When procurement became the common owner of contingent workforce management, one of the first steps was to remove direct contact between staffing partners and engagement managers. In fact, this continues to be a procurement best practice in supplier management in order to drive competition, reduce cost and help engagement managers stay focused on their core responsibilities.

However, the practice has had a negative effect on quality, creating “black holes” in the CW talent sourcing process.  Fulfilment cycle times increase when staffing partners lack a solid and complete understanding of sourcing requirements. [While other factors like rate cards, mark-ups, tenure, and the requisition process can affect quality, for the purposes of this article, I will treat them as neutral.]

At the end of the day, recruitment is both an art and a science, with MSP/VMS solutions providing the science and market knowledgeable/requirements-informed recruiters delivering the match-making art.

There are many examples of contingent workforce programs considering and implementing controlled strategies to help staffing partners to gain a clearer line of sight into talent sourcing requests.  A key reason for moving to this type of approach is staffing partner distribution strategy. Any engagement strategy will suffer if there are too many staffing partners or if the wrong staffing partners are included in the distribution pool for a talent sourcing request.

As a result, the CW program must have a formal strategy to determine a staffing partner’s capability to support a specific labor category and specific job titles. These are core components of art and science when creating an effective sourcing strategy at the job order level.

One effective strategy is to shrink the staffing partner distribution pool to five or fewer qualified and competitive staffing partners per order. (Your entire staffing partner portfolio may still comprise more than five staffing partners.) Limiting the supplier pool per job order will allow for reasonable, controllable contact with engagement managers. The staffing partners are still in a competitive situation, but with a one-in-five chance to fill the position rather than much smaller. This provides the staffing partner with an incentive to focus on and deliver quality talent, and because they are still competing to make the placements, they will still be mindful of best-market pricing.

Trust is required when empowering your staffing partners to have some controlled access to your engagement managers. Keen metrics and oversight will help CW program stakeholders understand competition is still occurring and because engagement manager contact facilitates the art of recruiting, the quality of the sourced talent will improve as well.

CW programs are maturing but still have a way to go to be able to operate at a level that supports all four facets of the QECR Performance Model (quality-efficiency-cost-risk) at high levels. Engagement manager dissatisfaction consistently lies within quality of the talent sourced, the staffing partners engaged and certain aspects of program operations. When programs limit staffing partner contact and have poor alignment with job titles, descriptions and rates, the program office will struggle to deliver quality talent to the engagement manager in an efficient and effective manner.

With programs facing an ever-tightening labor market along with demands for speedier delivery, they will need to consider changes to existing policies and practices. The idea of allowing staffing partner contact and limiting competition can scare some decision makers, as the quality of talent can affect the brand, equity performance and the organization’s future. By reducing the number of suppliers at play for any given order while allowing controlled direct access, fulfilment cycle time and candidate/worker quality should improve.

You don’t have to sacrifice the “art” of the recruiting process when driving “science” efficiency of the process. You can have both.