Talent Management
February 18, 2021

ProcureCon Virtual Expo Recap: The Top 4 Themes and Trends

The first ProcureCon Virtual Expo of 2021 wrapped up a couple of weeks ago, but there’s still a lot of information to process and insights to digest. It would be simplistic to say that the pandemic dominated the discussions, because—even though its specter lurked in the background—it really served to underscore existing conversations. Yes, its presence was felt in the renewed urgency surrounding several workforce topics and even in the virtual nature of the event itself. However, any reference to COVID-19 seemed to highlight (in starker colors) issues and subjects the industry had already been grappling with or championing: direct sourcing, diversity, overcoming talent shortages, and the evolution of staffing providers in contingent workforce programs. So let’s recap the top four themes of the event and the trends they may influence during the year.

Direct Sourcing

With technology becoming “smarter,” businesses are looking to elevate their contingent workforce solutions by leaning on internal expertise and leveraging outside consultants who can deliver advanced levels of support—without the perceived limitations of relying on third-party staffing and recruitment agencies. Ultimately, companies are moving in a direction where they want to hire contingent workers for projects or as full-time employees.

In direct sourcing, companies build their own internal candidate networks to draw from. This pool can be made up of former employees, retirees, or job seekers who have submitted resumes into the company’s applicant tracking system (ATS). In other direct sourcing scenarios, such Beeline’s direct sourcing marketplace, the talent pools become platform-based exchanges. Clients still source prospective candidates on their own. Unlike a company’s internally constructed sourcing pool, this system is populated by talent submitted from staffing providers, recruiters, companies with outplacement programs, alumni networks, or virtually any entity with candidate pipelines. The platforms themselves have evolved from traditional vendor management systems (VMS) to meet these new demands. 

Key Takeaways from ProcureCon

  • A lot of competition for talent, with candidates having more choices as a result of teleworking arrangements: work anywhere, work for all, work at will
  • MSPs developing hybrid models to help curate direct sourcing talent pools and manage the contingent workforce
  • Payrolling providers have strong profit opportunities by payrolling direct-sourced talent as employers of record, which helps clients maintain compliance, prevent co-employment risk, and enjoy the cost savings associated with contingent workers
  • Direct sourcing needs to sit in the human talent cloud as an exclusive and standalone system to scale in an agile way
  • 100+ enterprises in USA and APAC have scaled to more than 95% direct sourcing through talent clouds
  • Only 6% of Fortune 1000 companies have the branding and career pages needed to drive successful direct sourcing initiatives
  • Faster ramp up, quick scalability, and better quality of hires when engaging suppliers or MSPs in the process
  • Clients can allocate suppliers to handle all direct sourcing efforts or specific segments

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI)

Prior to the pandemic, companies had been making efforts to broaden the scope of their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, adding neurodiversity and gender identity into the mix. But as COVID-19 swept through the world, it left DEI programs in its dust. Progress didn’t just falter, it stumbled into a terrible backslide that will take time and focus to remedy. 

COVID-19 definitely impacted DEI, but again, it also shone a brighter light on persistent problems. In the workforce solutions industry, the pressing goal brought up in ProcureCon panels was about concentrating on empathy and bridging the gap between contingent talent and full-time staff.

Key Takeaways from ProcureCon

Regardless of the topic, one profound message from all procurement leaders stood out: more advocacy needs to occur for contingent workers. This is particularly critical during a talent shortage, but it also ties into the debates around productivity, morale, retention, and DEI.

Business leaders must understand that there’s a difference between equity and equality—being fair versus being equal. Successful DEI programs have core behaviors and attributes in common: empathy, caring about all workers, embracing their perspectives, and understanding their “lived experiences.” Adoption for more inclusive cultures requires advocacy, diverse leadership teams or councils, and allyship: when members of an ingroup work to advance the equity and interests of a marginalized group.

Thought leaders also criticized the current approach to diversity, noting that there’s too much focus on diversity (difference) rather than inclusion: “We’re all different, we don’t have to do anything to be different; inclusion is the action that needs to take place to foster the best work environment for all groups and communities.”

