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AI Is Changing How Talent Requests Are Assigned and Fulfilled

Hiring is hard. Hiring at scale is even harder. That’s where hiring technology comes in. Our all-in-one hiring platform simplifies how companies manage their contingent hiring programs. In this[...]

February 25, 2020

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Controlling Supplier Communication with Hiring Managers

Worlds collide

The immensely popular 1990s sitcom “Seinfeld” introduced us to a lot of colorful characters with equally off-kilter philosophies. More often than not for Jerry and his friends, the acute idiosyncrasies they allowed to flourish in these theories found a way of transforming the most mundane situations into the stuff of a surrealist’s nightmares. Think of it as Kafka for late 20th century America. And in the misadventures of the Seinfeld squad, the catalyst to this chaos often came from the concept of “worlds colliding.”

The Worlds Collide rule states that individuals must maintain separation between various relationships in their lives, such as the worlds of personal friendships and romantic partnerships. Should those two worlds collide, the theory hyperbolically concludes, both shall be destroyed.

In a particularly famous episode, George Costanza confronts the imminent doom of peace in his universe when his girlfriend, who exists in the world of Relationship George, forms a separate friendship with his platonic friend Elaine, who belongs to the world of Independent George.

“If Relationship George walks through this door, he will kill Independent George! A George divided against itself cannot stand!”

The discovery of new worlds in the staffing industry universe

Back when the first episodes of “Seinfeld” were breaking new ground with audiences, staffing suppliers had little reason to monitor the trajectories of their worlds for potential collision courses. Clients needed temporary talent and staffing agencies stepped in to fill those requirements with their best candidates. Then came the rise of the MSP/VMS program model. The introduction of an intermediary to the traditional labor fulfillment and management process presented an unsettling aspect of change, a new world in the once sparsely populated galaxy. The rapid evolution and subsequent success of MSP/VMS solutions drove continued client adoption, yet unintentionally left some suppliers feeling alienated. These staffing partners sought ways of circumventing the MSP to barter directly with hiring managers.

As time progressed, MSPs themselves became wary of their staffing partners having too much direct access to client hiring managers. Many managed service professionals started advocating for no-contact, or no-touch, programs.

The stance taken by both MSPs and staffing providers originates from an understandably defensive posture: people want to avoid their worlds colliding. Yet the debate between curtailing or encouraging supplier dialogs with hiring managers persists.

The good news is that all stakeholders in a contingent labor engagement can find a happy and efficient medium. No-touch and high-touch program models each have their merits. The trick lies in timing and striking the right balance. MSPs and their staffing partners need to coordinate and collaborate to help hiring managers accomplish their prime directives: finding the best talent. 

Hands off?

A no-contact rule can work well for outsourced workforce programs in their infancies or recently redesigned models such as second-generation programs where an incoming MSP is replacing an incumbent provider.

Enforcing a no-touch policy, in the earliest stages of the post-implementation relationship, helps MSPs drive consistency, develop compliance standards, create reporting metrics, centralize activities, define delegation of duties, establish billing and invoicing protocols and, most importantly, build rapport with the hiring managers they serve. During these crucial and formative phases of the engagement, imposing restrictions on staffing suppliers’ direct access to hiring managers allows MSPs to create a controlled and orderly solution. Previously overwhelmed hiring managers -- the impetus for bringing in an MSP -- also regain a sense of calm and focus when communications are consolidated through a single point-of-contact capable of mediating between suppliers and the contingent talent.

And if the client organization has engaged staffing partners that operate outside the MSP program, such as those filling Statement of Work (SOW) or project-based contracts for special initiatives, a no-touch rule prevents hiring managers from leaking opportunities to those suppliers. This also protects the margins of staffing partners participating in the MSP program, who continue to benefit from the regular flow of job requisitions.

Staffing suppliers willing to adhere to the MSP’s no-contact policy demonstrate their commitment to acting as stewards for the best interests of the program, not merely their own gain. As MSPs and client hiring managers track performance, these suppliers will naturally stand out, leading them to spots on preferred distribution lists, priority tiers or increased opportunities with other clients contracted through the MSP.

As the program matures, however, the no-contact rule must be revisited. If MSPs allow the prohibitions to stand, they may unwittingly jeopardize the growth and future success of the program.

Allowing worlds to coalesce, not collide

As MSP programs mature and transition to the next stage in their lifecycles, the focus shifts from implementation to innovation. The emphasis moves from the tactical to the strategic. As these changes take place, the no-access policy will become difficult to maintain.

