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Contingent Workforce Program Manager: A true example of intelligent swarming

Intelligent Swarming, the latest trend in organizing support organizations, it is the agile methodology of 2019. While typically seen in IT support it is likewise applicable for various support organizations. The Intelligent Swarming method operates based upon the concept of an agent engaging and collaborating with peers and SMEs to resolve challenges as they arise in various environments simultaneously. Typically all team members are expected to ‘Swarm’ on a user’s problem and assist in providing the solution. The model creates the opportunity for growth and development of resources by exposing agents to new atypical challenges while also supporting basic needs, more routine challenges, and easily solvable issues. Intelligent Swarming bucks the previous accepted practice of three-tiered structured support. In the previous structure issues or tickets would come into a help desk and be escalated up to the various tiers for resolution.

While learning this concept and seeing the benefit of Swarming to help desk organizations I drew the parallel to contingent workforce program managers and their need to be a SME in various fields. In my experience running and supporting contingent workforce programs I have had to identify solutions to challenges on a wide spectrum of needs ranging from Human Resource, reporting / data modeling, and requirements gathering chief amongst them. As clients consider building out programs internally or using Managed Services Providers they must consider the experience of their program managers and their capabilities to grow and meet novel challenges. Program managers must likewise ensure they have the appropriate SMEs available for support.

Following are just several components a contingent workforce program manager will be expected to Swarm:

Human Resource:

  • Job description development and rate alignment: Typically FTE recruiters and compensation analysts are involved in establishing job descriptions and annual review of compensation for your organization. However, for contingent roles the standard job description may not be appropriate. As you might be seeking a specialist to augment the team or someone to complete seasonal work. Therefore the compensation factors in the duration of the assignment and the competition for that labor category. Additionally soft benefits such as lunches and coffee bars as one finds in Silicon Valley / high-tech companies must also be considered. Various tools, technologies, and consulting firms have entered the market specifically to support this niche. Contingent workforce program managers are expected to be adept at these or at the very least have the capability to learn and consult with their client and end users regarding these needs.

  • Compliance for FLSA, independent contractor classification and regulatory changes: The employer is ultimately responsible for determining exemption status. In a contingent workforce program that is typically the staffing supplier or payroll provider. However, a contingent workforce program manager is responsible for the billing mechanisms of these determinations. Therefore there the staffing suppliers and the contingent workforce program manager must be in alignment. As resources within an organization communicate freely such alignment is critical. For example members of a group of exempt help desk resources will likely discuss and try to understand the disparity in regular and overtime pay with members on a non-exempt group.

Employee Engagement, Attraction and Retention:

  • Critical to the success of a contingent workforce program is the worker experience. We’re all familiar with companies that provide an excellent workplace environment as well as work life balance as well as those found to be lacking in one or both regards. Here in Atlanta Coca-Cola has a great reputation for supporting and engaging their contingent workforce. And doing so with far more than just free beverages! While another company with an equally recognizable logo has a reputation of treating contingent workers poorly. They are known to often make and then pulling offers as well as churn through workers on a regular basis. It is the responsibility of the contingent workforce program manager to ensure workers have a great experience, staffing partners are able to recruit candidates, and once engaged that they work for their expected duration, any required extension, and are having a great experience overall.

Reporting and Data Modeling:

  • When interviewing talent for contingent workforce programs I always ask probing questions to determine their level of expertise in MS Excel. I recall hiring a fresh college graduate years ago that has since excelled in this space. She was a strong candidate, but when I heard the excitement in her voice when talking about pivot tables and vlookups, I knew she was the best fit for the role. One of the key reasons leadership wants contingent workforce programs or otherwise are dissatisfied with the technology supporting their existing program is the access to and interpretation of the data. A critical contingent workforce program manager responsibility is pulling data out of any VMS technology and interpreting that data in a fashion meaningful to the client or supplier. Implementing a new program or evolving an existing program should result in savings and efficiencies. The ability to model those savings versus what would have been spent, modeling volume rebates, and increased fulfillment is a critical skill set to the contingent workforce program manager.

Requirements Gathering:

  • A key indicator of any healthy contingent workforce program is the ability to grow, expand, and adapt with the needs of company; the program must evolve. This requires business analysis skills to document the status quo and the status desired. These can be technical requirements, insofar as the VMS technology may need to change or be reconfigured. It could be a simple as updating an approval process or as complex as developing a solution for a different type of contingent workforce. What works for an Admin or professional talent may indeed fail for sourcing call center, warehouse, or specialized labor for construction or installation technicians. These could be operational methodology changes such as deploying satisfaction surveys to hiring managers and suppliers regarding the program or a recent event. Or holding a specialized company orientation just for the contingent workforce or deploying and updating service level agreements.

These categories delineate and detail various challenges a contingent workforce program manager will need to resolve. Demonstrating expertise and experience in these categories benefits the program manager, the workforce, and the entire organization!

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