Five years ago, PwC began the process of establishing its own in-house talent pool program, an effort that now accounts for about three-quarters of the its advisory services business line contract workforce. In a discussion with CWS 3.0, Brian Snarzyk, principal with PwC, last week talked about the development of the program and his role in bringing this concept to life. This week, he discusses the current status of the Talent Exchange, what the future holds and how he’d advise others looking to develop a similar program.

Brian Snarzyk, Principal, PwC

When you started off, how many workers did you have in your pilot?

When in the pilot stage, within the first three months, I’d say we got up over about 1,500 individuals registered with the Talent Exchange. Today, our supply of visible profiles is over 32,000 individuals.

What is the current state of the Talent Exchange?

Over the course of the past month we exceeded 1.1 million client billable hours that have been delivered through the platform. We’ve filled almost 3,000 positions.

We have about 950 to 1,000 people on projects through the Talent Exchange right now. And here’s the very key metric that I think is actually telling: About 26% of the individuals who are deployed on projects are repeat talent, which reflects that the model of the exchange works for those individuals because they’re back and it works for the business teams because they’re using them again.

We have some people on their sixth and seventh opportunities with us. And another interesting thing is that the average number of days that a particular worker is engaged with us is about 170. So that also gives insight that these are not workers that come in, work for two days and go away.

Of those 1.1 million hours that we’ve delivered and 3,000 positions filled, they’re averaging just under six months per project. And this ties back to one of your first questions around what were some concerns that were voiced initially — will this be dilutive to our brand? Clearly, it’s not, because these individuals are on average almost six months per assignment with us — and they are coming back.

Five, six months ago, I was with a group of my colleagues who do a lot of work in the financial management, financial effectiveness consulting. A number of their clients are beginning to ask, “How does PwC work with freelance workers? How do you tap into the growing quadrant of the economy who are now self-described freelance workers?” Of course, now we have a very good answer to tell them.

I know the other consulting companies — Ernst and Young, Accenture — they all have something similar. What’s your Talent Exchange’s differentiator?

I think the differentiator is that we have covered the entire life cycle from identifying talent through establishment of the demand channel, through the match and selection process in an exchange model, through the process and then onboarding the individuals and we’ve embedded the entire construct of the VMS within Talent Exchange, including the capturing of the full experience of time and expense and so forth and offboarding and rating the individuals within Talent Exchange.

I believe, most of the other service providers or service firms like ours, they have touched part of that. They have a front-end approach to some aspects of that, but then they funnel directly into their existing channels, whereas we built a whole channel that covers the entire life cycle independently but at the same time, is integrated with the existing processes for recruitment, onboarding, retention and so forth.

So, what’s ahead for the Talent Exchange?

A couple things, one of which is we’re driving an increase in volume within our advisory business. Second, we’re doing some initial pilot stages beyond advisory to determine whether or not this is a fit for them.

Also, PwC operates a number of delivery centers around the world that are part of our delivery apparatus for our acceleration centers. We may look at taking Talent Exchange and making it available to support the delivery centers in some of the other countries where we operate. The next possibility might be other member firms.

PwC is a network of around 160 territories. A number of PwC member firms operating in those territories have similar business challenges and needs as we do in the US. And so, some of these other member firms of PwC worldwide are expressing an interest in the Talent Exchange. It may be something we pursue there.

And then, ultimately, whether or not we offer the option of the Talent Exchange as a service or a platform for commercial clients. Right now, of course, as I’ve been describing, it is just for PwC and how we support our business in delivering work to our clients. There are a number of possible future directions of where we could go. One thing is for certain that I have on my road map directly ahead of me is continuing to drive the adoption and success just within the US advisory business where we have the initial vision for where we wanted to take this.

What advice do you have for other contingent workforce program managers?

I would encourage that they keep an open mind towards individual contract workers who want to work directly with them, have the conversation around the direct sourcing model. But do so with eyes wide open towards a compliant delivery model. Compliance is becoming an increasingly challenging topic from lots of different angles. And there are certainly a number of challenges in running a program like this and doing so in a compliant manner.

What do you do for compliance?

We are obsessed with it. So, we’re actually working with MBO Partners. We began a relationship with them almost, within about six months of our journey. There is a very key role in working directly with the freelance workers themselves and with PwC to achieve that level of compliance in addition to what we do in so far as our own professional standards and matters around independence and quality and checks and so forth.