Friday, September 9, 2016
Is there something better than the best? Perhaps not linguistically but when it comes to contingent workforce management, best practices are not always what’s best for your business. Could it be about time we got rid of “best practices” in contingent workforce management? Don’t panic. I am not suggesting we drop standards, aim low and forget what we’ve learned. What I am suggesting is that the industry focus more on growth and progress and less on what’s been done before. While I am not the first to suggest that our industry relies too much on best practices to guide and deliver solutions, I am eager to see the focus change. Too much emphasis on “best practices” is a problem. Why? For two reasons. First, because best practices – at least the idea of them – are fundamentally flawed. Secondly, there’s a much better way.
Everyone and everything that was once “the best,” loses that position or title in time. For many years the Guinness record-holder for the highest canine jump was a Borzoi (Russian Wolf hound) named Wolf who cleared a 5 feet, 2 inch hurdle. Today, the record is held by a Greyhound named Cinderella May who cleared a hurdle set at 5 feet, 8 inches. One day, the record and title will go to another dog.
Just like world records, titles and best anything, best practices are also subject to the passing of time and the improvements of knowledge and technology. Take for example contingent workforce compliance and risk management practices today compared with those from 10 years ago. One decade ago the Affordable Care Act was not in place and paid sick leave laws were different. Best practices in managing contingent employee leave and healthcare at the turn of the millennium cannot work today. And those that work today will not suit tomorrow’s needs as regulations and rules change with the political and business climate. The “best” of yesterday is not practical for the realities of today.
In helping businesses design contingent workforce programs, I am always impressed at how different each and every workforce is. Even in the same industry and the same region, no two workforces are the same. It’s because businesses shape their talent pools and programs through their culture and leadership. How contingent employees are engaged, employed and utilized will be different from business to business and often from department to department.
Take for example the process of contingent worker recruitment. I work with several businesses that rely on large teams of contingent technology talent. Some of these businesses work through a VMS (vendor management system) to acquire the skilled contingent talent they need and create competition amongst suppliers to deliver top talent. Other businesses find that they are best suited by managed service programs (MSPs), which often deliver expertise to help navigate complex programs, especially when moving to SOW and professional services. This is just one contingent workforce management preference. Within those MSP and/or VMS programs (many businesses have both) the structures for engaging, assessing, reviewing, approving and onboarding talent vary. I would not be able to lift a practice from one employer and fit it perfectly over the next. Too many people, process and system differences would create misalignments and inefficiencies, which are the opposite results you want from any contingent workforce management solution.
You’ll remember that while maligning the “best practices” expression and those who claim to own them above, I also said that there is a better way. Here it is. Take the four key elements that determine contingent workforce management excellence (performance, engagement, cost and sustainability) and adapt approaches to create a solution that is new and better for your business. It’s an iterative approach to contingent workforce management that recognizes each workforce as a unique and evolving organism.
Over the next several weeks, I will examine each of these four elements and how through practice (the word I do approve of in “best practices”) and adaptation, contingent workforce management becomes the efficient, cost saving and talent cultivating solution businesses need. Join me in the weeks ahead and discover how the right kind of practice can and should work.