Geometric Results Inc. (GRI), a holding of Bain Capital Private Equity and wholly-owned subsidiary of MSX International, is a US-based independent managed service provider (MSP) with more than $4 billion in managed non-employee workforce spend. Its solutions and services help customers in more than 35 countries manage contracting, supplier management, payment services, and advanced analytics. GRI’s workforce decision analytics platform empowers companies to understand not just their current position, but where the industry is heading and how they can remain relevant and successful. This emphasis on data and analytics enables GRI to focus on bringing its clients a strategic approach to talent acquisition and workforce planning. Subadhra Sriram, SIA’s editor and publisher, media products, caught up with GRI CEO Art Knapp to discuss SIA’s inaugural Contingent Workforce Program Game Changers list and how those included reflect the industry overall.

Q: Why does GRI see the CW Program Game Changers list as something important?

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Art Knapp, CEO, Geometric Results

Knapp: The Game Changers list recognizes that it takes special skills to make changes when dealing with a contingent workforce, especially within the kinds of companies that we do business with — the Global 1,000. The list acknowledges the challenges of trying to make changes within an organization.

Our MSP offering is centered around innovation and generating solutions to problems just like these. They are at the core of everything we do. Where can we bring innovation to things, where can we bring solutions to clients? That’s what innovation at GRI is all about, and that’s what the Game Changers list is all about.

When we think about the traditional employer-employee relationship and the shift toward more people seeking nonemployee opportunities, how do you see our industry overall acting as a game changer?

I would characterize it as reluctant — that’s how the industry, in general, is responding.

Think about who the key players in our industry are. Besides the MSPs, they’re primarily large staffing firms. Traditionally, these firms are kind of like our large clients — they don’t make a lot of changes quickly. They’re very slow to adapt for the most part.

And when you look at the way they’re set up — and I’m referring to staffing-firm owned MSPs — they have brick-and-mortar offices all over the world. That traditional model has worked very well for quite a long time, and as talent acquisition approaches a shift, it’s difficult for them to change.

They’re more reactive, so consequently, we’re seeing the momentum slowly starting to build. I would have thought this would have come faster and sooner. The larger firms seem to be trying to maintain the status quo even though the changes are coming, and that may be why I don’t think we’ve seen a willingness to push changes toward their clients.

Where does this reluctance stem from?

It’s human nature. Most people like predictability and routine — change often feels disruptive. Certain people embrace change while others shy away from it. I think in our industry, when we look at the evolution of the employer-employee relationship, that has come much more slowly.

So, what is the future of the MSP? How do you see companies evolving to influence and subsequently support the contingent labor industry?

The MSP industry is at crossroads right now. I think that over the next couple years we’re going to see some pretty significant changes. We may see people dropping out of the business or drastically changing their games. I believe that for the future to be bright, the MSP of the future is really going to have to rely on data and analytics and use that to offer substantive recommendations.

I think, for the most part, the MSP world has been operating like a rearview mirror – we’ve told our clients how much they spent, what they spent it on, and what’s been going on. And I think for us to be successful going forward, MSPs have to give companies reasons to stop changing providers like they change shirts. MSPs have to be able to provide forward-thinking scenarios and recommendations so companies can get the traction and the growth they need.

And that changes the kind of skill sets that we need. When I started almost 20 years ago, the business primarily involved hiring people from staffing and working on filling jobs. Now, we need a much more consultative kind of a person — at least at the program-director level. Someone who’s comfortable sitting down with C-level executives to talk about the company’s future – what’s going to happen with supply, what’s going to happen with rates, what’s going to affect them from a legislative standpoint, etc. MSPs need to have those conversations to show we can provide the kind of value that companies really want.

Do you think the MSP as we know it is going to go away?

MSPs could become dinosaurs if they don’t evolve. At GRI, we’re working very hard to continue to evolve – what we’re doing with analytics and vision is really important to our future. We believe if you’re not going to adapt, if you’re not going to be able to provide some significant value to a client, you won’t have the kind of business that you really want.

And technologies have gotten so good now. VMS platforms continue to improve, so it’s a lot easier to run that software yourself than it used to be. And so, if we’re not providing value, clients can make the case to manage their own CW programs. Now to me, there are obviously disadvantages to running your own program, but for some clients that will become the solution if MSPs don’t adapt.

For example, we’re trying to show unmatched value with our data and analytics to provide key insights and recommendations. We’re also changing the way SOW services are delivered. These are components of our evolution we see as critical. Clients will pay for what I would consider more consultancy, whereas the standard blocking and tackling and just filling jobs is only a small portion of what we see as the business.

Part two of this interview with Knapp will appear in next week’s issue of Contingent Workforce Strategies 3.0, when we introduce the inaugural class of CW Program Game Changers.