How do you undertake a Contingent Workforce Audit?

One of the more popular sessions that the ATC runs at their conferences is the World Café. Last week’s World Café at the ATC Contingent Workforce Conference was no exception.
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So, for those of you who have not experienced this, the World Café is an opportunity for conference delegates to discuss different topics, and learn from each other. It is an ‘unconference’ format, where each table has a different topic facilitated by a table captain. Typically you get to discuss a topic for about 20 minutes, and then you move on to another table. This year we had three x 20 minute rounds. I chose the following discussion topics:

  1. Contingent Work and Professional Careers: Can you have both?
  2. Building a Business Case for a VMS
  3. How do you undertake a Contingent Workforce Audit?

Contingent Work and Professional Careers: Can you have both?
Well the short answer is ‘yes’. But we managed to stretch the discussion for 20 minutes and could have kept going. Here are some of the key takeaways that I gleaned from the discussion.
It depends on what you mean by contingent work. And it also depends on the choice of the individual. Where individuals choose to pursue contingent work, and especially if it is professional work, then they are more likely to be able have their career. But you need to own it and take responsibility for it. On the other end of the scale, for temps and traditional blue collar workers who may be forced into contingent work when they really want permanent, then pursuing a career may be more difficult.
Another point raised is that even in a permanent role, you don’t necessarily get handed a career on a plate. Most individuals need to work for it, ask for training and invest in their own professional development. Sometimes I think we, as ‘workers’, expect the employers to provide us with a career. The world does not work that way.
One of the delegates at my table discussed his own situation. He is in the fortunate position to have a contract role, 3 days per week, which offers him great flexibility. The rest of the time he does voluntary work and spends time at his children’s school. Sounds like his career choice is about flexibility – which doesn’t always come with permanent work.
My thoughts are that it really depends on the sector that you are in, and at which end of the pay scale. I don’t think it is a stretch to say that lower paid workers tend to have less opportunity to advance their careers (whether permanent or contract) or to achieve flexibility in their work structure.
Building a Business Case for a VMS

This discussion was hosted by Bronwen Fitzroy-Ezzy, Executive Vice President , Asia Pacific Region at Beeline. So we were privileged to get some insight into the benefits of a VMS (Vendor Management System) and we even got a handout which has some really useful information. Here are some of the key benefits that a VMS can offer (taken straight out of the handout):

“Better visibility and management capabilities are not the only benefits a VMS can provide. State-of-the-art VMS technology also has the power to:

  • Reduce costs through the elimination of rogue spending
  • Improve business intelligence through analytics and forecasting
  • Provide real-time cost benchmarks across skill sets and geographical scope
  • Increase compliance through better categorization of workers
  • Improve the quality of contractors and staff suppliers
  • Interface with existing IT infrastructures
  • Consolidate billing and improve invoice accuracy.”

This was a thirteen page document which there was just no time to really give it justice. However, if an organisation is serious about getting control of their Contingent Workforce, then a VMS solution does provide a mechanism for centralising all Contingent Worker data. Information is king, and the level of reporting that these tools can provide gives you the ability to make better decisions. It also helps you move from a fragmented and unmanaged view of your contingent labour, to a position where you can achieve one source of truth.

How do you undertake a Contingent Workforce Audit?
I found this discussion quite interesting, because we all came at it from different angles. At the table we had reps from MSP and CMO providers, and of course end clients.
My experience in conducting an audit has been more at the start of an initiative, in order to develop a business case to implement a contingent workforce solution. So the ‘audit’ may actually be a ‘review’ – we are trying to base line current state, to understand what the opportunity is and to work up an ROI for implementing a suitable model. In this situation, it may be totally impractical to identify every single contingent worker in an organisation and to understand the costs and risks associated with each worker. It can take months. You may be better off getting a representative snap-shot and then building an ROI based on reasonable assumptions (which you must clearly define).
Other people at the table were thinking of an audit as, once they have started at a client (e.g. as a CMO or MSP) then they really do need to identify every single worker, the current costs of that worker, the tenure, the contract and any risks associated with the worker. The goal of the CMO or MSP is to get everything under management, so they need to know all the detail.
The 20 minutes ended really quickly and we didn’t get much further than this, but it was good for me to get different perspectives. It all depends on where you are at in the process.
The World Café was a good start to the Contingent Workforce Conference. It helped people loosen up, provided thought-provoking discussions, and of course, the opportunity to network with our industry peers.
If you attended the World Café at this year’s Contingent Workforce Conference, I would be interested in reading about your key takeaways from these discussions. Please feel free to comment.

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