2016 Summer Series: The Evolving Contingent Workforce, Willis Towers Watson

In this interview, I spoke with Anthony Nardi of Willis Towers Watson who holds stakeholder responsibility for their global contingent workforce business. Anthony’s background includes technical recruiting, operational and strategic positions roles ranging from requisition fulfillment to executing process excellence within global programs for a major MSP launching programs in the US, Asia, UK, Canada and Australia. He attributes his inclusive approach to contingent workforce management (CWM) to his global experience.

Looking back over the last 15 years, Anthony shares that he has seen the evolution of CWM technology into offering more elegant solutions and MSP portfolios becoming global and increasingly viable at mid-market levels. Despite some persistent resistance in certain pockets, he has been impressed with how suppliers have adapted their businesses to support the MSP model. In his experience, successful supplier partners for MSP driven programs have created avenues for cost savings through realignment of portions of their recruitment and operations. Anthony finds the MSP model offers benefits beyond cost savings to achieve successful total talent management including safety, quality, and compliance.

When comparing the use of MSP and Internally Managed Provider (IMP) models, Anthony finds the biggest risks for IMPs as loss of program focus and accountability. In other words, it becomes easy for the organization to assume a focus on cost and stretch the bandwidth of the dedicated program team thereby risking program quality and service level. Anthony also shared that the MSP offers scalability in that the model provides dedicated SMEs for reporting and analytics, invoice processing, and supplier relations responsibilities. To ensure effectiveness of program cost savings, he recommends programs be established with an independent cost center.

In terms of engagement of procurement & human resources stakeholders, Anthony states that all parties contribute to the success of a program and that regardless of model, program success starts with executive endorsement. Stakeholder relationships must be reaffirmed through constant engagements and inclusiveness of external partners such as MSPs and suppliers. Anthony recommends that strategic MSP thought leaders regularly engage with clients and operational program teams beyond the RFP and QBR cycles.

cautions MSP providers against the engagement of strategic leadership exclusively during the RFP and QBR cycles, recommending that these thought leaders within the MSP community are steadily engaged with clients and their operational program teams to ensure market expertise influences execution of strategy.  

Anthony shares that in his experience, organizations recognize talent strategy as a core business need and that partnership with best in class industry providers offer strategic advantage. However, he is not convinced that the CWM industry is taking a proactive approach towards total talent management in the era of the gig economy. Anthony cites increased visibility and transactional efficiencies for the attraction of independent contractors in the creative skillset, for example, allowing for greater program flexibility and support.

When it comes to talent engagement and retention, Anthony states that the CWM industry has not begun to engage contingent workers in the way that they want to be engaged. The “million dollar question” is then how to design an approach to contingent labor procurement as a process focused on the person and not as a commodity; contingent labor has different values than those they held even five years ago. Anthony sees an opportunity for talent cloud platforms to support the attraction and retention of niche skills as a gate keeper for the market versus as a mechanism for total talent management. 

When asked where he sees the industry in the next five years, Anthony shared that when the process for obtaining contingent talent becomes as simple as ordering a book online, for example, it will be a paradigm shift for CWM. Increasingly, the layers that were necessary to sit between the client and contingent workforce are thinning. He ponders what the function of the MSP will be in the future as the US moves towards an environment of the direct purchase of talent in an on demand economy.

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth.