A new year is a time of reflection and planning for many organizations — a new decade even more so. As we embark on 2020, many organizations will be taking a longer-term view and developing their 2025 or even 2030 vision.
For a contingent workforce program, this exercise may include reflecting on program performance, planning for future developments, and perhaps considering whether existing partnerships and providers are fit for the program today and in the coming years.
The workforce solutions ecosystem is complex and evolving, with new products, services, and delivery models continually entering the marketplace. It can be a daunting task to identify which of these can deliver the optimum solution for your program. Making it even more daunting is the fact that some of our commonly held beliefs can be leading us astray.
If you are considering change for your own program, you may find it helpful to consider — and challenge — the following assumptions:
New always means better. Let’s explore this in the context of technology. When viewing a new workforce technology solution, it can be tempting to be attracted to rich new functionality, slick user interface and stories of unlimited integrations. But consider your own program and culture. Is yours the sort of organization that will adopt 80% of the features you are paying for? If it is, and you have genuinely stretched the capabilities of your existing partner, then perhaps it is time for a change. If, however, your users will only ever interact with a technology to approve time and expenses for example, then getting the basics right becomes a far higher priority, and perhaps adding to the existing stack a lower cost, best of breed technology to solve a specific business problem is the answer.
Technology is the answer. Whether technology is the answer very much depends upon the question. While in most cases the introduction of technology such as vendor management systems has immeasurably improved visibility, data accessibility and efficiency in workforce programs, a warning bell should be ringing if any significant percentage of your time as a program manager is absorbed in resolving technology issues or developing workarounds when technology comes up short.
When assessing any new technology platform, be crystal clear on the business issue you are looking to address, be realistic about the extent to which technology can replace human activity, and get to know the company behind the platform in the context of your organizational demands — do you need agility and innovation or stability and scale? Knowing these factors will help you to select a partner that can evolve as your program does. Don’t ignore the incumbent — when was the last time you invested time to really assess their current capability against the original product you selected?
Rogue is wrong. The role of the workforce program manager often includes ensuring adherence to process and bringing spend into the program structure. It can therefore be tempting to police the business and consider off-contract spend as bad behavior that needs to be controlled or brought into scope through rules. Closer engagement with rogue users, however, can often uncover a rich stream of program issues requiring resolution. Examples may include insufficient supply in a particular location or skill set, poor understanding of the program or its goals for the company, frustration with delivery timescales, or a genuine business case for an alternative model. While there must always be a level of standardization to achieve program benefits, listening to rogue users can often provide a list of innovation initiatives with which to enhance the program.
Consider as an example the increasing adoption of freelancer management systems in the enterprise, the majority of which has been through end-user platform engagement driven by the need for hirers to access talent on-demand. Where the traditional program structure cannot respond to this demand, perhaps there is a case for enabling this usage using a light touch program approach to provide compliance and rate guidance.
Whatever your program challenge for 2020 and beyond, it’s worth remembering that perhaps the answers exist somewhere within your current program team, partnerships or technology; the skill is in adopting a fresh perspective to uncover them.