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No One Taught Me How to Source the Most Honest Vendor

Vendor_neutralityFrom products to people, every business needs a wide array of third-party vendors to keep the lights on. But how do you pick the best one? When approaching temporary staffing specifically, two very important words comes to mind, vendor neutrality. 

There are two sides to every story, and this debate is no different. Let's say you are working with an existing Managed Staffing Provider, or MSP to procure the best talent for your organization. On the one hand, you expect the MSP to deliver the highest caliber of candidates regardless of the source; after all, you've hired the MSP to consolidate and manage multiple staffing vendors. So that lends credence to this notion of non-neutrality — meaning the Managed Staffing Provider can draw from its own lineup of candidates to fill its client’s positions.

On the other hand, it could be argued that a Managed Service Provider, with its insider knowledge of client demands, could rig the process, opting to overweight the candidate pool with its own resumes — a more profitable approach for the MSP, yet arguably less effective for the client’s stated objective of finding the best possible talent. 

Complicating the issue further, the very definition of vendor neutrality isn’t universally agreed upon. For many it means the Managed Staffing Provider abstains from finding talent. To others, it simply means a level playing field — the MSP offers its candidates but is treated like any other supplier.

Vendor neutrality should mean nothing more than a level playing field for all. If that’s created, and good relationships are established with suppliers, jobs will get filled and both the Managed Staffing Provider and the supplier win. If fairness is ever a doubt, relying on your Vendor Management System, or VMS will make the answer obvious. But in the end, the decision on vendor neutrality lies with the client, and only the MSPs that are honest and fair in implementing the best solution for a client will ever be successful.

5 Questions to Gauge Whether Your MSP Is Vendor Neutral

Question 1: If an MSP can fulfill, won’t it be motivated to only provide its own candidates, optimizing its revenue to the detriment of the client?

The truth is that with the recent growth in demand for temporary workers, it’s rare that a single provider can fill all or even a majority of openings. An effective recruitment strategy is to concentrate on those providers with unique expertise in a vertical and require your MSP to work with those firms that can tap the appropriate talent pool. Sometimes, that might include your own MSP. At other times, maybe not. Because the MSP signs up to fill all of the client’s jobs, it needs to have the best suppliers (possibly even themselves) working to meet their client’s needs. If they don’t and it impacts the client, they won’t be the MSP for very long.

Question 2: Shouldn’t MSPs serve as independent, third-party managers of the temporary recruitment process? If they can fulfill on openings, doesn’t that throw off their impartiality?

It depends on the client’s business objective. If the objective is somehow compliance with an internal goal of impartiality, then independence is important. However, if the end game is to find the best possible talent and closing the time to fill on urgent openings, then a wider net will catch bigger and better fish, which undermines the argument for neutrality.

Question 3: If the MSP can fulfill, does it make it impossible to determine the real interests, and monitor and track the effectiveness of your temporary recruitment strategy?  

Not so, if the client is clear in its objective and demands transparency from its MSP. Then there’s little to worry about when using an MSP that can also fill from its own roster of candidates. Since most MSP engagements enlist the help a vendor management system (VMS) to track all activity and supplier performance, there should be no issue as long as an MSP is tracked and held to the same standards as all other suppliers. If they’re performing, it’ll show. If they aren’t, it’ll be just as apparent. Again, the end game should be finding the best possible talent, at the best possible price, in the shortest amount of time. If the MSP can track and verify on that matrix, then it matters not where the candidate originates from. This is the level playing field for all that should be the focus of vendor neutrality.

Question 4: Won’t other suppliers simply not participate in a Managed Staffing Program if they know the MSP is also a provider?

The MSP model is now a mainstream, accepted model in the staffing industry. Some suppliers choose not to participate, but many see it as an opportunity to gain access to jobs and clients they wouldn’t otherwise have. If they feel that the playing field is level and the MSP will provide good, open communication with suppliers (and possibly allow some direct communication with hiring managers), then it’s a win-win for both the supplier and the MSP. The MSP fills more jobs for the client by having good suppliers, and high-performing suppliers have more opportunities. MSPs that hoard jobs or don’t give suppliers an opportunity to perform often fail in short order. In the early days, this was more common. With today’s technologies and educated clients, there’s no place to hide if you’re not delivering as the MSP.

Question 5: But isn’t neutrality always a good thing?

It’s funny how something seemingly good might not be all good or all bad. Think of the Affordable Care Act. Don’t let the semantics fool you. There are pros and cons on each side. But in the end, partnering with an MSP always comes down to the same goal: the need to acquire the game-changing talent your organization needs to grow and win in an increasingly fluid labor market.



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