In the last decade, managed service provider services have evolved from localized programs — designed to consolidate supply, reduce risk and leverage purchasing power — to delivery of more strategic talent sourcing strategies and solutions on a global scale. The numbers back it up. According to SIA’s 2019 Workforce Solutions Buyer Survey, adoption of MSPs by companies with more 1,000 employees has grown to 63% in 2019 from 42% in 2009. The share of respondents using a vendor management system showed an even more marked climb, with 82% of programs having one in place in 2019 compared with 51% a decade prior.

And then the world was hit by Covid-19. The resulting health and economic crisis is accelerating a push toward increased collaboration and communication for all in the talent supply chain. Here’s how.


The levels of communication have “gone through the roof,” said Jo Matkin, SIA’s global workforce solutions research director. For example, MSP and VMS executives are communicating “almost daily” with buyer clients, whereas prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, these executive-level meetings likely occurred no more than quarterly or monthly.

The improved communication has led to a boost in creativity as firms seek to develop solutions to respond to the unprecedented situation. In addition, clients now more readily adopt existing solutions — for example, certain worker tracking features — that they may previously have by-passed.

“Turning on all features in the VMS that enable visibility and profiling of the total workforce may have not been a priority before, but definitely is now,” Matkin said. Workforce managers found they quickly needed to know who their workers are, where they are located and what their risk profiles are. In the first few weeks of the pandemic, concerns centered around health screening and possibly sending workers home. But after the shelter-in-place orders came down, the need-to-know shifted to which groups either have the capability and the equipment to work from home; who must remain onsite and be potentially at risk; or laid-off or furloughed.

These decisions require VMS and MSP providers to respond from both a solutions perspective and a communications perspective. “Even while managing their own organizational challenges, they are working much more closely with each other as well as with the buyers,” Matkin said.

Support and Collaboration

In addition to enhanced roles with buyer organizations, MSPs have also stepped up to the plate for their staffing suppliers, supporting them as some — especially smaller providers — deal with “quite challenging scenarios.” “Anything the MSPs can do to offer support and guidance will be well-received,” Matkin said.

For example, Tammy Browning, senior VP of global operations at KellyOCG, explained in an SIA Executive Forum 2020 virtual panel that her organization is reaching out about business continuity plans and what they can do to help providers. KellyOCG has extended help to firms that don’t have cash flow or supply-chain funds to weather the current situation and will likely have to close their doors.

In the “Strengthening Partnerships in the MSP/VMS Supply Chain” panel, Browning said KellyOCG has been meeting twice a week with its top 40 suppliers worldwide. They discuss their program, but also share best practices that other programs in other businesses and industries are doing. For example, demand may be increasing in a firm’s life sciences business but declining in its energy business. “How do we help our suppliers move that talent where it is needed today?” Browning said.

On the VMS side, one area of help they bring to the table is a feature to communicate bulletins to a large audience of contingent workers who already use the platform for their timesheets, according to Brian Hoffmeyer, senior VP of Market Strategies at Beeline. In addition, VMS technology, MSPs and the staffing providers themselves can help keep lines of communication open and establish positive relationships with those workers who may have been let go but whose services might be wanted again by the buyer when the situation improves.

Recent circumstances have forced open communication channels and open-minded collaboration between buyers, MSPs, VMSs and even their staffing suppliers. “I believe we are going to be bigger, better, faster, stronger as MSPs and as a supply chain as a result of this situation,” Browning said.