International Program Expansion: Where to Begin?

During the recent 2016 Contingent Workforce Summit, I had
the opportunity to moderate several roundtable discussions on
the topic of international program expansion. The conversations
had that day were lively and each of the roughly thirty
participants represented a different point in the journey for the
establishment of a global contingent program – some of the
programs had already absorbed European regions and other
programs were in the analysis stage for global expansion. Across
the morning, though, we discussed a common theme in each
session: how can risk be mitigated during the launch across the

Today’s drivers for global expansion are clear: headcount identification, cost savings, and compliance. In today’s era of the mature contingent workforce management (CWM) model, it’s not at all uncommon for programs to have already centralized their contingent workforce in US, Canada and Mexico. The focus of CWM 3.0 is now upon on the absorption of APAC and EMEA into a centralized model.  However, in contrast to the maturity of CWM particularly within North America, there are often varying levels of maturity and visibility within the contingent workforce abroad; and this tends to correlate to the U.S. more often than not acting as the hub of the program, hosting program stakeholders, and holding responsibility for selection of the VMS and MSP.

How, then, can global stakeholder support be assured and disruption to business avoided? Despite the establishment of best practices and the success it has created for CWM in the last ten years, it is not common for programs to be mandated programs in North America or globally. Generally speaking, program stakeholders continue to walk the fine line of justifying the program ROI and encouraging the support and participation of end users while continuing to allow exceptions to the recruitment and invoicing processes established by the enterprise to manage their contingent workforce. The challenge is that to create a successful global program, it is critical to have engaged stakeholders across regions and end users committed to the success of a centralized program through the use best practices in plan. Establishing these relationships starts with a willingness to understand the climate and culture of varying regions and often times it means starting with “the basics” of discovering who the external partners to the programs are, contingent strategy in the region, and mark up structures.

In addition, globally speaking, there are regions such as India and France that prove especially challenging in terms of laws and regulations governing CWM yet represent a significant portion of labor in many organizations. We discussed the utilization of enterprise legal and HR resources as well as external peers and vendor partners to establish a baseline understand of varying markets. Rather than “re-creating the wheel,” stakeholders are leveraging the subject matter experts within our broader business communities.

One of the main drivers for global programs is compliance. Compliance management begs the question many stakeholders struggle to answer:  how can a VMS centralize and support global headcount through a one stop talent management and invoicing platform? Stakeholders often shared they encounter struggles with validating RFI responses against business needs.  In other words, when the rubber hits the road, how does the external partner actually support the roughly fifty countries within Europe and how will this impact the cost model? A tight and well managed needs checklist is critical to ensuring clarity in these analyses of alignment with external partners.

Finally, in terms of timeline for the rollout of a global CWM program, a phased approach prioritized upon volume and risk is a common and solid approach.  Regions should be prioritized based upon an in depth analysis of headcount, spend, and risk and a strong communications plan must be put in place to avoid disruption to regional business. Ensure that regional stakeholders and business are included in strategy conversations and that a centralized program model is not simply forced upon them.

Our key takeaways for successful international program expansion:

·         Complete a comprehensive readiness assessment – ensure a strong understanding of headcount, spend, external partners, and enterprise strategy across region is defined prior to launch.

·         Consider a phased approach to launch – expect a multiyear roll out for a global, multi-region enterprise. International program expansion will not happen overnight.

·         Acknowledge the varying levels of maturity across region – culture and climate will influence regional readiness for a centralized program model.

·         Ensure regional stakeholders and end users are engaged – prior to roll out, create an environment in which contributions to strategy can be made by those who will be supporting the program. Rolling out processes to be followed lock and step will meet resistance.

·         Leverage established knowledge – look internally and externally for subject matter expertise. Don’t recreate the wheel.

It’s an exciting and challenging time at hand for CWM as daily operations shift to include stakeholders and contingent workers tens of thousands of miles away and worlds part and the suite of regulations and labor laws that must be considered expands exponentially. Our industry continues to evolve into a talent ecosystem and the demand for collaboration and contribution of each member of the supply chain increases.