2016 Summer Series: The Evolving Contingent Workforce, US Cellular

I recently spoke with Michelle Cox at US Cellular who is responsible for the strategy development, execution, and management of their contingent workforce program. Michelle’s background includes vendor management, team building, and call center outsourcing. She cites the opportunity to engage and support people as what keeps her engaged in contingent workforce management (CWM). In addition to her role at US Cellular, Michelle is passionate about her work as a Life Coach which allows her to empower others in the creation of what they really want in life both personally and professionally. This can range from relationships to career to well being.

In Michelle’s years working within the industry, she reports a tremendous progression in CWM.  She has begun to witness the need for supplier partners to transform to self sourcing models and develop system integration capabilities to support total talent management for their clients. Michelle feels that that the best program management model should be determined by culture versus industry. She sees the internally managed program (IMP) model as viable for all organizations but that it is likely best timed for the transition of an established program with in house subject matter experts. Michelle cites talent cloud platforms as game changes for both organizations and talent.

From an MSP perspective, she feels that they now have to work very hard on their value proposition and that this has led an increasing number of organizations to consider bringing their programs “in house” and establishing internally managed programs (IMPs). Michelle cites one of the benefits of the IMP as the ability to effectively manage change.  She states that there will always be a need for supplier partnerships and while it may take organizations a few years to articulate what their needs are, the drivers are changing. To support and empower recruiting efforts, Michelle’s program created Supplier Days in which supplier partners are welcomed into various lines of businesses within the organization to better understand the culture and talent needs of the organization. In terms of CWM utilization, Michelle comments that progressive organizations are viewing total talent management through a lens of recognition of where their in house talent strengths and weaknesses reside; that they are also utilizing the contingent workforce in areas of the organization with higher levels of attrition and associated cost such as manufacturing.

When it comes to how contingent talent is attracted and retained, Michelle cites organizational culture as critical to the decision making process for talent when considering an opportunity; organizations must sell themselves to talent through supplier partners. Ten years ago, culture was not nearly as important to the contingent workforce but today, flexibility and a positive employment experience rank high on the list of must haves for premiere employers. Contingent workers are seeking to add value. Project based engagements allowing for continuous learning are particularly valued among the millennial generation who will change jobs 15 times in their careers and in the years to come, Michelle sees this phenomenon as greatly influencing CWM strategy.

Michelle anticipates a shift towards the use of IMP model and the MSP model becoming less relevant. In order for staffing suppliers to remain strategic partners, they are going to have to transform how they are supporting organizations from a total talent management approach. Organizations will have to continue to enhance and evolve their employment brand and experience to attract top talent. Michelle shares that it is key to ensure that people are treated like people, contingent or FTE. US Cellular has rolled out a pilot program creating a space to more effectively engage hiring managers, contingent workers, and staffing suppliers which she reports has received strong support within the organization. Michelle’s philosophy is that when the contingent workforce is successful, the program and organization are successful!

US Cellular

U.S. Cellular is the fifth-largest full-service wireless carrier in the United States, providing national network coverage and industry-leading innovations designed to elevate the customer experience.


Believe in You Coaching

Michelle offers personal and professional life coaching through Believe in You Coaching.