Buyer’s remorse is more traditionally associated with the sense of regret we feel after making a (usually expensive) purchase. In a workplace context, handing over any people-related service to a third party is a major decision, and the potential for buyer’s remorse in the first few months of a contract is high. The stakes get even higher if you are outsourcing the service for the first time, perhaps to a provider with whom the relationship is new.

Less openly discussed, but probably just as common, is supplier’s remorse. Every service provider has at least one war story about the client contract they wish they’d never won.

So, how do you avoid it? How do you ensure that you appoint a provider that meets and exceeds expectations, works collaboratively to solve issues when they arise, and brings genuine value to your program?

There’s a plethora of procurement best practices out there of course, but sometimes keeping it simple is best.

Here are my top tips for getting the relationship off to the best start, and keeping it that way:

1. Do your homework before commencing an exercise. The workforce solutions service provider landscape can be hard to decipher; when identifying providers to invite to tender, look for evidence of alignment to your specific needs and culture as well as general capability. Staffing Industry Analysts’ MSP, VMS and RPO landscape reports provide a comprehensive overview of the global market, and our latest editions will be published in Q3 and 4 2019.

2. Be clear on the problem you’re trying to solve. If MSP is the answer, what is the question? Is your business ready for this model? Will you be able to drive service adoption? What is your motivation? Savings? Risk Management? Quality of talent? Being crystal clear in your specification and goals will enable potential providers to design and price the most appropriate solution, reducing the risk of a mismatch in expectations further down the line. If you are genuinely unclear, then engage with a smaller number of potential providers to help you shape a solution. The best will challenge you – embrace it!

3. Know and communicate your commercial and legal red lines up front. Contract negotiation is often the period when the new relationship is tested the most. Just as you need to protect your business, so does your provider. Be transparent about your expectations early on and be prepared to be pragmatic to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.

4. Get to know the people and culture, and plan for tough times. It goes without saying that providers will field their “A Team” during a selection process. Ask to meet with the people who will be delivering your service, and the executive sponsor. Cultural alignment is a critical, but often overlooked factor. When there are bumps in the road, do you picture collaboration or conflict? Do your values align, and can the service provider prove it beyond paper?

5. Be realistic. An MSP isn’t going to solve all your problems tomorrow. New relationships take time to establish, and much like a marriage, they require work and compromise. You should expect your MSP to bring innovation, but you need to mutually agree what innovation means to your organization. You should expect improvements in service, but you should be clear on how you intend to measure it. And finally, plan for exit at the outset, even if your planned exit is 10 years from now. Whatever the reason for the end of a contract, having a clearly defined plan from day one, will ease the process for all parties.

Want to know more about creating an RFP that will attract the very best service providers in the market? Join me at CWS Summit North America on Tuesday Sept. 10, where I will be hosting an MSP RFP Workshop — How to Get the Best Partner for Your Program.