null 7 takeaways from the 2019 CWS conference


Key takeaways CWS 2019

Staffing Industry Analysts hosts the annual Contingent Workforce Strategies (CWS) conference – where industry solution providers and enterprise buyers get together to hear predictions about the future from experts, talk to fellow practitioners, learn about new innovations, and typically enjoy a few cocktails together. This year’s conference in San Diego was no different.

In case you couldn’t attend the conference (or if you did, and are interested in learning what resonated with me) here are my top 7 takeaways from the 2019 CWS conference:

1. It’s all about the talent

You probably know the Golden Rule - the principle of treating others as you want to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in many religions and cultures around the world.

I’ve heard in jest that the corollary to the golden rule should be that those who have the gold make the rules…which is probably truer than most of us would like to admit. After thinking about the new world of work and the constrained global market for talent, I’d like to propose a new corollary, appropriately called the Talent Rule:

Those who have the best talent will win.

If there was an underlying theme for this year’s CWS conference that would be it. In the new era of work, the war for talent is over. And, in case you were wondering about the outcome, talent won!

What does this mean for enterprise buyers of talent?

It means that in the new world of work, organizations must think differently about how they recruit and retain talent. The old “post and apply” model (often referred to as spray and pray) doesn’t work for modern workers who have many options and frequently choose those opportunities with the greatest social or psychic rewards.

More organizations are leveraging a “find and engage” model for recruiting and retaining talent. This approach treats job seekers like a consumer, and when done well it builds and defends an employment value proposition that makes your organization a client-of-choice for today’s flexible, non-employee workforce.

2. Workforce program management complexity

As the world of work continues to rapidly evolve, both the workplace and the workforce are becoming ever more complex. Driven by new demographic cohorts of workers and fueled by technology and societal advances, the pace of change and corresponding complexity of the workforce will only continue.

These changes will demand innovative new approaches from enterprise buyers of talent, and from those technology and service providers who help support them. This reality should give program sponsors some pause for concern if they think their organizations can effectively go it alone and self-manage a program (coincidentally, I did have several conversations at the conference with organizations contemplating it – mostly as a cost-saving move – stay tuned for a future blog article on that topic!)

3. The future is flexible

For the enterprise, the future is flexible in terms of how works get done, and by whom. In today’s unpredictable and rapidly evolving global economy, organizations must maintain flexibility in terms of their workforce – not only so they can quickly react to up/down-turns, but also so that they can quickly access the talent they need. In turn, workers want flexibility in choosing when and where to work, what services they will provide, and for whom.

This need for flexibility is driving the growth of the contingent workforce and creating many new opportunities for individual workers and third-party talent providers to think differently about how they engage with buyers of talent. Examples include the rapid growth of independent contractors, SOW, online staffing, etc.

One impact of this need for flexibility is the renewed interest in Total Talent Management. This much maligned HR strategy has been pushed to the forefront of the workforce management discussion because it aims to help organizations find the right strategic balance amongst all the possible types of workers in their ecosystem: regular employees, agency workers, consulting firms, third party contractors, etc.

Driven by the new world of work, Total Talent Management’s time has come. We need to stop thinking about the traditional workforce and the contingent workforce as two discretely separate entities, but rather as one integrated and fluid workforce. Organizations need to think carefully about how they expand and manage their entire talent supply chain in order to get work done.

4. Technology – Disruptor, and enabler

The CWS conference agenda was littered with references and sessions dedicated to discussing the latest and greatest technical innovations in the contingent workforce sector. Some of these are disruptive, but many fall more into the enabling category – thinks like chatbots, artificial intelligence (AI), and robotic process automation (RPA) helping organizations and their service providers to things more efficiently and effectively.

Some of them aren’t new – for example, vendor management systems (VMS) are still a core foundational tool for almost every enterprise contingent workforce program in existence. There are many new features, and some distracting bright shiny objects, but overall this transactional tool isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.

Another interesting technology-driven development is the rapid growth of online staffing solutions. These platforms are beginning to disrupt the traditional staffing agency model, offering a lower cost and broader reach.

5. People aren’t parts

While there was a lot of interest and excitement (and a number of exhibitors) at the conference focused on the transformative power of technology, I have to call out that it is still a people business.

Just as people aren’t parts, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that it is still a technology-enabled service business. When it comes to recruiting, placing, and managing people I believe we still need humans to engage with humans. The advancement of technology will give humans the opportunity to focus on improving the quality of human interaction, which is imperative to the service delivered in our industry.

