In 2018, the Crown Commercial Service, an executive body and trade organization within the UK government’s Cabinet Office, engaged managed service provider Alexander Mann Solutions to manage its $1.4 billion contingent workforce program. The result was the creation of the Public Sector Resourcing marketplace, which connects contingents to government work. The program serves 90 customer organizations across the government, engaging 12,000 workers through 350+ staffing providers and many alternative routes to talent. The idea was to take the mystery out of recruitment for the contingent and make it a transparent, digital process.

At the 2019 CWS Summit Europe, held March 26-27 in London, Alexander Mann’s Matthew Rodger and Crown’s Maggie Tonge discussed the program’s development. Over the next three weeks, Contingent Workforce Strategies 3.0 features an excerpt from that conference session transcription, edited for clarity and brevity. In part 1, published last week, Tonge and Rodger discussed the complexities of developing such a vast program. Here in part 2, they discuss the mechanics of the complex marketplace.

Rodger: The program went live on the 18th of June; there were about 120 full-time employees on the AMS team. We also had a bunch of partners, such as Brook Street, who is our master vendor looking after all clerical and admin stuff. With Fieldglass providing the VMS and Access Safe, providing the background and technical environment. We went live in many, many government locations. I think there are hiring managers spread across 6,000 different locations in the UK.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to deploy it into every one of those locations, but we did have to deploy folks to a select number. And we were also spread across four AMS sites: London, where a range of leadership and strategic decision makers were. Bracknell [England], where all of our line manager- and line requester-facing recruitment expertise sits. Belfast [Ireland], where all of our candidate and external market-sourcing expertise is based. And then Kraków in Poland, where all of our contingent workforce administration and important technical things are done, like onboarding, offboarding background screening, time sheeting and invoice calculation.

Tonge: The program includes more than 12,000 workers of which about 6,500 are admin, clerical, operational and the remaining professional skill sets and day rate workers.

Rodger: The program deployed a VMS, which would have been sufficient on its own if the focus of this program was vendor-neutral. But one of the government’s primary objectives was to create a range of alternative routes to talent. And what we quickly came to understand was we had to put in place a whole range of additional infrastructure to accommodate all of those alternative routes to talent.

Technical Components. For example, how do we enroll 50% of those 12,000 or so workers who were pre-identified? We needed some infrastructure to be able to do that. Or how do we accommodate new direct-to-market sourcing tools? Or even relatively standard products like LinkedIn, because every single manager now has access on their desktop to source their own workers.

And then, how do we get folks from the external market to be an active participant in the infrastructure that we have built in a compliant way, where all that personal data is flying around a whole bunch of different systems — from worker enrollment through to onboarding and payment and offboarding — and all of that background screening information for those workers who are not coming via a staffing agency.

So, we built a whole infrastructure of technical components behind the screen: From [the VMS], which is what the manager engages with, to what’s actually going on behind that mechanism.

Tonge: Our previous models in government have been very reliant on finding workers through agencies. And this was something that we wanted to change moving forward, recognizing that workers, for the most part, are finding a lot of their next assignments themselves.

Appealing to talent. Technology is a big disruptor in the market, and we want to take advantage of all of that. And also, we wanted something that was going to be slick and fab, so great contingent talent would not run down the road to the private sector, but would come to the public sector first, because we need them. We also had some very strong objectives and clear goals. So, it’s really important to us that we wanted to make the work that government does more transparent to workers.

Because [to a lot of workers] it just feels quite hidden; you have to know someone to get a role, and that’s not what it’s about. We wanted to remove the mystery of finding an assignment. A lot of times, the voice of the contingent worker is not heard. We want to be able to engage with them and make sure that we are using them as part of our total workforce.

Rodger: The big challenge in contingent labor is that no one really knows where the assignments are. You can be in Leeds driving past Quarry House every day, where the Department of Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice are based. There are, literally, thousands of assignments within that building, but you wouldn’t have any idea how to actually secure one of those roles. Typically, you would register with 25 different staffing agencies in Yorkshire, or upload your résumé into every résumé bank that you can imagine, and cross your fingers.

Building a marketplace. There are Upwork and, online open marketplaces where anyone can purchase a service from anybody. More recently, some organizations have created their own closed marketplaces — folks like PwC with its talent exchange model for example.

With Public Sector Resourcing, we were attempting to take the best elements of a and an Upwork and blend them together with the best elements of a more private PwC talent exchange to create a marketplace that’s exclusive to government and related bodies for procuring talent.

But then it’s completely open and transparent for any candidate who may be out there, an opportunity for all in a fair and transparent fashion.

We created a statement. Something that public sector employees and potential candidates could identify with.

The discussion concludes in next week’s issue of Contingent Workforce Strategies 3.0 with the discussion of building the brand, the rewarding nature of government work and the approach to launch.