By Elliot H. Clark
Because of our HRO Today Baker’s Dozen customer satisfaction survey franchise, many companies will seek us out for advice on further interpretation of the data or for help leveraging it in a procurement process. One of my most vivid memories of working with a practitioner on vendor selection was from one of world’s largest banks on a large RPO deal. One of the vendors bidding on the RPO contract was already delivering MSP services to the organization and felt certain they would win. The two met at the HRO Today Forum in Las Vegas about seven years ago. The client had several meetings at the Forum with prospective RPO firms and first eliminated the provider holding the MSP deal because they “didn’t want to put too many eggs in one basket.” Today that mentality seems silly. Now, the trend in HR and procurement is to look for companies that can provide a more comprehensive solution set—not less.
Indeed, the emergence of total workforce solutions—the combining of RPO and MSP services to subsume permanent and contingent hiring—is only one example of this phenomenon. At the Forum mentioned above, the head of HR operations for a big box retailer in the electronics industry was touting that her group managed 73 vendors including multiple RPO, MSP, background screening, relocation, and learning outsourcing providers. I remember wondering how they could celebrate what, frankly, sounded like an inefficient mess. But that same phrase about putting eggs in baskets was used. Imagine how inefficient a dairy farm would be if they shipped only one egg per outbound truck?
The truth is that HR has gotten more sophisticated, as have provider service offerings. Today, we have entered the era of the “trusted partner.” As I talk to both providers and CHROs, they indicate that in healthy partnerships, HR approaches providers and asks for help solving a problem. That problem may involve hiring, leadership development, technology implementation, or all of the above. Today’s providers need to be able to offer such broad-based solutions because increasingly, HR seems to be moving toward, yes, yet another clichéd phrase, seeking “one throat to choke” to accomplish a strategic objective.
This makes sense. If you hire poorly, people will leave sooner. If you have poor leadership or mistreat existing workers, negative reviews on social media sites will make hiring much harder. If you have poor compensation and benefits or weak diversity programs, you will be mired in lawsuits about equity or behavior. As complex as HR is, its purpose is really one thing: hiring and retaining the most talented and productive workforce an organization can afford within its budgetary parameters. That sentence is based on comments from several Fortune 500 CEOs I spoke with about their corporate responsibility programs during the years we owned CR Magazine (we divested that title last year). I always managed to sneak a few HR questions in the discussion of the company and one of them was what the CEO wanted from HR.
If HR can be summarized that simply, fine, but the achievement of that goal is an incredibly complicated maze of interconnected programs and policies. The providers who can offer a supermarket approach that addresses multiple dimensions of complex problems will be the winners in the future of HR services. So next time you are in a bid meeting, ask a question providers love to hear: “What else you got?” Because the ability to partner on multiple fronts will make HR more efficient, the providers more accountable, and, we hope, the workforce more talented and engaged with the mission and success of the employer.