If you are completely wrapped up in tracking whether or not staffing suppliers are meeting your guidelines, you may be setting up your workforce program for failure. Every staffing supplier is different, and taking a broad-brush approach to supplier management hinders both you and your suppliers from achieving success.
Let’s start off by stating the obvious: implementing and maintaining a new supplier management program is complex and difficult. It’s a balancing act of getting the right data, setting up the right technologies, and understanding how to achieve your program’s specific goals. Because the pressing deadlines can often weigh you down, there’s a good chance you will miss how your implemented changes are impacting your program’s suppliers.
For example, if you are running a supplier program through a Managed Staffing Provider (MSP), that provider needs to understand not only the data and delivery expectations of the supplier, but also, the supplier’s company culture and their existing relationship with you. The supplier may have never worked with an MSP before, and you and the MSP have to respect the uncertainty of that.
3 Overlooked Realities When Managing Your Supplier Program
It may be time to take a step back and analyze the situation. You or your provider may not be picking up on where the supplier’s frustrations are rooted. To help you think about your supplier’s unique perspective so that you can set them up for success, consider these three often overlooked realities when managing your supplier program.
Throw Your Assumptions Out the Door
After all, you know what they say about that! If you come in with any assumptions, throw them out the door. While implementing any changes in a supplier management program, you cannot assume that they have done something like this before. Come in with a clean slate and take the time to train, and train properly; even on those little things you wouldn’t think they would need training on. For example, when your suppliers receive a contract, don’t assume they will understand it. Spell details out very clearly so that there is very little to nothing left for them to misunderstand or question.
Your suppliers are facing a wave of uncertainty: new systems, new processes, new contacts, new mindsets, etc. It can get a bit overwhelming and make them nervous. If they don’t seem to be getting it right, reach out and see why they aren’t adapting. Keep that line of communication open by scheduling consistent calls for feedback on both sides, and to keep them up-to-date on the program so there are no surprises.
Understand Suppliers on an Individual Level
There are a lot of different variables into how companies run. Your supplier’s company culture and the relationship they had with the team prior to your arrival is important to understand. Humans all work differently, even down to the preferred way they communicate (i.e. e-mail vs telephone). Things like the size of their company, their niche vertical, and often their geographic landscape can affect how they respond to the way you are handling your program. For suppliers in more rural locations, bill rates can seem unreasonable as compared to more urban locations. And, if there is a large supplier program, those geographic locations can vary greatly.
Do the research and get comparative data of your whole supplier database on an individual level. This research is something that is often overlooked and can help you get a broader understanding of what suppliers are used to providing. Being well-informed with this knowledge before you start to implement program changes will quickly help you to earn manager’s respect. Earning that trust will make them want to work even harder to fill the positions that you need.
Remember Fear and Confusion Causes Anger
According to Psychology Today magazine, anger is often motivated by hurt and fear. Uncertainty regarding the stability of their account often causes fear, and that fear can cause anger. Anger can be displayed in a multitude of ways which include resistance to change and decreased productivity.
You may get some hostile suppliers who will not take well to change. Take a step back and understand that the anger may be coming from a place of fear or confusion. Clearly spell out why the changes are being made and how it will affect them in a positive way. Often you can sense where the fear stems from, and you can take the right steps to have a productive conversation to correct it. There will be a time when that lack of productivity may force you to work with other suppliers, but exploring other ways to approach the supplier before cutting the cord may resolve those issues before it gets to that point.
Overall, open communication and a researched understanding of your supplier database helps elevate the open acceptance of change for a more prosperous working relationship. There are many moving parts in running a good supplier management program, and having a foundation with a good supplier pool that trusts you and understands your program thoroughly will help you reach the goals you set out to achieve.
About the Author: 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.