Liberate Don’t Strangulate

Our own Paul Vincent follows up on his recent webinar discussion with Andrew Bartolini and Christopher Dwyer of Ardent Partners.

October 30, 2018

Recently it was my pleasure to join Andrew Bartolini and Christopher Dwyer of Ardent Partners in a webinar discussion about effective category management and in particular with respect to contingent labour.

In the first part of the webinar, Andrew provided a macro perspective of the role of procurement and how category management has evolved. Chris then added some further colour by providing a glimpse of their soon to be released annual research into the State of the Contingent Workforce Management (CWM) Market. The three of us then debated a number of key questions across the topic.

The full webinar recording will be available in due course but here is a summary of my personal contribution.

What’s the right balance between traditional supply management tactics and more progressive strategies for managing the Contingent Labour category?

The simple answer is that you need to be as progressive as possible but how you get there very much depends on where you are starting from on the maturity curve. I think there are 3 key phases of maturity.

Firstly it is about becoming efficient and putting the foundational basics in place. Like understanding which suppliers are being used, what your organisation is spending on talent and what work is being performed. Visibility. Control. Savings.

Secondly it is about becoming effective. Being clearer about how talent decisions are made in your organisation, appreciating how outcomes are measured and knowing what type of talent is most appropriate for any given need. Delivering a choice of sources that can deliver against that need. What. Why. How.

Finally it is about turning your approach to talent management into a competitive advantage. Leveraging your employer or customer value proposition to the maximum. Creating private talent communities. Building access points into all sources of talent and truly optimising how work gets done.  

The challenge for many procurement professionals is that they get mentally and organisationally trapped in the first phase. Unless they view and position their role internally as one that ‘enables work’ rather than ‘manages spend’ then they will always undershoot where they could be.

What does “agility” really mean when it comes to the contingent labor category?

At the foundational level agility is typically seen as a measure of how quickly you can get to an acceptable candidate within budget i.e. the procurement focus is centred on process agility.

When seeking to become effective the measure of agility should be speed to business outcomes. Procurement should focus on how well their organisation uses predictive analytics to both inform and operationalise workforce strategies. They should also be seeking and utilising the broadest possible range of market knowledge and commercial insight. Lastly, but definitely not least, they should be encouraging and facilitating bold supplier innovation. As Che Guavara famously said "The revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall." I often think of that quote when our KellyOCG sales teams encounter organisations that are waiting for someone else to prove that a new game-changing idea works rather than grab the opportunity to test it out on themselves...we should all remember that business innovation is not a spectator have to be in it to win it!

Within our MSP programs we are constantly looking for ways to move clients along the maturity curve. For example as well as supporting our procurement stakeholders we also guide hiring managers on what type of talent they need and where they can get it from. Specifically at our largest Pharma client where we’ve been running a guided work program for almost 3 years, we helped them exceed their STRETCH savings goals by over $11m in the last year alone.

How does a company make that dramatic shift from traditional CWM to “talent-led” CWM?

I would highlight 4 main pillars:

  1. Viewing the Talent Consumer as Paramount – hiring managers do not always comply with top down mandates, these are often viewed as roadblocks to achieving their work objectives. They need to have an outlet that understands their needs, filters them through (appropriate) existing policy and ensures that their talent demands are filled even when the “preferred vendors” can’t.
  2. Broad Talent Access – With the changing dynamics in the global labour markets, and all the evolving talent channels available, it’s critical that organizations are introducing and leveraging all possible ways to get work done. With four generations already in the workplace today, each having a different lens on how want they want to work and how your organisation can meet their needs, understanding why someone would want to work for your company is going to be key to a successful engagement strategy.
  3. Maximise Available Analytics – organizations need to move beyond foundational data, and capture all the necessary data that enables predictive analytics and continuous improvement to category and workforce strategies.
  4. Seek Customized Value – organizations need to move beyond basic cost savings targets, and capture what the value proposition is for various key stakeholder groups.

How do CWM solutions and software help to push this category to the next level?

Technology will of course be able to support the underlying process infrastructure and ensure that it operates in the leanest way. With added intelligence the technology solutions will also be able to introduce more tailored configuration and maximise economies of scale.

However that being said it is still people that will ultimately make workforce strategies succeed or fail. Technology cannot replicate trust, passion, belief and the first impression that someone makes when they walk into a room. It also cannot replace the experience someone has when they are greeted on their first day in a new organisation. At the end of the day people buy from people – and this is even more pertinent when the product that people are buying is talent!

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