According to SIA’s 2023 North American Workforce Solution Buyer Survey, 41% of contingent workforce programs are five years old or newer. Among companies with fewer than 10,000 employees, that rises to 63%.

Meanwhile, SIA research finds that the more mature a program is, the more consistently it demonstrates better talent attraction, retention and overall ROI. How can programs reach these higher levels of maturity without having to wait years or even decades? Diagnosing your program’s maturity enables you to focus on the improvements relevant to your unique circumstances that will move your organization up the maturity curve as quickly as possible, driving faster speed to hire, greater access to talent and incremental cost savings.

“It is essential to start with an understanding of where a company’s program falls within the maturity assessment to evaluate current performance and set program goals,” says Amy Bogan, senior vice president for client services at Magnit.

A joint custom research project between SIA and Magnit outlined five levels of maturity based on SIA’s Certified Contingent Workforce Professional program. These include:

  • Level I: Informal and decentralized
  • Level II: Limited visibility and management
  • Level III: Managed and controlled
  • Level IV: Optimized
  • Level V: Competitive differentiator

However, program sponsors may find themselves unaware of their maturity level and how it impacts their operations and greater business outcomes. At times, well-performing programs can lead stakeholders to assume they are maturing, when in fact they are not evolving to support a dynamic and ever-changing labor environment.

Maturity and Uneven Growth Spurts

Maturity means being fully developed or achieving a final desired state. When applied to workforce management, SIA characterizes it as the capability to execute a program in a manner that produces ideal outcomes, noting that programs can have the technology, people and funding available but fail to achieve strong performance.

Alternatively, performance of a program can be strong, even though the program is not mature in all areas or failing to advance to the next stage of maturity.

“It’s important to realize that some parts of a program are going to be more mature than others,” Bogan notes. “Sometimes, advancement may be led by one part of the business, and another part of the organization is not ready to be on that journey. That does not have to slow maturity growth but can serve as a motivator to demonstrate that what is successful in one area can be replicated in others.”

When a well-performing program is not making progress, it may be because there is a lack of vision and innovation. Program sponsors should look at where they want a program to go and then work to ensure all stakeholders are in agreement. The vision should also be agile, able to support where a company might need to go in response to market changes.

“A successful, maturing program must be operationally solid while simultaneously thinking about the vision — otherwise, the focus is more operational and tactical,” Bogan adds. “The purpose of a maturity assessment is not to judge the performance. It’s a very thoughtful, strategic plan to move the program forward.”

Accelerating Growth Through Data

Organizations have historically worked their way up the maturity curve organically, often using trial and error as their guide. Increasingly, though, companies looking to accelerate their programs seek the help of outside experts, who often uncover seemingly trivial, yet critical areas slowing their growth.

For example, in her work with dozens of organizations, Bogan has found that data is often an underappreciated and underutilized program asset. At Magnit, she analyzes internal program data and then meshes it with external market data to enable smarter decisions around benchmarks like pay rates while providing industry and program size comparisons.

These external analyses can also include an assessment of workflows, helping organizations understand how to infuse decisions with data so they can track outcomes and change their processes in real time and for the future. In addition, incorporating real-time and predictive data can enable program sponsors to optimize their supplier networks as it relates to new talent markets, remote settings and new skill sets so they have the right suppliers to support their needs at all times.

Another key to unlocking growth is creating a great worker experience. In today’s era of remote work, candidates are seeking roles that meet their personal values, desired pay rates and location, so talent strategies need to evolve based on market intelligence. And with new skills emerging at hyper speed, technology can help companies catalog their existing skills inventory, assess potential skills gaps, identify workers who might be upskilled to help fill these gaps and provide access to unique talent pools to fill any remaining needs.

“Consultants can provide thought leadership around where and when to hire, competitive rates, untapped markets — details about how to help them evolve,” Bogan explains. “And by using all of the available tools, companies can engage quality talent — because at the end of the day, this is about connecting people to work.”

Best Advice

No matter how many areas a company is trying to improve, Bogan says it cannot happen overnight. “Take the time to create a thoughtful strategy and vision and then determine how best to execute it. Work with a partner, if you can, who can help you maintain accountability and support your journey.”

Open communication across departments promotes tactical and strategic success, meaning day-to-day needs can be met while at the same time working on the program’s evolution. When hiring managers feel supported and heard, they meet immediate program goals; program sponsors can build on that strong foundation and mature the program, ultimately helping optimize the talent supply chain.

When supporting clients on their maturity journey, the bottom line for Bogan is to make sure there is data to back decisions; have committed, engaged stakeholders and relationships with thought leaders; and create a process that is scalable. “All of these factors will increase adoption, and you want your managers and customers to use what you’ve spent thoughtful time building. Create wonderful experiences, and people will want to be a part of your program — and progress will result.”

To learn more about how your organization can accelerate its journey up the maturity curve, download Unlock Your Contingent Workforce’s Full Potential: A Quick Start Guide.