Should a CW program office allow staffing partners to contact engagement managers directly? That is a perennial hot topic, and whichever your position, there are useable points in your favor. We have debates on this topic during our CCWP certification classes, and proponents on each side present valid reasons justifying their position — and both tend to be very passionate in their stance.

The no-contact rule is usually implemented when program managers tire of staffing providers working outside policies that have been implemented. This is truly one of those situations where one bad apple can ruin it for everyone. This rule is typically used to ensure that a program can be vendor-neutral — for example, devoid of any favoritism shown toward one particular supplier, no pre-negotiated rates (which are usually higher than deemed market rates) and that positions are not created for a candidate.

On the flip side of this policy — and the side almost all suppliers support — is of course the allowance of contact. Their stance is that contact allows them to ask questions regarding the requisition, which in turn enables them to find the ideal candidate by having more insight on the project/work, team culture, etc.

It’s kind of ironic that any supplier you ask about using the contact as an opportunity to “sell” their firm or their candidate will vehemently deny it — yet some must have done so for the policy to ever have been implemented. However, I must say in the suppliers’ defense, anecdotal reports show at a minimum 75% of the requisitions that go unfilled are due to a poorly written job requisition. So it stands to reason that allowing contact could increase the fill rate.

So, how do you know which policy right for your organization? It’s the one that supports your business objectives and allows the program to deliver value to the stakeholders, suppliers and the contingent workers. Depending on which side of this debate your program takes, there are some things to consider in order to make it a win/win, or as close to one, as possible.

  1. Remember that your suppliers are your partners and a reflection of your program. You want them to be successful in filling roles, so anything you can do to help is important.
  2. When a new requisition is entered, have someone in the program office speak to the manager and ensure the information that is provided is thorough and provides the recruiter with a good understanding of the required skills and work to be completed. This can eliminate a lot of questions and unqualified submittals.
  3. Contact can be structured. If there are still questions or if the manager has more information to share, schedule a supplier call. Use this call for the manager to share additional insight and the suppliers to ask specific questions. This not only enables them to get the answers they need, but it also allows all suppliers to receive the same information as one another. This eliminates managers getting multiple contacts asking the same question.
  4. If an engagement manager has a pre-identified candidate, require that the requisition still go out to bid. Requiring the manager to consider other candidates can be useful: It can provide candidate options they did not realize were available as well as bargaining tools if the pre-identified candidate’s rate is higher than the others.

No matter what stance your program incorporates, the main thing to remember is that a no-contact rule does not have to mean no contact at all — allowing information to be shared and questions to be answered is critical for a program’s success and for happy stakeholders and staffing providers. It’s all about how you implement the rule.