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Crowdstaffing featured as Rising Star and Premium Usability HR platform in 2019

Crowdstaffing has earned the prestigious 2019 Rising Star & Premium Usability Awards from FinancesOnline, a popular B2B software review platform. This recognition is given out annually to products[...]

May 13, 2019

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MSPs Are Masters Of Collaboration


Part 1 of 2 in a series

The many moving parts of an MSP/VMS solution

An end-to-end workforce management program is a complex ecosystem of symbiotic partners that are wholly dependent on one another to ensure success. Even with a streamlined contingent labor program, enabled by VMS automation, organizational leaders can focus on core areas of their businesses only when MSPs and staffing suppliers operate in concert. In order to meet program goals, suppliers must know precisely what those goals are. MSPs that communicate regularly with their vendors boast the highest customer satisfaction ratings. If collaboration is not fostered and actively orchestrated, the vital functions of the solution become jeopardized, hindering the ability of MSPs and their staffing partners to execute winning strategies.

If there’s one trait MSPs share in common, it’s how uncommon their solutions must be for each client. Successful programs forgo a one-size-fits-all approach -- they are tailored to satisfy the unique needs of different enterprises. More than that, they’re built to change. The longevity of an MSP is often dependent on how it continuously improves and introduces new avenues for growth and progress. Whether undertaking a new implementation, transitioning into a program where the incumbent has left, unveiling a new solution or enhancing existing operations, MSPs are constantly delivering value through a process of ongoing projects. Every facet of the solution touches countless stakeholders and involves many moving parts. Success requires a commitment to collaboration and change management.

In the first part of this series, we’re going to look at the importance of MSPs as masters of collaboration, and how that differs from cooperation. And in the second installment, we’ll discuss the best practices MSPs bring to change management.

The winds of change

MSPs demonstrate their most dramatic impact during the first year, as they swoop in to standardize rates, centralize processes, consolidate procedures, rein in rogue spend and strategically rationalize the supplier base. As programs mature, MSPs find themselves evolving from tacticians to strategists. By collaborating closely with suppliers and engaging in proactive discussions, MSPs will find themselves better positioned to attract high-performing talent, new skill sets, and more effectively determine the types of talent an organization will need in coming quarters. This process also ensures total alignment between staffing suppliers and a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy that encompasses the client’s business culture, values and optimal candidate attributes.

All of that said, it’s crucial that we differentiate between collaborating and cooperating. While cooperation eases tension and smooths the way for highly engaged relationships, it yields few results if collaboration is absent.

Collaboration versus cooperation

Everyone talks about the importance of collaboration, especially across functions during major projects or initiatives. To achieve goals, a disparate collection of skills and resources must come together. The challenge is getting all the team members to mesh when they have varying objectives -- requirements that distinctly target the needs and perspectives of their respective departments. Program stakeholders and participants must be willing to join forces, share information and cooperate. And that’s where the efforts of some project management techniques end -- with instilling a basic sense of cooperation.

Collaboration, however, demands more. Despite well-intentioned attitudes designed to unite teams, interdepartmental collaboration can’t thrive with pleasantries alone. Tough decisions must be made. Compromises and trade-offs must be bargained, accepting that not every team leader will walk away with his or her perfect scenario. Limitations must be imposed, and certain actions curtailed. And workloads must be managed to reasonably accommodate different priorities across functional groups.

As organizational improvement expert and author Ron Ashkenas wrote in Harvard Business Review: “Most managers are cooperative, friendly, and willing to share information -- but what they lack is the ability and flexibility to align their goals and resources with others in real time. Sometimes this starts at the top of the organization when senior leaders don’t fully synchronize their strategies and performance measures with each other. More often, however, the collaboration challenge resides with department heads, product leaders, and major initiative managers who need to get everyone on the same page.”

The desired outcomes can seldom be attained when polite, cooperative behavior is mistaken for collaboration. This is where MSPs can prove instrumental in maximizing the effectiveness of suppliers.

Steps to achieve true collaboration

MSPs are adept at overseeing teams. By uniting these groups, MSPs can help them move beyond cooperation and into collaboration through best practices that emphasize transparent communications, mutual alignment of outcomes, and the universal engagement of all parties necessary to the success of the program. In projects that are merely cooperative, teams may remain informed yet aren’t actively drawn into the effort as hands-on participants. In other situations, individual elements of the solution’s architecture may touch every team member in a group while never coming together collectively. In a case such as this, segregated teams presume that others are taking care of their own pieces and that the overall solution will naturally fit together. Yet without the oversight of the entire stakeholder committee -- MSPs, hiring managers and staffing partners -- that doesn’t always happen.

Don’t just have a plan, document it and discuss it

The first essential step in developing collaboration is to plan out the process and map all the work that must be performed.

  • Conceptualize the ultimate goal that must be achieved, and make sure every supplier partner and hiring manager understands and agrees on it.
  • Document the soup-to-nuts process that will produce the desired results.
  • Assign specific, relevant tasks to teams and team members within the client and supplier communities.
  • Create a list of dependencies -- what will be needed from other teams, which teams will need to come together to meet those needs, the sequence and timing of those interactions, etc.
  • Create an oversight body comprised of all team leaders who will review the progress daily and manage the backlog.
  • Compile all of this work into a unified framework and present it to the group for amendment and sign-off.

When everyone involved understands the objectives, the form of delivery, and the deadline for completing and approving milestones, a collaborative dialog can take place. And at that time, MSPs can assist team members with making the tough decisions to determine the feasibility of the tasks, what can truly be accomplished, what must be discarded and what contingencies should be instituted to cover the gaps, without sacrificing integrity or compromising standards.

More importantly, an agile process such as this becomes chaos-tolerant; it expects change and focuses on empirical, rather than defined, output. Cookbook processes often constrain and stifle development, making strategy follow structure instead of the other way around.  

Working sessions and collaborative reviews

One of the biggest mistakes in multi-layered projects, according to Ashkenas, “is trying to foster what we might call ‘serial collaboration’, i.e. going from one function to the next and trying to cobble together an agreement. Not only is this time-consuming, but it rarely works since each change affects the next.”

Following Ashkenas’ guidance, a more effective approach MSPs can adopt is to convene working sessions made up of all collaborators across the practice groups, including representatives from the MSP, client and staffing partner teams. On a regularly scheduled and recurring basis, these participants band together to review progress, revise milestones, adjust priorities, identify or work through obstacles, share resources, align incentives, and make commitments based on each upcoming phase of the plan.

With an initiative predicated on true collaboration, not just cooperation, all stakeholders (client procurement leaders, hiring managers, MSPs and staffing partners) will realize the highest possible gains from the project, even if it differs from the original vision.

In the second part of this series, we’ll expand on the concept and look at how a formal change management process can bring together the mission critical aspects of cooperation and collaboration.

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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