  • Ensure that DEI strategies aren’t built separately in silos—they must affect the whole organization
  • Inclusion and equity must focus on people: what they know, think, believe, and do
  • Job postings and onboarding documents should be written with neutral pronouns and language; using pronouns shows people who you are and that you are open to them

Panelists emphasized the need for enterprise and staffing agencies to examine how they’re measuring DEI.

  • Monitoring and analyzing retention
  • Quantitative or qualitative assessments of work (e.g., absenteeism, promotions, etc.), and then run those demographics
  • Looking at who’s utilizing mentoring programs or enhanced training
  • Launching affinity groups, learning sessions, listening groups, or forums
  • Factoring employee experience as a metric
  • Gaining access to supplier partner data: composition of their workforce, inclusive sourcing plans, and a greater push toward the diversity of a staffing agency’s talent pool rather than its status as a company

Data strategy alone may not be enough.

  • Most companies collect only enough data to understand “the story”
  • Standard data only provides a diversity ratio
  • We need other metrics to determine how we attract diversity: diversity of attraction to diversity of hire; or attraction to placement (are we presenting diverse talent and are they being hired?)

Staffing Providers as Trusted Advisors

As workforce solutions continue to progress from transactional processes to strategic initiatives, more clients and MSPs want their staffing suppliers to become more consultative. Program leaders have been focusing on identifying where suppliers can become trusted advisors to engagement managers to drive confidence to the buying organization.

Key Takeaways from ProcureCon

A trusted advisor, according to panelists, is “somebody who a client calls when they need answers or recommendations for the program.”

  • Suppliers should be positioning themselves to assume these roles
  • Suppliers should be more proactive in volunteering information the buyer needs to know (e.g., making them aware of innovations, process improvements, pitfall, etc.)
  • Trust must be earned, so it requires effort
  • Competence is key; that doesn’t mean suppliers always have the answer, but that they know where to find it
  • Owning mistakes and taking accountability earns more respect and trust than making excuses or shifting blame

After the engagement ends, the relationship between staffing suppliers and clients should continue.

  • As with sales, the partnership shouldn’t end because the deal is closed
  • Staffing suppliers who check in with clients and MSPs continue to build trust and position themselves for future opportunities

Be genuine and proactive.

  • Clients don’t want suppliers to hide behind excuses or become reactive
  • Clients seek trusted supplier advisors who transcend the  transactional by partnering on strategy discussions, introducing new or novel approaches, engaging in preventative maintenance, and more.

Clients trust suppliers who are putting more effort into candidate care.

  • The most successful suppliers in these programs are championing candidate care, not just lacing people and walking away 
  • Clients are not seeing much positive momentum here with  large national or global suppliers; best change is occurring within smaller and regional players
  • Clients need to be receptive to looking at unknown suppliers who are doing “weird, positive things” to attract and care for their candidates
  • Enterprise buyers mentioned being impressed with staffing providers who were developing inhouse apprenticeship programs as a result of COVID to enhance training and upskill talent into more critical positions, with clearer paths toward leadership

The Pandemic

Throughout ProcureCon’s panel discussions, there lingered the obstacles left in the wake of the pandemic. Businesses continue to struggle with the abrupt reality of sweeping telework arrangements, employees relocating, the potential demise of traditional brick-and-mortar offices, and displaced professionals dropping out of labor participation. 

Yet, we believe that there exist innovative approaches within the workforce solutions industry to help rebuild a thriving talent ecosystem. In our ebook “New Talent Strategies for Our New Normal,” we explore new models that can break ground on solving the issues our businesses and our talent will face in the post-pandemic era.

  • How diversity and inclusion will face new challenges, according to McKinsey and Company
  • How new models such as Company as a Service (CaaS) can usher in the workforce innovations that Harvard Business Review says are needed in the time of COVID-19
  • New opportunities for MSPs and staffing providers
  • The role of advanced automation and technology
  • How Stanford University and Google see VR as a tool for education, training, and cultural empathy

Image by anncapictures from Pixabay 

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