Every month, Staffing Industry Analysts holds a meeting with CWS Council members to share the most recent information available on the use of the contingent workforce. In December, we supplied our best predictions to prepare for the year ahead. Given the tremendous uncertainty that exists in the global economy as well as the legal and legislative climate, making sense of it all is no easy task. Couple that with the ever-increasing sophistication in workforce solutions technology and emerging strategies, and it becomes even more challenging. At the same time, there are some trends that I can say with some certainty will come to the fore in 2018. Put simply, in 2018, talent takes the front seat.

MSP evolution. Managed service providers’ value proposition will fundamentally change, especially the vendor-neutral model. As contracts’ three- to five-year cycles come to an end and companies look at where they want their CW programs to go, their service expectations will increase. At the same time, they often expect to see a reduction of program fees as they renegotiate their renewals. For the vendor-neutral MSP, this becomes a money loser. Consequently, many service providers are completely revamping their service offering, including other categories of spend, such as recruitment process outsourcing. These programs will focus more on talent and optimizing the access to talent as opposed to simply managing cost and process.

The human cloud. Human cloud technologies will become more adept at offering solutions to enterprise clients and we will see more and more companies incorporate these strategies into their programs. Human cloud strategies like online staffing and crowdsourcing models have been around for a long time but they have struggled to penetrate the enterprise client. In the coming year, more and more companies will seek to incorporate these nontraditional avenues to new talent, while providing unprecedented speed and transparency.

SOW. Statement-of-work management will continue to be an important leg of talent strategies and it will grow at a record pace. Buyers will move beyond tracking and payment and begin to implement more sophisticated sourcing strategies that control costs and minimize risk in this incredibly complex category while evaluating this talent channel as a strategic resource.

The brakes. The pace of global expansion may slow as companies are finally realizing that one size does not fit all and that expansion of their US or European service model may not be successful in other parts of the world. The “global program” will continue to be balkanized as business objectives suited to the region are implemented using a VMS technology but varied provision of managed services. The global strategy will focus on minimizing employment risk while providing access to top talent and managing retention.

As with any prediction, you can take this forecast with a grain of salt. But in the end, it’s hard to deny that the world is changing. The successful program manager can look at that change be prepared to deal with an uncertain future. But for now, I think it’s safe to say that this is the year for talent to win the war.