When Managing Your Staffing Suppliers Feels More Like Herding Cats

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Posted by Marcia Hagood

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October 20, 2015

Contingent labor management is not an easy job. There we said it. From sourcing hundreds or thousands of contractors to managing multiple staffing suppliers, it can kind of feel like well, herding cats. And for those of you who have never tried this at home, doing so is among life's harder tasks. 

Have you ever tried herding cats? It usually goes a little something like this.

As you can see from the video, it's pretty clear that cats can't be persuaded to do much of anything. It’s nearly impossible to get a single cat to follow a command; now multiply that across a whole group of cats and well, catastrophe. You aren’t getting anything accomplished. Pretty similar in cat-titude to these feisty felines are contingent labor staffing suppliers. While you are trying to herd groups contract workers, staffing suppliers, and managed staffing providers, everyone seems to be scurrying off in different directions.  


There's More Than One Way to Skin a Cat

When you are responsible for hiring hundreds or thousands of contingent workers, you typically go straight to the source. In this case, the source is one or more staffing suppliers. And, there's certainly more than one way to manage your supplier relationships. However, the more staffing suppliers that make up your contingent workforce (CW) program, the more challenging it becomes to move in sync, as a group.

So, why not pick a single supplier? It’s because some staffing suppliers may be better suited for a particular industry, like IT staffing. And within that industry, some may even be so granularly focused as to specialize in a certain niche, like coding or desktop service. Even other suppliers you’ll find, source talent across multiple industries. No matter your mix, when working with multiple suppliers, consider for every provider there is a new contract that needs to be agreed upon, a different pricing model to review, and unique set of compliance guidelines to follow.


6 Tips to Effectively Manage Staffing Suppliers

With so many suppliers, all running in different directions, how do you create checks and balances to keep internal, external and contract or contingent workers (yes, remember them) aligned?

Here are six tips you can use to effectively manage the often complex, but essential matrix, that is your staffing supplier mix.


Communication is the key to keeping you aware of what is happening at any given moment. Technologies, like Vendor Management Systems, or VMS tools, help to facilitate on-going communication needed on the ground level. But, if not managed effectively, these technologies can also act as your biggest barrier.

Be clear and concise about how you will measure success in your contingent labor program. Establish measures of success and work in tandem to hit those goals and project milestones. In other words, drive the communication; don’t let lack of communication drive bad decision-making.

Supplier Forums

One way Yoh sets up open lines of communication in a Managed Staffing Provider (MSP) Program, is to hold a Supplier Forum. This is an open house invitation, of sorts, to the suppliers, which gives them the opportunity to visit your location and see how their work off-site is translating on-site. Not only does this make the suppliers feel like they are a part of the program by really humanizing the processes, but it’s a great relationship building exercise that proves invaluable over the long run.


Status Update Calls 

While Supplier Forums are really effective for building relationships, two-way communication between the organization and the supplier needs to happen more than once a year. Set up regular status update calls to communicate newly identified needs, as well as provide updates. Having a call is a great way to ensure your suppliers understand the job requirements at hand. In addition, make it an internal team effort. We encourage everyone from the hiring manager, to the recruiter to provide insight and perspective, to maximize a successful program.



We are all held accountable at our jobs, so why not hold your suppliers to that same standard? Set up supplier scorecards on a quarterly basis to monitor performance, optimize your supplier base, and reward suppliers that have been strong players. Speaking from a supplier perspective, it's extremely motivating to see your performance against the other suppliers in the program. If they are consistently below the average, this gives them accountability and you can address any challenges that may be impacting their ability to meet the standards for the program.



There are a lot of checks and balances that come into play once a manager has decided on a candidate.  Those various screenings are communicated to suppliers when they sign the agreement and through regular forums, but how often are you checking to ensure that the screenings are taking place and the candidate has gone through all the necessary steps to begin their project with your client? Setting up a regular auditing process is critical. If there is consistent auditing, the suppliers will be focused on ensuring that their screenings are following the guidelines set forth to them for the program; even in situations where balls tend to be dropped, like staff transition.   

Be clear and detailed when communicating your auditing process and what data you expect from suppliers. Create a checklist so that they know exactly what you are asking for during the audit. That way, when the request for the audit is made, it's a quick and easy collection of data.


Building Trust 

In any professional relationship, building trust is just as important as compensation. While it might seem counterintuitive, if you make them feel like they are on the same team, they will want to go above and beyond for you. They may even step up and help support your staffing needs in other capacities. Trust me when I say that building a trusted database is more important than building a large one!

Having a big supplier database can be overwhelming. But if you can keep these ideas in mind, it will help them stay focused and organized. You’ll smoothly lead that herd to keep producing staffing results you need.  And you will even walk away relatively scratch-free. 

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Marcia Hagood is a Senior Director of Supplier Management for Yoh. Marcia brings more than 15 years of supplier management experience in to her role with Yoh. Prior to this position, Marcia was a Senior Program Manager. There, she spent six years overseeing a managed services account for Yoh. Additionally, Marcia has worked as a Group Operations Manager where she managed operations for several of Yoh's Managed Staffing Provider (MSP) programs and Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) programs. Before joining Yoh, Marcia was a middle school science teacher. 

Topics: Managed Solutions

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