Today’s contingent workforce managers wear a lot more hats and need more skills and knowledge than they did just five years ago. From using the right technology to sourcing options to visibility — and now even remote work — running a cutting-edge program in 2021 requires much more from managers.
The workforce ecosystem has quickly evolved in recent years to include much more than simply temporary staffing and permanent placement services. As discussed in a previous CWS 3.0 article , the contingent workforce manager role has developed from an afterthought to a key strategic role important to the overall success of an organization.
More Tools in the Toolbox
A quick look at SIA’s Workforce Solutions Ecosystem: 2020 Update  shows the interconnected workforce solutions available today. In addition to sourcing talent via traditional staff augmentation partners — i.e., temporary staffing and place and search — managers can now fill talent needs by accessing innovative channels such as direct sourcing, statement of work, consultants and more. They must also understand the other components of the ecosystem that they may not be directly involved with including talent acquisition technology, payrolling, compliance, etc.
“When I look at the folks now who are responsible for contingent workforce programs, although you don’t need to be an expert in all of this, you sure as heck need to understand all of this — because this is now what the expectation of the role is turning out to be,” explains Dawn McCartney, VP of SIA’s Contingent Workforce Strategies Council.
Contingent workforce managers may find themselves responsible for possibly implementing some of this; but even if it falls outside their jurisdiction, they need to understand the ecosystem to ensure they have the right input, ask the right questions and pick the right partners. They also need to know how to select the best channel to use for a particular talent requirement.
Five years ago, 90 to 95% of the contingent workforce program was purely staffing partners. Now the mix of different staffing channels are taking a piece of that, notes SIA’s Stephen Clancy, senior director, contingent workforce strategies, knowledge and research. “All of a sudden you have all these different options to be able source the talent you need to help your engagement managers get stuff done,” he says.
CW managers are increasingly going to have to enhance their skillsets and knowledge around technology.
While program managers don’t necessarily need to know exactly how the available technologies work, they do need to know the kind of value they can deliver, how to capture that value and how bring that value to the stakeholders of the contingent workforce program. “You need to be an informed management technologist, where you understand the value, how to capture it, how to implement, integrate and then deliver that value into your process,” Clancy explains.
And that is not a small thing. CW managers need to be good at evaluating the value while at the same time staying focused, so they don’t overbuy or purchase the wrong tech for their needs.
Dawn O’Bryan-Lamb, supplemental workforce program manager and talent acquisition senior advisor, human resources, at Southern California Edison, has more than 20 years’ experience in the contingent workforce space, including a long tenure at Cisco. And over the last decade, she has made it a point to stay informed about advancements in the industry’s technology.
“I know enough about technology to be dangerous, right? I think that’s important,” she explains. “I want to be the person who sits in the meeting and they can’t confound me with technology. I may not deeply understand the programing or the integrations, but I know when something smells fishy, I know when something is being glossed over or not being explained.”
O’Bryan-Lamb can now sit in an integration meeting and can challenge things that she is hearing from technology suppliers. “I think that’s a very important aspect of what you need to have in your toolkit,” she says.
A Seat at the Table – Becoming a Strategic Partner
O’Bryan-Lamb has seen the CW manager’s role move to a more strategic role from a very tactical and operational position that involved troubleshooting problems and putting out fires. The “seat at the table” progresses from a seat at a managers’ staff meeting to an organizational leadership meeting to a company-wide role. “So, the seat moves from manager to director to VP or C-suite,” she explains.
“I wouldn’t say that all companies and all positions have gotten there yet, but I think that, in general, people are seeing value in having a more strategic approach to their contingent workforce programs and therefore including the contingent workforce leader in those conversations,” she says.
Be the person who “asks the right questions at the right time,” she adds. It takes a team; no one person can do everything necessary for a contingent workforce program to flourish. Don’t pretend to be an expert on all things, but instead build a team that has the expertise to accomplish the mission.