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Insights from VMSA: Improving Supplier Relationships
By Karen Maarouf  |  April 26, 2017
Insights from VMSA: Improving Supplier Relationships

Back in the office from the recent VMS Accelerators conference (VMSA LIVE) in Phoenix, Arizona, I'm reflecting on a highly informative and productive event. With its focus on engaged discussions - rather than one-sided presentations - it provided a great opportunity for meaningful conversations.

I really enjoyed connecting with industry influencers and participants (and particularly the many staffing leaders who wanted to pick my brain about best practices...I don't think I've ever been so popular!).

Spotlight on Supplier Performance

As ZeroChaos' subject-matter expert on supplier engagement, I represented the MSP perspective in a session with Michelle Cox, U.S. Cellular's Senior Manager of External Staffing and Vendor Relations. Later, I served on a panel of contingent workforce management industry leaders and clients. Both delivered lively conversation on improving communication and performance. Here are a few topics and pieces of advice we explored with the audiences:

1) Use activity as a feedback mechanism
One of the biggest challenges we hear about from staffing suppliers is about lack of feedback – on submittals, interviews, and hiring decisions. In a perfect world, clients would respond "why" or "why not" with every single candidate, but the reality is that’s not going to happen due to high volumes and deadlines.

One thing we tell suppliers is to use activity on your candidates as a feedback mechanism. If one candidate is chosen for an interview and another is not, go back and compare their resumes side by side. Interview your candidates after they interview to learn about the customer and their hiring process. Over time, you'll get better at understanding what makes some candidates acceptable and others not.

2) Know your strengths
End clients don’t expect - or even want - their suppliers to be generalists. Typically, suppliers who say "we can do everything" are not going to perform as well as those who specialize. Make sure you're establishing proper classifications to set yourself up for success.

3) Retention activities are key
Suppliers in our session complained about the MSP failing to inform them of changes in positions. In an ideal world, the MSP would be informed of all changes, but the world is not ideal. The best way to ensure that you are kept informed is to develop strong relationships with your employees and consultants. With consistent communication, you should get direct updates from your consultants before you get them from the client or MSP.

As the contingent workforce grows, competition will only become more fierce. What are you doing to make your firm the supplier everyone wants to work for?

4) Get out in front of the quarterly review
Don't wait for the quarterly review to gauge how you're doing. Metrics provided by your MSP are useful and important, but suppliers need to measure their own performance to ensure regular improvement, not just when scorecards are delivered. And make sure to attend every single scheduled call with the MSP team.

Supplier performance is everyone's responsibility:

  • The customer needs to provide detailed job descriptions and candidate feedback
  • The MSP needs to ensure a healthy competitive market with the right suppliers and the right number of suppliers
  • The suppliers need to provide talent quickly at fair market rates

The formula for success hasn't changed, but what you need to do to achieve it has because of the incredibly competitive market we're all operating in. The key to a truly successful program is partnering with suppliers who are as invested in the success of the program as we are.

In the early days, MSPs served as barriers between suppliers and customers. Today, we're facilitators, helping to ensure each party has the data and culture to collaborate and succeed. When all three legs of the tripod - customer, MSP, and supplier - work together, all businesses thrive.

 

Karen Maarouf leads ZeroChaos supplier engagement, channel partnership and global payroll teams. During her 26 years in the contingent workforce industry, Karen has managed temporary staffing, VMS/MSP implementations, application support, product management, product marketing, account management and corporate initiatives. Her teams are dedicated to providing ZeroChaos customers and partners with the tools, analytics and best practices needed to optimize contingent workforce processes and quality.