Non-employee talent is getting more and more attention in the executive suite, as contractors, freelancers, and other knowledge-based contingent workers become increasingly important in achieving company goals. However, when management attempts to align its current contingent labor management program with corporate objectives, many companies ﬁnd they are unable to answer the most basic questions about the effectiveness of their current practices.
Once this disconnect becomes painfully apparent, companies often reach out to external parties for advice. But when should managers reach out for external guidance, and if warranted, what is the right way to go about ﬁnding the best advice? Contingent workforce management is a unique discipline, and ﬁnding consultants with the necessary prerequisite experience and aptitude in the ﬁeld is difﬁcult.
As the contingent workforce becomes more visible at the executive level, stakeholders at all levels are asking more strategic questions about the program:
But when business leaders start asking these questions, they often find that they do not have clear visibility into a number of more basic questions, such as:
Organizations should readily have answers to all these questions at their ﬁngertips, and those who do not may beneﬁt from external advice. But how should an advisor be chosen? The questions themselves demonstrate the need for an all-inclusive approach to providing recommendations. An advisor should be able to address how an organization can produce these answers on a recurring basis, as well as address how the program can serve multiple departmental needs and perspectives, while maintaining alignment with corporate objectives.
Assessing Qualiﬁcations of a Potential Advisor
A number of organizations claim to be qualiﬁed to provide advice on contingent labor engagement practices—ranging from single-person contractors to large multi-national ﬁrms, and from consulting generalists to specialists in the contingent labor arena. But beyond the fundamental qualiﬁcation standards (business degrees, MBAs, professional certiﬁcations, etc.), what background should a service provider possess? The right party will have the following attributes:
Specialized Experience Is Paramount
The rapidly evolving contingent labor space uses specialized terminology, concepts, processes, and technology. Consultants who are not in the ﬁeld every day have trouble keeping up. Companies often pay sizable consulting fees, only to have their current managers and the managed service provider (MSP) spend valuable time training the consultants who are supposed to be helping them.
Many of those offering advice in this area are doing so from 30,000 feet up and 1,000 miles behind. On-the-ground experience with current clients is essential, and cannot be attained by attending or running conferences. Service providers with real and recent experience will have a better appreciation for the organizational impact of proposed changes because they are in constant dialogue with all stakeholders on a daily basis.
This accountability for solving real client problems will help avoid the costly mistakes associated with implementing ﬂawed ideas created in an academic setting. It is important to ask prospective advisors how many programs they are currently managing in today’s rapidly changing business environment. Experience from a few years ago is quickly dated. It is also critical to know if they are connected to the business at the transaction level on a daily basis.
The best advisors will have proven methods for providing market rate business intelligence on relevant skill sets and experience. These methods will utilize data that aligns with the kind of knowledge-based talent that is critical to an organization. The recency of the data needs to be measured in days, not quarters or years.
Beware of Quick Fixes
One critical question to ask is whether the chosen advisor will be committed to your long-term success. When it comes to the contingent workforce, promises of massive cost savings up front should be regarded with healthy skepticism. While immediate cost savings achievement is entirely possible, especially with ﬁrst generation programs, it is very likely that these quick savings opportunities have already been realized by Procurement, Finance, and/or your existing MSP.
The “quick ﬁx” approach often disrupts business practices, while a holistic methodology can increase effectiveness and simultaneously provide higher residual savings. By partnering with an organization that is vested in its reputation as a leader in the space, it is possible to ensure that any potential long-term ramiﬁcations will be sufﬁciently addressed.
Firms will often recommend the following three strategies. There is nothing groundbreaking or new about these concepts. However, if they are not deployed with understanding and experience in contingent labor management, they will likely fall short of delivering expected results and can have an adverse impact on the company post-engagement.
Firms should especially be wary of consultants who structure their fees as a percentage of identiﬁed cost savings. This approach incentivizes short-term thinking, poorly planned quick ﬁxes, and results energy-sapping debates over cost-savings measurements and fee calculations that, in the end, add no value to the core objectives of the project.
Combining the beneﬁts of immediate savings with a realistic understanding of contingent workforce management can provide an abundance of opportunities for ongoing cost savings and better workforce planning. A well-managed program enables the program owner to serve as a trusted leader and partner for all stakeholders in contingent labor management. It also enables a shift in focus toward next-level questions such as:
Proven Expertise in Contingent Workforce Management
For more than 20 years, PRO Unlimited has been a pioneer in the contingent workforce management industry. PRO Advisory Services provides contingent workforce consulting to companies looking to evaluate their current practices and opportunities. The team draws upon unparalleled experience and thought leadership to help organizations in areas such as:
If you or a member of your team would benefit from further discussion on how PRO is helping companies implement winning contingent workforce management programs globally, please contact a PRO representative at 800.291.1099 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The content in this blog post is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for legal advice. The blog post reflects the opinion of PRO Unlimited and is not to be construed as legal solutions and positions. Contact an attorney for specific advice and guidance for specific issues or questions.