidelines can lead to unexpected results. The same can be said for a contingent workforce management program proposal built on incomplete information. A lack of clarity sometimes leads to a faulty wheel or a funny taste. A contingent workforce management proposal developed without a complete understanding of client needs is likely to result in a number of surprises, few of them easily fixable with a screwdriver or an extra spoonful of sugar. The most solid proposals are based on a buyer’s willingness to share information with solutions providers, so that the route from current state to future state is marked by successful milestones with minimal detours and delays.

Know Where You Are Today and Want to Be Tomorrow

The first step to achieving a strong contingent workforce program requires establishing a solid baseline. Develop a clear picture of your current state and what gaps need to be addressed by the proposed program in order to achieve your end game. According to Brightfield Strategies, “Upfront program analysis has consistently shown increased RFP quality, efficiency and cost savings. The time spent in the early planning stages can help reduce potential re-work, clarify supplier or stakeholder assumptions and eliminate ambiguity.” Understanding what you are trying to achieve should help you put together a checklist of the what, the where, the size and the anticipated complexity of your program.

“RFP” Should Never Mean “Requirements Fishing Permit”

The more comprehensive the information included in the RFP, the better the provider can estimate program scope, including timing, cost and potential return on investment. Don’t make your suppliers fish for information. When data gaps are evident, you can expect follow-up questions that can delay the process, or extremely rough estimates that will yield downstream surprises. The ideal scenario is a comprehensive RFP with enough specifics to allow suppliers to accurately gauge your needs.

Don’t Be Afraid to Share

While many buyers are hesitant to lift the covers, fearing they may overshare before a deal is done, the less ambiguity in an RFP, the more closely the proposed solution will mirror your requirements. Noting the existence of a timekeeping system is good. Specifying the exact system you use is better. Sharing the type and level of data that resides within that system is ideal. This information will help the supplier more closely estimate integration requirements, which impact both solution cost and timing.

What to Include in an RFP

While it may be challenging to create a complete picture of the current state, the more relevant information provided, the better equipped the supplier will be to propose a solution customized to the buyer’s true needs. Here are examples of the types of information important to strong proposal development:

  • Timing of launch
  • Headcount by geography and job category
  • Specific geographic coverage areas (including taxing jurisdictions) and # of locations
  • Spend by job category
  • Facility types
  • Job classifications
  • Scope of jobs (e.g., location, assignment length, required skills, certifications and industry expertise)
  • Current bill rates
  • Average daily headcount
  • Turnover %
  • # and type of transactions
  • # of suppliers
  • Invoicing format, delivery schedule and method
  • Reporting requirements

Provide as much specificity as possible to ensure the most comprehensive and accurate proposal.

Don’t Get Hung Up on Price

Some people can’t help jumping to the last page to see how a book ends. Some proposal reviewers have a similar compulsion: they go straight to the pricing section before reviewing the scope and content of the proposed solution. Two things to keep in mind with regard to price are: always compare apples to apples, and know that the cheapest apple isn‘t necessarily the tastiest.

Give More to Get More

Surprises may be perfect for parties but not program implementation. Comprehensive information—at the appropriate level of detail—shared early in the solution development process can power better outcomes, starting with accelerated program launch and moving straight to delivery of ROI.

For more guidance on crafting a comprehensive RFP, contact Bartech at 800-824-2962.

Bartech Named World’s Leading MSP

By: David Barfield, CEO

In its definitive ranking of the world’s leading managed service providers (MSP), HRO Today placed Bartech in the #1 position, naming us the best of the best in its MSP Baker’s Dozen.

We never set out to be the biggest, but we have always dedicated ourselves to being the best… the best in quality, the best in service, the best in value. As the MSP Baker’s Dozen rankings are based solely on client feedback, it is incredibly gratifying to know that our clients recognize and appreciate the dedication of the Bartech team. I am proud to lead such an outstanding group of professionals, committed to serving each and every Bartech client as a trusted strategic partner.

As the leading benchmark for service provider differentiation, the Baker’s Dozen serves as an important barometer of quality and value for those new to the industry. It also serves to continually set the bar higher, pushing providers to essentially up their game, partnering with clients to uncover new ways to drive strategic value in the temporary labor market. We welcome that challenge.

