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These Are the 3 Biggest Trends in Workforce Innovation

Keeping up with the changing world requires constant innovation — and this includes hiring. Evolving technology, the shifting generational makeup of the workforce, and a candidate-centric market[...]

February 18, 2020

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7 Tips to Achieving MSP Greatness

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” -- Albert Einstein

It’s all relative

Albert Einstein, perhaps the most groundbreaking physicist of the 20th century, was most famous for his theories on relativity, which superseded Newton’s then 200-year-old treatise on mechanics. In particular, Einstein championed the idea that space and time should be considered together and in relation to each other. Prior to that, space and time were regarded as completely independent domains. As astrophysicist and University of Rochester professor Adam Frank noted of the Newtonian era: “Space was the unchanging stage on which the drama of the world played out. Time was a river that flowed at an unchanging rate through every point on that cosmic change.”

Einstein profoundly recognized that space and time exist together, in mutual dependence, to propel the events of our lives. The wisdom of his observations, like so many scientific principles, has infused much of our social and philosophical outlook. His concept of success and value, therefore, is also one of relativity: to be successful, one must deliver value; they are not separate domains.


Success comes from value

One of the key takeaways from The Conference Board’s CEO Challenge 2014 was the rising importance of engagement. Yet Gallup’s research on the subject found that disengaged workers outnumbered their engaged peers by “an overwhelming factor of 2:1.” However, in corollary studies of 32 exemplary organizations, Gallup saw the engagement ratio soar to 9:1, the result of innovative, non-traditional and demonstratively effective management strategies.

In the staffing industry, the same issues prevail. MSPs often struggle to foster and maintain high levels of engagement with their supplier communities, which leads to faster fill times, superior candidate quality, less attrition of talent, competitive rates and markups, greater compliance and more.

When Gallup compared the 32 high-performing companies to the much larger number of firms “struggling to turn around bland and uninspiring workplaces,” it determined seven paths to success that created exceptionally engaged teams of spirited professionals. Applying these tactics to MSPs that manage diverse groups of supplier partners, we believe their engagement strategies can be refined to deliver unparalleled value and success -- qualities that are conjoined and harmonious for the benefit of all program stakeholders.


Seven paths to engagement enlightenment

MSP leaders who are curious, involved and continually improving. The philosophies, demeanors, attitudes and behaviors of leaders trickle down to influence and inspire every member of the team. Great MSP leaders don’t come up with vague visions of a paragon and then delegate its execution -- they help develop the models, they actively participate in practice groups and they demonstrate their own practical understanding of the solution, instilling a sense of “the buck stops here.” They also remain highly visible and display a sense of professional vulnerability by making their own continuous improvement efforts known. They solicit feedback from suppliers just as often as they do from hiring managers. They make ongoing improvement programs a team exercise. They promote engagement by being engaged themselves.

MSPs have dedicated supplier relations teams. The best HR teams have a knack for mentoring, influencing and holding executives accountable. And just as Gallup’s 32 model companies all boasted robust HR teams, the most successful MSPs devote supplier management experts to their programs. These supplier management specialists don’t merely issue dry RFPs to source, qualify and enroll suppliers, they construct partnerships and communities. To build relationships, an MSP’s supplier management group develops suppliers in accordance with their core strengths. They share with suppliers the pros and cons of the program and the benefits to be derived through participation, including reduced administrative complexity, simplified back office support and processes, reduced sales costs, and the opportunity to grow their business with other clients in the MSP’s base. They mitigate all supplier concerns upfront, prior to engagement, through forums, webinars, conference calls or one-on-one conversations.

MSPs ensure engagement requirements are met before selling the mission. Suppliers who are listened to, nurtured, understood and taken through a comprehensive on-boarding process at the first point-of-contact will engage quickly. They undertake the work with a greater understanding of expectations, solid knowledge of the objectives to be achieved and insight to the client’s culture and business environment. They demonstrate superior performance metrics and adherence to SLAs. When suppliers explicitly comprehend what is expected of them, have the tools they need to do their jobs, are solid fits for their roles and feel supported by the MSP, they will commit to the program’s mission. On the other hand, if these needs are not satisfied, even the most impassioned and compelling value proposition may not kindle a strong sense of engagement. As Gallup pointed out, “people simply don’t connect with proclamations of missions or values -- no matter how inspiring these might sound in the head office.”

Never use economic conditions as excuses. When programs stagnate, order requirements fall off and belt-tightening occurs, blaming the economy is an easy excuse. Clients themselves turn to contingent labor to curtail overhead costs. In fact, it would be rare to find an organization that has not responded to structural changes, redundancies and declining revenues over the last seven years. And yet, Gallup’s 32 exemplary companies found ways of maintaining strong work cultures. In times of financial downswings, MSPs can continue to energize the supplier base by making changes swiftly and openly, remaining in frank and close communication with supplier partners, and providing hope. Suppliers recognize these efforts and will conduct business in the right way to meet all program needs.

Trust, accountability and support. “The experiences that inspire and encourage employees are local,” Gallup analysts write. “Strong teams are built when the teams themselves size up the problems facing them and take a hands-on approach to solving them.” The same approach rings true for outsourced contingent labor programs. World-class MSPs go the extra mile to support their suppliers, building upon their capabilities, enhancing their performance, bolstering their resilience and helping them innovate new approaches or solutions. They also hold all members of the team accountable for their agreed upon deliverables. The program can only thrive as a united front, with all team members in alignment. Despite good intentions, MSPs that attempt to resolve issues or fix problems alone can have these efforts backfire in ways that erode the foundations of the overall program.

Straightforward and decisive approach to performance management. MSPs with the highest engagement levels use supplier recognition, feedback and development as powerful motivators. Just as great workplaces are populated by what Gallup calls “recognition junkies,” MSPs with eager supplier partners leverage well-earned recognition as an incentivizing means to hone and expand a supplier’s capabilities, elevating program value to new heights. Conversely, tolerating mediocrity will stifle progress.

The status quo is the enemy of ongoing improvement and creative innovation. Like an efficient Six Sigma program, MSPs should constantly seek out defects in the process, crafting preventative and proactive initiatives to redress potential issues before they blossom into real-world obstacles. Everyone’s familiar with the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Yet, realistically, if you’re not actively looking, you’ll never know something’s about to break until it’s too late. “Any action or inaction that doesn't produce appropriate consequences adds to workplace disillusionment and corrodes commitment,” Gallup declares.

Don’t focus on engagement for its own sake. During the most recent meeting of The Conference Board, CEOs expressed that engagement was a priority speeding to the top of their lists. And with the advances in HR technologies, it has become more feasible than ever before to measure and track engagement accurately, as a component of business analytics. The challenge, however, is to avoid focusing on engagement as a KPI and then managing to that metric. Creating an engaged supplier culture requires more than establishing a benchmark and enforcing compliance with it. A productive MSP remains vigilant to the outcomes that superior levels of engagement will attain.

Gallup cited the example of New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS): “This hospital needs a high-octane culture to meet patients’ demands. Senior Vice President of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer Stephanie Goldberg told us that patients expect miracles, and her nurses would struggle to get through a single day if they themselves did not feel that they mattered to the hospital.” Turnover at HSS is consequently much lower than the industry average.

And again, the same applies to staffing suppliers in MSP programs. If your supplier partners see the benefits of participation, recognize their importance to the program, receive encouragement and support from the MSP, and are drawn into a shared sense of the mission, they will commit wholly to the success of the program -- which is providing the greatest value to the client.

Sunil Bagai
Sunil Bagai
Sunil is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, thought leader and influencer who is transforming the way companies think about and acquire talent. Blending vision, technology and business skills honed in the most innovative corporate environments, he has launched a new model for recruitment called Crowdstaffing which is being tapped successfully top global brands. Sunil is passionate about building a company that provides value to the complete staffing ecosystem including clients, candidates and recruiters.
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