6. Diversity

It was great to see several sessions and sponsors promoting diversity and inclusion within enterprise workforce programs. There is a lot of research proving what many of us have anecdotally learned in our careers: diversity and inclusion in the workforce leads to a better workplace, better decision-making, and better outcomes. It is clearly not just the right thing to do, it is also good business.

The gig economy is often accused of being unfair to its workers, yet it delivers many benefits including one that is often not mentioned: it can help drive diversity when focused on getting the best worker with a specific required skill to successfully deliver a project. This approach levels the playing field by removing filters of location, gender, age, background, etc. and focusing exclusively on the ability to get a job done.

There is a big opportunity for MSP service providers to help clients build and manage contingent workforce management programs that embrace and foster diversity in the workplace. There is no question that this is an important part of the overall talent scarcity puzzle.

7. Direct sourcing

Direct sourcing was a popular subject in a number of sessions. Unfortunately, this term has fallen victim to one of the staffing industries greatest transgressions – terminology confusion.

Let me try to clear it up…

Direct sourcing (often called RPO for contingent) is an outsourced recruiting service that has been provided by third party service providers like Hays Talent Solutions in Europe for over 20 years. It is just beginning to gain traction as an outsourced service in North America. With this solution, a partner like Hays Talent Solutions will leverage the client’s brand to build and curate a proprietary talent pool from which workers can be sourced to match new requisitions. This recruiting solutions offers substantial benefits, including: improved time to fill, better fit, and lower costs versus the traditional temporary agency supply chain.

It is not the same as self-sourcing, where enterprise buyers might leverage a database-driven marketplace or network referrals to find talent on their own.

Conclusion – How will you get the talent you need?

The North American contingent workforce marketplace is not only the largest ($1.3 trillion in 2018 spend according to Staffing Industry Analysts research) but also the most complex in the world. Unemployment is at record lows; talent scarcity is a popular boardroom topic. Clearly, there is a large demand for talent.

On the supply side of the equation, there are 53 million gig economy workers of all stripes (temp agency workers, independent contractors, consultants, etc.) This segment of the workforce is growing at a dramatically faster rate than the traditional workforce.

To help talent buyers and sellers come together, there are thousands of temporary agencies, many regional and global MSP and RPO service providers, and as evidenced by this year’s CWS conference a growing number of alternative talent providers.

To survive and thrive in today’s complex business environment requires access to talent, which will require better strategy and innovation. I believe next generation managed service programs (MSP) should focus on:

Finding the best talent, at the right time and place, for a fair cost – regardless of worker classification or source

This is the core organizing principle of the Talent Forward strategy that Hays Talent Solutions delivers to our clients in the North American market. It is built on four key elements, all of which were, to various degrees, on display at the CWS conference:

  • Staffing supplier enablement – Building a program where Vendor partners are informed, excited, engaged and committed to delivering the best talent to our clients.
  • Extended supply chain - Expanding and optimizing the mix of traditional and alternative talent, including SOW, service providers, and online marketplaces (with compliance and governance)
  • Direct sourcing - An outsourced recruiting solution, that leverages our client’s brand to build and engage a proprietary talent community, which can then be used to source workers at a significantly lower cost and quicker time to productivity than the traditional staffing suppliers
  • Technology & analytics – Streamlined process, real-time data capture across the enterprise program, rate card development, benchmarking by market and competitors, Worker availability, robust analytics, and the resulting decision-making insights for a foundation of your technology-enabled service delivery

So, that’s my take on CWS 2019. If you attended, let me know how this lined up with your impressions.

Talent Forward Index – Free offer

If you’re interested in benchmarking your current MSP program to see how Talent Forward it is, we’ve developed a short (under 2 minutes) Talent Forward Index assessment survey. Once you complete it we’ll send your results along with a high-level diagnostic report showing how your program ranks next to the benchmark index.

Kimball Norup

SVP, Head of growth at Hays Talent Solutions- Americas

With nearly two decades of experience in the human capital management industry. Kimball has experience in structural engineering, publishing entrepreneur, and running a successful strategy consulting firm. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and an MBA with honours from the University of California, Davis.

Now his expertise is used working cross-functionally with the Hays Talent Solutions global leadership team to build the strategic plan for the expansion of Hays Talent Solutions in the Americas region. Focusing on business growth and client acquisition, activation, retention, and upsell across the region.