Re-engineering the “R” in Contingent Workforce Management QBR

by: Dawnette Cook, VP Program Management
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In the alphabet soup of business acronyms, the QBR is the quarterly business review. It is an opportunity for client and MSP provider to pause from the usual frantic pace of day-to-day deadline racing to actually talk to one another. It’s a chance to look at big picture strategy. What are the goals of the business? How can a strategic workforce partner contribute to the achievement of those goals? The challenge is where you put the emphasis in QBR. The Q gives you a timeframe for discussion. The B gives you the topic, but is it the business of the MSP or the business of the client? Where should you be focusing your discussion? The R is what often puts a stranglehold on any meaningful discussion. If you spend the bulk of your time looking backward, it’s suddenly time to wrap up just when things tend to get interesting… when you start to look forward to where the business is headed and how a smart workforce strategy can make a meaningful contribution to the journey. Consider re-engineering the R in QBR to signify a roadmap to the future rather than a review of the past. Then the QBR can become a strategic discussion of potential rather than a recap of old news.

The Evolution of the QBR

As little as five years ago, a QBR was almost strictly data based. The growth in adoption of VMS technology and MSP programs since the “turn of the century” offered amazing transparency and insight into the metrics that govern contingent workforce management. Access to metrics was the shiny new toy. Prior to that time, many businesses had no idea where their money was going and what value they derived from their workforce investments. As with all things new, the initial shine has dulled over time, so that today we can tell a data-driven story with just two or three slides. Meeting SLAs is a given. KPIs can be tracked from a dashboard without waiting for a quarterly report card. That said, it’s absolutely right for a client and their MSP partner to celebrate achievements when they are together, but a quarterly sit-down is a rare enough opportunity for a face-to-face with decision makers that it should not be squandered on retrospective numbers alone. It is a chance to take advantage of the brainstorming possibilities, to discuss strategy and establish new direction. So what should a client expect from a QBR?

Less Data and More Dialogue

When you have established satisfaction levels north of 90% and near-perfect achievement of SLAs, where do you take your contingent workforce program? The most glaring gap in perception between the value an MSP can deliver as a strategic partner and what clients really want is the disparity surrounding program innovation. The QBR is a perfect platform for exploring client appetite for innovation. An MSP partner can bring to the client a fairly broad view of the contingent workforce landscape. The MSP has in-depth knowledge of what other companies are doing, what’s trending in the industry, how economic shifts impact the cost and availability of talent and how it all potentially ties into client aspirations. As a strategic partner, the MSP can help a client transform program excellence into competitive advantage. That requires a discussion that travels far beyond the traditional metrics of contingent workforce acquisition. For example:

  • The growing shift in program focus from metrics to analytics
  • The evolving role of HR in driving greater collaboration in managing the traditional employee and the non-employee workforce
  • Increasing reliance on contingent labor to achieve strategic goals
  • Growth in both spend and the desire to better manage the dollars spent on services procurement (i.e., SOW)
  • Increasing acceptance of the value potential of “total talent management” to leverage a singular set of processes, strategies and technologies for managing both traditional and contract talent under a centralized banner

MSP’s Role in Driving Strategy to the Next Level

A forward-focused MSP partner should be using the QBR to explore opportunities for greater value generation. It should be identifying ongoing cost savings, leveraging workforce analytics and blueprinting timely strategic growth for both geographic reach and solution coverage. It should be forecasting the value other service offerings could add to the program. It should be showcasing best practices in employee engagement, recruitment and management of multiple generations, candidate referral programs, retention tactics and employer branding. To add real strategic value, the QBR should evolve into a strategy and alignment session that explores possibilities for the future. Use the QBR to celebrate the past but also to plan the future.
Would you rather walk away from a QBR discussion benumbed by numbers or buzzing with possibilities? Review of the past quarter or roadmap for the future? Tell us what you want.

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

by: Mark Sawicki

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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.

Making Your Workforce Analytics Data Work Harder

By: Brian Salkowski – Bartech Managed Services

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Data by Itself Is Little More than Noise; Make Your Data Sing!

Rearview mirrors identify potential hazards approaching from behind. Windshields are not only far bigger; they provide a clear view of where you are going. If you are a contingent workforce program manager, it’s likely you have sat through numerous business reviews in which your managed service provider (MSP) shared tons of data, giving you unprecedented visibility into your contingent workforce program. As valuable as it is to understand your contingent workforce from a historical perspective, there is even more value in knowing what the future holds. If you can use the data you collect to drive decisions for your organization, you will have a greater competitive talent advantage.

Moving Your Contingent Workforce Program Forward

While new contingent workforce program managers are happy to get data for the first time, more mature programs offer an opportunity to capitalize on all the available historical data to drive decision making. If knowledge is power, the benefits of contingent workforce analytics are vast and can drive program innovation. It can help you make prescriptive statements about what is likely to happen in the future and why. The advent of data analytics, employing leading-edge predictive algorithms, is making it possible to uncover new intelligence about the current workforce and future requirements. Not only does this help a company hire and retain the right resources at the right prices, but it also facilitates the identification of program improvements that can be made in current workforce programs based on actual data and results.

