In pace requiescat. That is not only a Latin religious invocation at burial but also the last few words of the Edgar Allen Poe horrific short story, “The Cask of Amantillado,” where the protagonist is buried alive behind a brick wall in a wine cellar. This is the appropriate end for a financial product that has been trying to present itself as an HR product but lacks any HR aspect to it. It is time for this product to be walled up and forgotten to make room for the next evolution. In this issue, we celebrate the service we all refer to as MSP or managed service programs for contingent labor. In fact, we start our celebration by wishing it would just go away.
MSP needs to become something better and something different. And the HR department needs to recognize the lost opportunity that it will forfeit if it buys MSP as it is configured today. When major companies have 25 percent of their workforce as contingent labor, contractors, or SOW engagements, then the non full-time employee portion labor is a critical part of the workforce, typically outside the programming provided by HR. And HR needs to think about getting involved. MSP must evolve in parallel with RPO to become a single platform that I will refer to from here on as the “Total Workforce Solution.”
All products evolve. Even theories evolve. I am sure that Darwin’s theory of evolution evolved with the help of the occasional suggestion from the local Galapagos turtles. The problem is how this product evolved and why it should be in arrested development. We have tried to interest the HR departments in getting involved in MSP. Most MSP programs are purchased with the leadership of procurement. Most procurement departments lead the deal team, and most do partner somewhat with HR. But if this is about talent, even contingent talent, why is HR not in the lead?
It is the product itself. Key components are vendor management, consolidated invoicing, spend authorization processes, and vendor management systems (software). There just isn’t a lot here that is not transactional and is strategic. It is a financially driven program management office service.
I cannot explain why the HR department is not more interested in contingent labor. Why are the quality, motivation, and goal alignment of 25 percent of the workforce unimportant? (Who needs to background temp workers, after all? Sure, they might be violent, criminal, or larcenous, but what the hey, they aren’t permanent!)
And motivational programs for fresh grads who now stay at jobs on average fewer than 18 months are pervasive. The love showered on a group that is just as short-term as contingent labor is amazing, but if it is worth it to do for new grads, why not for contingent workers? Short answer it is. We are going to do a series on contingent workers that we are calling the “Forgotten Workforce,” because HR can and should be involved in making these short-term workers as productive as possible.
As aforementioned, the MSP product is only financial and should be combined with RPO because here is the central question: How is the whole workforce meeting organizational needs? In fairness, many of the providers are trying to sell a combined product. Kelly Services calls it the talent supply chain, and Advantage xPO has sold a number of combined programs, one of which we will feature on the cover in September. Pontoon, Randstad Sourceright, Impellam/Guidant Group, and Manpower are all pushing forward this concept. In Europe, Alexander Mann Solutions, Resource Solutions, and others have never offered the products separately. The Total Workforce is the total issue. Why would HR not want to extend its reach to another 25 percent of the workforce. Would any large company be able to operate if all of the contingent workers and consultants walked out in the next hour?
HR will never be interested in a mostly financial product that does not offer HR strategic programming. MSP was a good start to organize the madness that contingent labor service procurement had been, but it is not the solution for contingent labor. We need a Total Workforce Solution commitment and the engagement of HR in the development and evolution of this next phase.
Let us remember MSP fondly and watch it ride off into the setting sun.
Elliot H. Clark is the CEO of SharedXpertise, the publishers of HRO Today