Steven Hinckley is building a new edifice to house the free agent labor force.
By Debbie Bolla
Steven Hinckley is an architect—not of skyscrapers, but of talent management. And, as many architects have operated since the Renaissance, that means pursuing a design ideal of the golden mean. To thrive in today’s economic turbulence, workforce leaders need to find operational equilibrium. Which will increasingly lead many to managed service provider (MSP) programs.
When Hinckley stepped into his role of executive vice president of MSP two and a half years ago for staffing firm Adecco Group, the solution was in its infancy. Hinckley tapped into his knowledge of supply chain management from his work at PwC and IBM to build a blueprint for an infrastructure around an integrated labor solution.
“There are a lot of similarities between the supply chain and the talent supply chain,” says Hinckley. “There are tools that are applicable to solving problems in the labor space.”
Those tools include supply and demand planning, a model that can be replicated in the labor space. Companies can scale their workforces up or down as demand—the economy, their customers—dictates. Hinckley also zeroes in on process optimization through technology because he witnessed how technology enables workforce optimization in the supply chain via SAP and customer relationship management (CRM) implementation. Hinckley’s MSP program design for Adecco shaped an idea into an integrated talent solution on a global scale.
Today, as president and COO of global MSP solutions at Adecco Group, Hinckley leads the consulting arm of Adecco Group North America for large enterprise clients across several industries, including financial services, telecommunications, and IT. He also oversees enterprise workforce assessment, strategy development, and management of recruitment process outsourcing (RPO), vendor management system (VMS), and MSP programs.
Plain and simple, he’s got a lot on his plate. Luckily, he says, his field is an exciting one, with room for growth in a tough economic landscape.
“We believe the future lies in helping clients embrace the new world of work,” he says. “It’s not just about temporary labor and permanent labor or a blend of both, but everything else it impacts.”
And what has shaped the new world of work? The economy, of course. Hinckley believes that the world of work will never go back to where it was five years ago. Rather, the economy has permanently altered how businesses operate—this is the new normal. “The recession will ease, and hiring will pick up, but the world of work has fundamentally changed,” he says. Not surprisingly, the value proposition of MSP programs—allowing companies to efficiently manage their workforce according to their business needs—has done nothing but increased in the economic landscape.
“MSP programs can do quite well. If you look at their growth over the last couple of years, they’re positive during the recession,” he notes. “MSP programs continue to play a key role in helping companies’ supply chains become more flexible and fluid, more granular. What’s been going on has been a wake up call.”
So where does he see MSP programs going, and how will that shape offerings?
Designing for the Future
Historically, it’s been one dimensional, Hinckley says. “Managers only focused on permanent labor, and temporary labor was more of a stop gap. Given the changes that are going on in the world and in the U.S., we believe we need to move upstream to not only offer cost savings and transparency of spend, but to take business issues as they are now related to labor issues.” This is where the rubber meets the road: Clients are seeking diagnostics and actionable advice on how their business strategy can be enabled by labor and talent.
“This means we are not going to abandon the current course, but we need to broaden. We help clients address upstream business issues and talent needs. Over the next 18 months, we’ll be helping clients with our staffing and technology partners to understand the talent equilibrium. We believe a company achieves talent equilibrium when the workforce is equal with the ever-changing demands of the market, clients and customers,” he notes.
Again, think of the architectural golden mean.
Talent equilibrium is Hinckley’s buzz-phrase for 2012. “It’s not about having all the right talent, or meeting 100 percent of the needs—it’s about getting an organization to where they feel they have some leverageable balance,” he explains. “The talent equilibrium doesn’t start with the old worn-out assumptions. It makes use of our data set and organizational studies. We believe people will be talking about talent equilibrium when they are talking about talent.”
He also sees this trickling into metrics that will measure the deliverability and sustainability of MSP programs. He says innovational and operational metrics will begin to evolve. For example, on the operational side, new metrics coming to the forefront include revenue from new services or service revenue as a percent of total revenue, even risk-based or new pricing models. But for innovation, thinking outside the box is imperative.
“Saving money and transparency aren’t enough. Are we more upstream and more aggressive, or are we downstream and less aggressive? Metrics don’t have to be a number. We must track innovation. Today organizations are so focused on right time, right people, right rate, but they forget to define the definition of right,” he says.
After Hinckley developed the structure of Adecco’s North American MSP program offering, he set his sights on delivering it globally. But it was not without its challenges. The landscapes of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Latin America, and the Asian Pacific region (APAC) differed too greatly from North American—so much so that the model couldn’t be duplicated. Rather, an innovative, blended approach for both temporary and permanent staffing needs was more suitable for the country-by-country variances.
“We expect the continued rise of blended solutions in EMEA and APAC—it makes sense for abroad, and they have grasped it,” Hinckley says. “This is because you have smaller markets and legal considerations. The blended approach can provide savings for clients and provide better services as well.”
He offers a few predictions: “EMEA: the challenge is working with smaller volumes over multiple countries, with lots of complexity like language, currency, and government regulations. Latin America and APAC will leap frog North American and EMEA by having a mix of legacy and very little legacy. Their starting point will be the leading practices that are in existence today. The challenge is there is no way to have one-size-fits-all for all those countries.”
No matter the region, the landscape of the workforce will also be a driver of change. “The engine—the people—is changing,” he sayd. “We’ve got aging populations in Japan, China, and the U.S. We have babyboomers staying in workforce longer and younger generations with different values. We have lost generations of workers. If you look at Spain, the 40-percent unemployment rate of its younger generation is almost defined as a lost generation. We have clients with a sense of urgency in growing populations in Asia.”
The Outlook Ahead
Organizations seeking to navigate and excel in the new normal when it comes to managing their talent have a bevy of considerations to take into account. “We are in a global transformation when it comes to talent. How do we educate folks? Retain the talent? Incent the talent? All of these questions together makes people uncomfortable,” says Hinckley. “There are two types of folks. Those that want to embrace the challenge or folks who want to entrench and not move forward. You either move forward or backwards, because nothing stays the same.”
Some sectors are a bit ahead of the maturity curve when it comes to accepting MSP programs, including mining and energy. Financial services—also an early adopter—still remains strong. Growth areas include high-tech, where specialized positions are sought, and the life sciences field, which is going through significant changes, so a resurgence of activity is predicted.
Hinckley foresees continued resistance from rogue buyers who aren’t willing to forgo control around hiring and don’t want to see any structure around their programs. He also notes that some members of the c-suite have been resistant to engage the discussion of MSP because they only see it as the management of temporary labor. Hinckley eloquently captures the concept: “They haven’t grasped that we’re all temporary labor.”