Spurred by the war for good talent, the workforce adaptations foisted upon companies by Covid or just due to the natural digital transformation affecting nearly every industry, the contingent labor world has been evolving exponentially. With so many sweeping changes happening throughout the industry — with both the technologies and the services available — prior methods used to evaluate suppliers are no longer sufficient.

The Problem of CW Process Evolution

For the past 20 years, our industry has relied on core services such as MSPs to manage the end-to-end contingent workforce process, VMS tools to automate that process and staffing providers to fuel the talent within those processes. With seemingly minimal variation across providers, creating and managing requests for proposal processes was fairly consistent and unsurprising.

Now, providers have been challenged to differentiate their offerings to a point where the same type of service can look vastly different from one company to another. Part of this challenge is the sweeping terminology used for a multitude of individual components that may fall within a service, such as the concept of direct sourcing or artificial intelligence. It is clear that we are no longer in a one-size-fits-all environment.

Take the request for proposal. The variety of services being offered by providers in our ecosystem are hard to quantify in a request for proposal, whose requirements definition process is rigid. An RFP requires an organization to have a good understanding of the services being requested and a prescriptive solution in mind to evaluate respondents against. While this approach would have traditionally been a slam-dunk to deliver an effective MSP, VMS or solution provider a few years ago, now it may limit an organization’s opportunity to innovate and might lead a company to a solution that is familiar and tangible instead of a unique solution, though less-tested or adopted, that actually addresses the program’s needs.

Enter the RFS. Instead of the familiar RFP, consider the request for solution, where the requirements that are documented are less focused on continuing/re-establishing existing services and more on current state operations and challenges. Through an RFS, you provide a group of service providers with the details of your contingent workforce and a chronicle of the current approaches, volumes and challenges.

In this event, the focus shifts to allowing a set of solutions providers to respond with the ways they think they can provide the most value in supporting your ecosystem — rather than the program evaluating the vendors’ ability to provide the specified services defined in an RFP. In this differentiated services and technology environment, the RFS approach will enable respondents to offer their best solutions that may come in ways that cannot easily be defined in a traditional RFP or may not fit in a traditional services model.

Service terms. Another consideration for buyer organizations is the length of service term. Historically, it has been the norm for programs to sign several-year agreements, with multiple renewal options available and often utilized; now, organizations need to be more agile, so we encourage them to consider shorter-term engagements and more defined sprints with their vendors to deliver value-add enhancements to the CW program.

To use the VMS as example, the future may see buyers employing various technologies that integrate and support their needs differently as opposed to solely focusing on a traditional VMS to meet every technology need. This culture shift will help organizations think about seeking the right, unique vendor approach for every need as opposed to bringing volume of the same type of vendor services and conforming the need to those services.

As these varied services continue to mature and diversify, their advancement will continue to accelerate. Organizations must understand how much change can happen during a contract cycle and plan early for the need to refresh a set of solution providers to ensure their solution is still fitting the businesses needs and are competitive in a hyper-accelerating market.

Our industry is proving that it can keep up with the pace of digital transformation that is happening around it. We only need to look at the new landscape of opportunities around us. Now is a key time for organizations to embrace change and innovation by evaluating the solutions that are available in the market. While the current vendors in your ecosystem may be performing adequately, you won’t want to miss an opportunity to find the right set of partners that can support you exceptionally today and tomorrow.