Contingent workforce managers put their skills and knowledge to the test this month.

During a “hackathon” at the CWS Summit North America Oct. 3 in Dallas, 35 teams of contingent workforce managers competed to solve one of four hypothetical contingent workforce challenges.

The participating CW managers came from a variety of companies and industries — representing both HR and procurement.

In the end, two of the 35 proposed solutions were chosen as winners.

Both winning teams drew from their collective expertise to lay out road maps to find a solution, looked at use of human cloud/online staffing solutions and internal talent pools as well as studied the current workings of the hypothetical program.

This year, the teams were named after professional football teams, and the winning teams at the CWS Summit were the Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys.

There were four contingent workforce challenge scenarios the teams could address. This year, both winning teams evaluated the same scenario.

It involved a fictional firm called Capital Tech, a microchip maker with operations in 35 states and across Europe that had a $225 million contingent workforce program with a compliance rate of 85%.

The problem teams were tasked with solving:

Fill times have been growing in critical skill sets and regions, and low unemployment has added to recruiting challenges. Increasing bill rates isn’t an option given growing margin pressure at Capital Tech amid overseas competition. Use of human cloud/online staffing firms is a possibility. However, current suppliers feel they could be negatively impacted  by the new supply channels, and you don’t want to abandon or alienate your current suppliers.

Teams had to draft responses that included:

  • What are the four or five key priorities and/or actions that you will focus on?
  • What are the detailed means and key tactics that will help you achieve your objectives?
  • What are the best, worst and most likely outcomes?

Those responses were then judged.

“This was a challenging year for the hackathon judges,” said Bryan Peña, SIA’s senior vice president of contingent workforce strategies. “In truth, we had several very competent and complete submissions we debated over, identifying as much as six winners out of a competitive field. In the end, the two teams won for their teamwork and creativity in their solutions as well as the comprehensive nature of their responses.”

From the teams’ perspective

We contacted members of both teams for this article.

Cowboys. “We had a fantastically diverse team in all respects,” said Travis O’Rourke, VP, head of Hays Talent Solutions (Canada), and member of the Dallas Cowboys. Members came from a variety of industries — from oil and gas to consumer goods to pharma. There was also a mix procurement and HR executives. “It allowed different people to take leads at different times.”

Discussion points in the Dallas Cowboys’ plan were numerous, examples included reviewing the existing program, use of direct sourcing (starting with highest volume, lowest impact roles) and the importance of getting out the “client value proposition” — why employees would want to work for Capital Tech — through social media and other channels.

“The No. 1 thing you need to do is look internally first,” O’Rourke said. “Why would someone want to work here, what makes us special?”

The process of arriving at the solutions represented the entire team said Michelle Muller, a member of the Dallas Cowboys as well as director, indirect procurement, at GKN Aerospace – Aerostructures North America.

One note from the discussion is that many firms are now using analytical tools such as vendor management systems for more than just cost reduction, and using them to find other efficiencies in programs, Muller said. And one of the takeaways from the hackathon was that the collaboration helped provide insight into what other firms are doing to solve contingent workforce problems.

“It pretty much validated some of the actions that we plan to take,” Muller said.

Broncos. The Denver Broncos began solving the scenario by first reading the challenge individually then allowing the table leader to read it out loud before taking a crack at the solutions.

“We worked together as a table on all of it, and I think our different experience all came together,” said Denver Broncos member Lysa Marcouillier, who is also senior HR professional, program manager and business analyst at Agilent.

The challenge wasn’t difficult for senior people on the team and there weren’t any rough patches of disagreement among members. The team also had both HR and procurement at the table with experience ranging for a couple years in contingent workforce management to some 20 years.

Having representatives from both HR and procurement was helpful, Marcouillier said. It gave an understanding of where both sides are coming from; HR also brought a benefit in that it works not just with contingent hires but also how a company handles hires for directly hired workers.

The Denver Broncos were also able to feed off one another as they discussed ideas for a solution.

“One person would say something and that would make people think of other things,” said Megan Ksenzakovic, a member of the Denver Broncos and director, contingent labor, at Sanofi.

While the problem was hypothetical, it was a good exercise to go through to form any kind of plan, Ksenzakovic said. The team looked at the priorities, where to find the high value/ease of implementation and brought all ideas together onto a spreadsheet.

Jeff Pieschel said he also oversees a mature contingent workforce program and the scenario was on par with where a mature program would be. Pieschel is a member of the Denver Broncos and contingent workforce management specialist at Nestlé Purina North America.

Use your stakeholders. One of the takeaways from the hackathon is the idea of going to the current supplier base and having conversations with them around what struggles they are seeing such as long times to fill and other challenges to grasp the market situation. Discussion with suppliers about available technology solutions is also important.

In addition, the hackathon discussion drew attention to how a firm can start leveraging hybrid solutions – using the human cloud and traditional staffing suppliers?

Overall, the Denver Broncos’ plan included aligning with legal and compliance to go over possible scenarios over current policies. Examples include risk tolerances, use of tenure policies as well as policies for finding talent — should the company begin allowing work from home or sourcing from different parts of the country? It also called for reaching out to current VMS and MSP partners to find out what they offer in terms of talent pool technologies, and building a direct sourcing models that uses traditional staff augmentation and alternative models such as talent pools or freelancer management systems. The best case scenario could include total talent management.

“The biggest take away was the upside,” said Audra Guthrie, a member of the Denver Broncos and director of strategic client solutions at TAPFIN.

“The upside of building this next generation workforce plan were so fantastic that they far outweighed the worst outcome, the risk of doing nothing,” Guthrie said. Nothing meaning longer times to fill, rogue spend and loss of talent. The best outcome would optimize the program, bring in dollars saved, and possibly set up the contingent workforce manager to be seen as a leader within the CW industry for piloting or pioneering new methods of strategic talent globally.

The Teams

Members of the Denver Broncos hackathon team were:

  • Glen Fucheck, Repsol
  • Meg Ksenzakovic, Sanofi
  • Lysa Marcouillier, Agilent
  • Jeff Pieschel, Nestlé Purina North America
  • Ernest Williams, bioMérieux
  • Audra Guthrie, TAPFIN

Members of the Dallas Cowboys hackathon team were:

  • Paul Boyett, Dow Dupont
  • Amy Bucher, Huntington
  • Shery Moozhi, Johnson & Johnson
  • Michelle Muller, GKN Aerospace
  • Jim Rodgers, Mary Kay
  • Izzy Saldivar, GameStop
  • Ulanda Tims, Exxon Mobil
  • Travis O’Rourke, Hays Talent Solutions (Canada)