Who is responsible for the contingent workforce program in a company? This question has been tossed around for the last two decades. The fact is, human resources and procurement have had varying degrees of responsibility for program management. (In earlier times, IT was also a significant CW program sponsor.)

Historically, HR helps end users and staffing partners achieve their business goals and objectives by leveraging its expertise to deliver talent with the right skills. Procurement, meanwhile, tends to keep an eye on the bottom line and risk mitigation, while driving change and improvement through visibility, sourcing expertise and process control. As CW programs have progressed through levels of maturity and performance, these functional areas have had varying degrees of involvement and ownership.

The debate continues: Which is best suited? The answer may lie within both groups or even in the creation of a new role that helps drive program maturity and is dependent on organizational goals and objectives specifically aligned with a robust, talent management and acquisition strategy.

The combo approach. One of the many benefits of having a dual support structure is the unique expertise each functional area brings to the table. An added benefit is having a wider management base to maneuverer the political landscape within an organization. It is not uncommon for HR and procurement to disagree on contingent labor management, but together they could drive toward an integrated, value proposition that aligns with the client organization’s mission and overall goals.

Center of Excellence. Some organizations are making bigger investments by having a distinct, centralized office be responsible for all CW labor strategy, policies and program operations. These groups can often leverage human resources and procurement as part of their steering committee to help drive maturity within a program. With only HR  or procurement leadership, CW program management often is only part of their job. As a result, the programs do not get all of the attention they need to remain competitive in creating access to quality talent/skill sets at the right time and cost that the organization requires.

Getting the ROI. When the CW program becomes part of organizations’ overall talent strategy, the requirements for program management can change quickly. And then there’s volume: The contingent workforce accounts for more than 20% of the average large organization’s workforce (those with more than 1,000 full-time equivalents); managing the talent strategy for a contingent pool that large could be daunting at best for an individual/functional perspective. And often, those in charge are pulled in different directions and cannot give a CW program all of the attention it needs. These individuals are often challenged creating a return for your investment. And that’s where the center of excellence comes in.

Take SOW. With SOW management a growing element of today’s CW programs, the ROI for these centers of excellence can be more easily identified and quantified. Focusing on aspects such as risk reduction, cost management, standardization of processes and policies, leadership could easily see a quick ROI in moving to a full-time center of excellence role to manage a CW program initiative.

Within staff augmentation, the challenge to provide a real ROI could be limiting because of the maturity of those programs and the visibility and control that generally exist now in most organizations. The latest ROI lever opportunities may lie within SOW management and self-sourcing strategies (organizations’ ability to leverage known talent pools to fill CW positions and directly sourcing CW talent in multiple, worker classifications).

To move their CW programs forward and upward, organizations will need to invest more in order to take advantage of the next level of opportunities available. Among those investment options is creating a dedicated group to lead the program and deliver. As programs’ reach widens to incorporate larger areas of spend, the ROI likewise expands.