Explore the Possibilities with Workforce Analytics

Mine your data to understand root causes and make predictions about where issues are most probable to surface in the future. You can determine, for example, where turnover risk is highest and then build retention strategies for those locations most at risk. Examining a data point such as time to proficiency can help you structure assignment length for peak proficiency. If engagement is most vulnerable at the six-month mark, is it most acute in a certain skill set or pay rate? Can you use that information to adjust the career ladder? Think of the money saved by proactive vs. reactive decision making, supported by historical data. VMS technology offers an almost infinite amount of data that can be tracked and used to uncover issues and potential solutions that were virtually impossible to see in the past.

Empower Contingent Workforce Planning with Workforce Analytics

Work with your MSP as a strategic workforce partner to assess risks and uncover opportunities. Your MSP partner can take your data (data that is already captured as part of your program) and drill it down to a more granular level. It can then match your program data to external sources to assess your position in the market. Looking at multi-client aggregate data, industry benchmarks, government databases and market trends – it can scan the competitive landscape for key indicators, such as labor supply, rates, geographic markers, etc. By analyzing your data with an eye to the future, your MSP partner can help you move your firm forward. It can identify the best position in the market to capture the talent you need to grow and deploy it most effectively for the greatest advantage.

The Art of Recruiting

By: Erica Leone, VP of Recruiting, Enterprise Staffing

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Marrying Science with Art in Recruiting

If you think of the science of recruiting as driven by technology; the art of recruiting is governed by intellect and insight. Tremendous progress has been made in the past two decades to advance the science of recruiting, transforming recruiting from slow, unwieldy and fairly subjective into a highly efficient and process-driven approach to building a better workforce. With technology liberating employers from so many time-consuming transactional activities in job search and placement, there is now greater freedom to concentrate on refining the art of recruiting. That’s a good place for staffing industry professionals to focus their efforts, as all of that scientific progress and productivity has generated a lot of expectations that are not as easily transformed or met by technology alone.

How Technology Transforms
In a fairly short span of years, technology has allowed us to shift candidate sourcing from the Rolodex to the job board and the Automated Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Paper records—from requisitions to resumes—have gone digital. VMS technology has automated and streamlined the entire req-to-check process of talent sourcing. Innovations such as digital video interviewing, online skills and behavioral assessments, automated candidate schedulers and e-file on-boarding processes have all contributed to a more disciplined and accelerated process. These are just a few examples of how recruiting has changed since the mid-‘90s. All these “scientific” advances have boosted efficiency, generated tremendous productivity and accelerated cycle times. These are all good things – but only part of the equation.

The Artistic Side of the Recruitment Equation
Whereas science is explained in absolutes of yes/no, positive/negative, true/false – art is less precise. It deals with shadings and nuances. The art of recruiting is the application of knowledge based on experience and insight regarding the nature of the work, the skills, and expectations of both the candidate and the client. While artists apply subtle variations of light, shadow and color to create a portrait, recruiters approach the talent search with an understanding of the market and industry, job expectations, the economics of supply and demand, workforce trends, candidate aspirations and more. They deliver an experience to candidates and clients, albeit one made easier by technology but not displaced by technology. Recruiters are the artists who transform a series of transactional steps into a rewarding experience.

Meeting Changing Expectations
Technology is a powerful tool, but it cannot substitute for the experience and knowledge that recruiters apply to successfully match the best-fitting job candidate to the right employer. Along with all the good that technology has brought to the recruiting and staffing industry, it has also heightened the expectations of both candidates and employers for a better experience and better results. Recruiters hold the key to delivering those experiences. A successful job placement is like a good marriage. It brings together two parties with needs and expectations that are often at different ends of the spectrum. The recruiter’s job is to create mutual understanding of those needs and adjust expectations to match the realities of the marketplace.

A Case in Point
A client wants a Java developer with 10 years of experience at a price point that reflects the starting salary of the last Java developer that the employer hired in 2005. This might signal a protracted and frustrating search. However, even the most inventive and diligent search of the market will not likely find a suitable match. Keep in mind that job market trends are not something the client has to think about on a daily basis. His focus is on getting the work done. So, rather than set up the hiring manager for disappointment, it is the recruiter’s job to help that client be a better informed purchaser of high-demand skills. She/he might share research on market trends so that the hiring manager understands what is available and at what price. She/he might brainstorm with the client about opportunities to reconfigure tasks and deliverables so that a different type of candidate might make a better fit. Or they might propose a candidate who has less experience than originally requested but a resume that shows quick adaptability to new situations. The eventual placement may be quite different than initial expectations but if it is the right fit, then the experience is a positive one.

Making a Good Marriage
The science of recruiting drives efficiency. The art of recruiting drives satisfaction. Together, these two can increase quality and help recruiters respond more effectively to the demands of their clients and candidates. They allow them to deliver a positive experience based on knowledge and insights that ensure realistic expectations for all parties.

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.