When Bartech entered the contingent workforce management space in 1998, we traversed a frontier at the brink of transformation. Operating with little structure or governance, the introduction of innovative VMS technology provided the means to establish a solid framework for order and stability in talent acquisition. As revolutionary as that technology disruptor was to the industry, there remained a clear gap that was swiftly filled by the managed service provider. Our role at the time was that of facilitator. We introduced disciplined processes, encouraged value-based relationships and blazed a new trail to talent leadership. Doing so delivered substantial benefits to our clients in the form of lower cost, reduced risk, improved efficiency, higher quality of talent and greater transparency across the board.

The workforce and the nature of work continue to evolve, as does the role of the MSP. We work in close partnership with clients every day, guiding their journey to transform the process of talent acquisition in pursuit of a high-performance workforce that is actively engaged in supporting and advancing client goals for growth and profitability. This is an exciting time to stand at the edge of discovery in a changing landscape, where value is measured not merely in dollars and cents but in creating opportunities to leverage the inherent value of the workforce as a competitive advantage.

Contingent Staffing Risk: Reduce or Eliminate?
Which Would You Choose?

By Rebecca Blankenship, Director of Human Resources

The staffing industry is dedicated to supplying great talent. Sometimes, however, best efforts fall short and a bad apple slips through. Therein resides the risk of using contingent workers. When the contingent workforce is sourced from multiple providers, both risk and complexity increase—from operational and productivity risks to financial, security and regulatory hazards. There is also the potential for harm to the company’s reputation, brand equity and customer relationships.

Miseducation and misunderstanding in onboarding contingent workers is often ground zero for employment risk. When mistakes occur, the customer, the staffing agency and the MSP are at risk. Many organizations rely on compliance audits to identify weaknesses in their onboarding practices. While this rear-view mirror approach certainly supports a goal of continuous improvement, it often entails a messy cleanup. Wouldn’t it be far better to eliminate the need to correct onboarding errors by ensuring an error-free process?

Onboarding Compliance Is Complicated
Filling jobs is typically an activity with a short timer. Speed is of the essence. Get the order, find the candidates, and run them through an onboarding checklist of both staffing agency and customer requirements. Such checklists can include:

  • Pre-employment screens and verifications (e.g., drugs, criminal history, education, employment)
  • Safety training
  • Badging
  • System access
  • Facility orientation
  • Time reporting procedures

And it is all accompanied by multiple policies, practices and forms to be reviewed and completed in record time.

Onboarding is somewhat like drinking from a fire hose. Whether it’s a missed screening by the staffing agency or a misunderstanding about how to fill out a form by the contingent worker, mistakes happen.
Case in point: If the contingent worker does not complete benefits waiver―to confirm their understanding that they are not eligible for the benefits offered to the client’s salaried employees―they could later claim they didn’t know and sue the customer, the staffing supplier and the MSP.

Mitigating Risk through Compliance Audits
Onboarding mistakes frequently go undetected until the MSP conducts a quarterly or annual audit of all staffing suppliers, comparing what is required by the client to what can be proven through documentation. When discrepancies are found in an individual’s records, the contingent worker may be terminated; the staffing provider may be penalized; customer satisfaction will definitely be impacted. While these actions will mitigate the identified risk (hopefully before anything bad happens), a potentially bigger issue is what might exist but not be uncovered due to the random nature of an audit. Businesses could pay a much higher price down the road due to unidentified risks that lead to productivity slowdowns, revenue losses, security breaches, safety incidents or even intellectual capital and trade secret losses.

How is this for irony? The IRS failed its own audit of pre-employment screening practices in 2010, reporting that it could not verify that proper pre-hire assessments had been completed for more than 75% of the hires it checked. It makes you wonder exactly who might have had access to all that personal data contained in the more than 230 million tax returns submitted by Americans that year.

Eliminate the Need to Back Track
It is possible to eliminate the need to correct onboarding errors by establishing a gatekeeper at the front end to ensure an error-free process. We have done this quite successfully with multiple clients. The gatekeeper reviews and verifies that all screening and all forms have been completed in accordance with customer requirements. The worker is not allowed to begin assignment until everything is 100% complete. Instances of noncompliance are addressed through supplier counseling and training to prevent future missteps.

Gatekeeping is labor intensive and slows down the hiring process somewhat. It also significantly reduces risk to both the customer and the staffing supplier by finding and resolving issues proactively rather than reactively during an audit.

Could a gatekeeper improve your risk profile? Have you tried any other methods to lower employment risk? Share your thoughts.