For the past 20 years, managed service programs have continually evolved their services and widened their client reach, but where are we on the road to supplier maturity in these MSP programs? As a contingent workforce management professional, how do you know whether you are getting all the bells and whistles that other programs experience or exactly what you should expect the suppliers in your program to do for you?

Unfortunately, these aren’t easy answers, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

At SIA’s recent Executive Forum conference in Miami, this topic came up during a conversation I had with a supplier friend who suggested we begin to implement a Supplier Maturity Model for MSP programs — akin to the Program Maturity Assessment SIA provides CWS Council members.

What was so interesting about this idea is that — much like the scorecard suppliers receive from contingent workforce programs or MSP providers for their performance — introducing the concept of MSP generational capabilities to help determine the maturity of an MSP’s supplier program is smart but also challenging. How does an MSP measure their supplier maturity in one program against their portfolio of programs?

Here are a few ideas we generated during that conversation that might help you when evaluating what’s next for the suppliers in your MSP program.

Gen 1 Programs

The Gen 1 program starts with measurements around supplier performance, total spend under management, headcount tracking and a VMS technology. Many include a supplier distribution list that categorizes suppliers based on their location coverage and/or skill coverage.

Once the dust settles and change management is no longer the topic du jour, you may consider rationalizing your supplier list to a manageable — but not limiting — number of partners. You should also review your initial scorecard metrics to see if the performance goals are achievable, reasonable, reportable and relevant.

Also, consider whether you have the right supplier distribution lists based on manager needs or if your categories are too wide. For example, identifying the healthcare suppliers is too wide, but narrowing those down to the ones who provide nursing, travel nursing, allied health and locum tenens might be better suited.

Do you know who your top 25 partners are? Which suppliers can you call in a crisis, confident that they will give it their all?

Gen 2 Programs

The next level in your supplier program is all about identifying your top partners and understanding how well they support the program — but also determining whether they feel supported as well. Suppliers who have large spend within one MSP can feel frustrated with a disjointed approach among clients, so identify your top partners and find out if they are top players at the MSP’s other clients. This will give you a good understanding of the value your suppliers will bring to your program.

If your program is in Gen 2, the noise from your managers should be low because they are at least moderately happy with the quality of candidates they are receiving. But now your Gen 2 program is also more focused on diversity, equity and inclusion, so you will know who your partners are that are of minority ownership but also those that focus on providing diversity talent. You are receiving candidates from a wide range of backgrounds and abilities who bring great diversity in thinking to your organization. Even the contractors feel included and seen, and your managers understand that skills are critical and accommodations can be achieved.

Your program should be hosting annual summits to bring managers, the MSP and the suppliers together to discuss in person the challenges they are facing and the wins they are achieving. It’s important to begin having discussions about future hiring plans so suppliers can have a pipeline in place to set them and the client up for success. Now the program looks like a true partnership.

Gen 3 Programs

At this level, in addition to hosting supplier summits, you should also be hosting strategy meetings with your top 10 suppliers to gain their insights into the marketplace.

Obtaining knowledge from your top partners about what is going on with candidates, their other clients, trends and more is invaluable. Plus, frequent connections with your suppliers will help keep your program top of mind when they send their best candidates. Building trust along with open communication and dialogue is key. Your program managers and hiring managers should be meeting with suppliers frequently, providing feedback and mentorship opportunities for continuous improvement. And once you have identified your top 10 trusted partners, you might consider allowing for controlled manager contact. Most of the frustration we hear from both hiring managers and the suppliers is around waiting for the “middleman” to relay necessary information. Why not ease frustrations by allowing communication, with rules outlined, among the parties? Finally, having a separate mentorship program for diverse or niche suppliers is another way to provide a little more care and concern for these key partners to ensure their success in the program as well.

If your program has pieces of all of these, consider it mostly mature, but challenge yourself to incorporate more. CWS Council members can get assistance on their journey.