Globally and across industries, companies’ need and desire to utilize independent contractors continues to grow. However, the inability to manage the associated risk and cost while providing a supportive user experience closes the door on some of the workforces’ top talent. From a procurement perspective, it is important to have an efficient supplier ecosystem as well as the proper controls in place to access talent. Unfortunately, your staffing suppliers cannot meet every need. As the independent talent landscape continues to evolve, solutions to manage it within a controlled supplier ecosystem are needed and necessary.

The partner you engage with to manage your independent talent pipeline is important; their vision must match yours. Is the independent workforce just something that needs to be managed or is it a pipeline of talent that needs to be maximized? Here’s how Northwestern Mutual approached the process.

Streamlined process. In 2018, Northwestern Mutual sought a risk-free, streamlined process to manage its independent talent. Procurement oversaw the entire process — from handling statement-of-work contracts to vetting independent contractors. In order to focus our efforts on more strategic initiatives, we looked for a partner that could manage our independent talent end-to-end and would enable us to grow an independent pipeline of talent in a risk-free and cost-effective manner.

We chose a technology partner that approached our challenges from multiple angles. Our partner’s technology enables us to manage our independent pipeline of talent effectively while building out a talent pool that will enable us to maximize the independent talent that we have historically used. As our program continues to mature, it provides us the ability to reach out into other avenues of independent talent such as online staffing platforms, developing our private talent cloud, etc.

The build-out. The build-out of the program is a journey, not an event. The pipeline of talent is built over a period time as you aggregate your independent talent past, present and future and strategize on how to farm that talent within the contingent labor processes you have set up. Initially, our program addressed the risk and provided visibility to this population of talent and allowed us to provide a streamlined process for the engagement of this talent type. It is the ability to utilize that aggregation of talent and process over time that will allow you to maximize this pool of talent more effectively, efficiently and risk free.

A separate independent talent program enables staffing suppliers to deliver to their strengths and to be seen by their clients as experts in scaling specific talent needs, rather than as a partner that tries to be everything to everyone and an expert to no one.

The rewards. The build out of this program has brought increased visibility into our contingent workforce at the executive level, as well as reduced costs by streamlining invoicing and transforming talent engagement by implementing a direct-sourcing initiative. Furthermore, in terms of supplier ecosystems, it has allowed us to consolidate each independent worker from individual suppliers to one supplier, enabling us to do what we set out to do.

Finally, our independent talent program no longer makes the onboarding/contracting/search for specialty/niche talent so daunting. Whether the independent talent comes to you from online staffing platforms or is someone a previous stakeholder used to work with, it does not increase your risk, monopolize your time or create a risky company/contractor scenario. Building your program as part of your supplier ecosystem enables you to leverage the best talent, no matter where it comes from, to ultimately deliver to your company’s needs. These independent talent pipelines make it possible for staffing suppliers and independent talent pipelines to benefit from each other. Not only do they benefit each other, but also your client; and as a client, isn’t that what’s most important?