Creating Effective Workforce Management Teams

Within the Contingent Workforce Management (CWM) industry, the demand and processes used for obtaining top talent within the contingent population is a topic often discussed. However, there has been little conversation around how organizations are securing the top talent to manage their contingent populations and the candidate competencies, skills, and aptitude most likely to lead to success in program roles.

As the Staffing Industry Analysts “2015 VMS & MSP Competitive Landscape: Summary Report” confirms, the penetration of Vendor Management Systems (VMS) & Managed Service Providers (MSPs) in the contingent workforce market is plateauing. Their report indicates a year over year slowdown of spend under management to around ten percent and that even Statement of Work spend capture has cooled in the US market. Ultimately, then this shift creates a more competitive market in which providers are often competing for each other’s clients instead of locating new client relationships. A market in which the ability to identify and commit top talent to manage contingent populations becomes a powerful strategic advantage.

So, let’s take a closer look at a successful program management team. What skills does an individual need to contribute positively to the management of a contingent workforce? Functionally speaking, a foundational knowledge of CWM concepts, strong communication, public relation, and negotiation skills must be in place. The “magic ingredient” of success in a program team role lies, however, with a tirelessness flexibility and empathy to accommodate multiple (and sometimes competing) stakeholder demands and is one of those inherent competencies that “just can’t be taught.”

Today, it is common practice for the program teams responsible for the operations and strategy of both internally managed and managed service provider programs to be built by pulling in colleagues from sister functions of the organization’s Procurement and Human Resources functions. There is wisdom in this approach functionally; however it does not guarantee a fit of softer skills. It is also common to build the team with junior colleagues as career growth opportunities. Yet this avenue poses the risk of an extended ramp up time for the program team to be positioned to identify areas of risk and cost avoidance and to then build controls into their CWM strategy.

How, then in the face of these challenges, are organizations building the strongest and most effective program teams? How are organizations locating the “purple squirrels” (to use a classic phrase) who have the magic blend of strategic and operational skills, aptitude, and inclination to successfully tap into the talent community to staff requisitions with the market’s best available talent in an increasingly competitive market?

One approach being utilized within the CWM industry is the Total Talent Management (TTM) approach - that is, the strategic integration of non traditional employment relationships into the organization’s workforce. It is important to note that it’s not at all uncommon to see key senior leadership roles fulfilled with limited term resources and independent contractors – these non traditional employment relationships are by no means limited to administrative and junior roles.

TTM has the benefit of identifying talent that is not able to be procured through traditional recruitment avenues and is not seeking the standard employment relationship and/or benefits packages. Generally, this population is referred to as the Freelancers, Independent Contractors, and Interns of the “Gig” or “Open Talent” economy with specialized knowledge and/or career flexibility. Turning that approach within and applying it to the creation of a program team allows an organization to leverage these non traditional employees to manage contingent workforces; specifically those with experience and talent as vendors, within program teams, or on the procurement/buy side for limited engagements. It allows an organization to capture the perspective and expertise of professionals with a sophisticated breath of knowledge across industries and verticals.

In addition, it is critical that a meaningful job description that includes the realistic expectations, demands, and rewards of these roles should be provided and that a wide conversation occurs surrounding expectations during the transition and/or hiring process to the program team. Candidates should be provided “case studies” of scenarios that have occurred within the contingent workforce management environment and how strategy is infused into daily operations. They should be encouraged to ask questions! A dynamic and multi-dimensional interview process paired with a strong job description allows for an alignment of knowledge and competencies towards the strategic outcomes necessary for success in the role and program team.

 Leaders in the talent management community also propose that a redesigning of rewards systems and a reinvention of the standard leadership approach are critical to engaging the top talent of today’s “Gig” or “Open Talent” economy. Consideration for a total team evaluation (versusperformance of the enterprise) and an approach to leadership as a collaborative orchestrator of traditional and non traditional talent instead of “trickle down” leadership will encourage the engagement of talent results in a more sophisticated, innovative, and rewarding employment relationship.

The data is clear that organizations must accept and embrace the notion that a workforce comprised of traditional, W2 employees working a standard work week must be blended with an increasingly diverse workforce in order to attract and retain the market’s top talent.  The global market demands innovation and flexibility and at its’ core, contingent employment populations are designed to accommodate an organization’s need to quickly respond to business needs. Considerations for the how and where talent is being recruited must continue to evolve to include talent within the contingent workforce and consideration of this talent should be taken for the management of contingent programs.