The MSP alone can never holistically replace the role of hiring managers in describing precisely what is desired, needed and expected with the program. The VMS can never fully capture all the nuances of the job requirements or serve as a perfect substitute for interpersonal conversations involving negotiations, strategic discussions and requests for clarification.

“In the end, programs that completely eliminate the valuable one-on-one relationship between hiring manager and supplier anecdotally have poorer quality and compliance,” noted SIA Vice President Bryan Pena. “It goes without saying that every situation is different and in some cases such a policy may make sense, but many buyers do not consider the ramifications of such a policy.”

And those ramifications are the destruction of the necessary and vital partnerships that must thrive between MSPs and their staffing partners for the sake of the client’s program.

“I’m not saying that suppliers should have unfettered access to hiring managers,” Pena added, “but they should be allowed to have controlled access with appropriate guidelines and rules.”

After the dust from program implementation settles and the initial learning curves are ironed out, MSP program managers should begin facilitating communications between the client and the staffing partners. One of the most effective ways to establish meaningful yet controlled access to hiring managers is through recurring supplier forums and client business reviews.

• Design the forum to be a communications event with the purpose of conveying clear

messages about business strategies, procurement needs, future directions, continuous improvement recommendations, innovations, goal attainment and more.

• Clearly define the client’s layered strategies – program drivers, visions, future missions and forecasts.

• As the MSP, impart your perspectives on the partnerships – how all teams can unite and work toward common ends.

• Review lessons learned, define ongoing prerequisites for success, discuss trends and share best practices.

• Develop a mutually agreed upon roadmap for strategic management processes as the program migrates to MSP 2.0.

• Have key client representatives and stakeholders present to share their perspectives and take feedback.

In addition to supplier forums, MSPs can continue to develop bidirectional communication channels through semi-monthly or monthly status calls, bi-annual satisfaction surveys and onsite client mixers each year.

Real world success

At Zenith, the MSP for one of our largest programs has developed a masterful solution in concert with the staffing partners and the client. Requisition Managers from the MSP host calls on a regular basis to discuss open requisitions with staffing suppliers and hiring managers, providing a controlled yet meaningful way for information to be exchanged about each position. Staffing suppliers can ask the hiring manager direct questions on the call and receive important clarifications. Even better, the MSP remains in the loop as the moderator. It’s a win-win scenario for every stakeholder in the process that fosters open communication while preventing rogue outreach to hiring managers.

Adoption means communication from day one

The secret to establishing supplier trust and productivity in the program hails from strong communication, beginning at day one. Encouraging open dialog with suppliers at the onset of the program will foster greater levels of confidence and loyalty in staffing partners during the no-touch phases of the engagement, should the MSP utilize that strategy.

• Promote as vendor neutral a program model as possible. Vendor neutrality emphasizes performance, levels the playing field for suppliers and makes a great deal of sense in the first iteration of the MSP program, as all the players are learning one another’s capabilities and strengths.

• Before the program’s deployment date, allow suppliers to meet with client stakeholders to address all mutual concerns and expectations.

• Be transparent with terms and conditions, performance metrics, SLAs, pay rates, markups, conversion processes, payment schedules and all other material aspects of the program.

• Develop specific training programs for suppliers to take place during the final stages of implementation, which cover program policies, VMS usage, support options and issue resolution procedures.

• Build supplier adoption upfront. Articulate the benefits your MSP program will offer to them (e.g., reduced administrative expenses through automation, access to other opportunities with different clients, etc.).

Worlds at peace

For as strange and darkly absurd as George Costanza’s theory seems, the underlying discomfort of our worlds colliding remains a very tangible anxiety. Think of all the dating guides that have been published and pored over since the 1950s -- for all the advice that’s changed through the years, for all of breaches of etiquette overcome, one dilemma endures: when do you introduce Johnny Football Hero or Sally Cheerleading Chick to your friends?

For MSPs, ensuring a strong and committed supplier base is just as important as achieving client satisfaction. An indirect labor program thrives when the best suppliers are in place to provide the best talent at the best rates. And hiring manager satisfaction springs from a flawless talent acquisition process that consistently delivers the best talent at the most competitive rates, with the fastest submittal times. Your staffing partners can’t deliver if they don’t have all the details.

Facilitating the mission-critical conversations between hiring managers and staffing providers can only bring peace to all the worlds in your staffing universe.

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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