Sourcing Top Suppliers
Exemplary sourcing leaders with top-rated MSPs rely on well-defined and validated methodologies when identifying, engaging, and enrolling staffing suppliers. In past articles, we’ve illustrated the best practices for implementing and deploying a world-class sourcing process. More recently, we’ve covered the importance of branding in today’s information-rich society. New levels of transparency and alignment play increasingly pivotal roles in how recruiters match talent to organizations. Hiring companies need to present compelling employment brands to attract in-demand professionals. And talented candidates, regardless of their skills and abilities, must also demonstrate personal brands that resonate with prospective hiring managers.
There exists a third component at play here, as well: staffing suppliers. With all the attention placed on branding within the employment industry, we sometimes neglect how that affects staffing curators. Their brands are becoming just as instrumental among multiple decision makers, which include MSP leaders, client hiring managers, and the workers themselves. Gone are the days when staffing firms gained business by making sure their names appeared at the top of phone directories, or by submitting competitive proposals as participants in a wide pool of possible contenders. And if we look at the questions being asked in today’s RFPs, we notice a new emphasis on brand alignment and mission.
Of course, the time-honored attributes of customer service, value, cost containment, candidate benches, and reputation still influence the decisions of contingent labor buyers. However, all of these elements are now being examined through a refined lens — one that homes in on the strength of the supplier’s brand. So let’s take a look at how top suppliers can stand out in the updated selection process, one underscored by evolving technology, robust socialization and more strategic application techniques.
The emerging business leaders of today and tomorrow have placed a greater emphasis on culture and vision; branding becomes a large part of marketing campaigns for prospective vendors. It’s not just today’s talent who exist in an unfathomably connected world – that mindset has extended to client hiring managers and MSP sourcing leaders. They too access data through social networks, focus on content and gravitate toward brands that speak to loyalty and alignment.
At the close of 2014, Jobvite’s year-end survey found that savvy staffing professionals were investing more in social media platforms for recruiting (73 percent), referrals (63 percent), and mobile applications (51 percent). Even the concept of employee referrals has received a modern makeover. Recruiters no longer collect testimonials from letters, emails or phone calls – talent acquisition specialists are culling them from connections listed in social profiles.
Establishing and maintaining a stellar social reputation should be a top strategy for today’s staffing curators. According to a BrightLocal survey, about 88 percent of buyers place as much trust in online reviews as they do in personal endorsements.
- Your presence on social media should be frequent, human, and interactive. And the information your share should be directly related to the key characteristics of the organization and its culture — tech savvy, creative, etc. Dormant social media imply that you are not mainstream or are hiding something.
- Through media such as Glassdoor, Whisper, Yik Yak, and now Memo, your reputation is established — for right or wrong — by a much larger base of reviewers: clients, current employees, former employees, competitors, MSPs, and even applicants in various stages of the hiring process. The tales they tell reach far and wide.
- Authenticity and precision are crucial. Your supplier brand must be direct, compelling and specific. It’s not possible, or even attention-grabbing, to list every facet of your organization, its culture or the clients you support. Focus on the key aspects you want hiring managers, MSPs, and candidates to take with them.
- Take part in the conversation; otherwise, you risk granting other voices permission to preach from your soapbox. As we all know, the loudest voices are not always those extolling your virtues. The conversation is going to take place with or without you. Lead the dialog, conduct the choir and tell your own story.
- While you can’t prevent the occurrence of some negative input, you can counter it and preempt less favorable feedback. Encourage your colleagues, customers and staff to contribute content that highlights positive stories, successful outcomes and important accomplishments. With more participants on your side, any criticism begins to appear underwhelming.
Staffing suppliers that leverage the power of social media, and embrace its transparency, are far more likely to develop a loyal base of hiring managers, MSPs and talent.
Be the brand your clients trust
There’s an old adage in the world of customer service: the perception is the reality. Because the staffing industry remains abuzz with talk of time-to-fill, submittal rates, cycle times and other measurements, many suppliers adopt a purely transactional approach to hit the “right range” for the program’s metrics. Yet a solid track record of satisfying and exceeding key performance indicators can instantly be undone by substandard results tied to the most recent placement. Another issue with a transactional focus is that other providers can easily undercut your pricing or trump one poor scorecard to steal clients away. Fortunately, today’s program leaders are placing greater levels of importance on trust and brand.
Building trust throughout your client base solidifies your reputation. A history of uncovering business drivers, solving complex challenges and transitioning from an order-filling machine to a devoted business partner creates a foundation more stable and appealing than scorecard data. You want to emerge as a big picture thinker in the eyes of your clients and prospects.
- Demonstrate a history of collaboration and learning with your existing clients, promoting solutions that have helped others achieve their wider business objectives.
- Show your ability to work strategically, describing innovations and customer-centric program designs that have empowered clients to manage their current and long-term staffing needs through ongoing continuous improvement methods – tactics that look ahead, not those that merely react to a crisis or problem. How do you forecast shortages? How do you consolidate processes? How do you contain costs after the initial honeymoon period of the MSP? What are you doing to predict skill set needs and source for those positions in a forward-looking way?
- Commit to educating your hiring managers and MSP leaders. Keep them abreast of industry trends, regulatory changes, co-employment risks, compliance standards, and more.
- Uphold your promises, stress integrity, own your accountability, and show prospective clients how you’ve maintained trust and loyalty through those actions.
Customers as brand ambassadors
The customer experience – a chronicle of your relationship from the first point-of-contact to the most recent interaction – is a story you should be telling. A lot of staffing providers are familiar with providing customer references to prospects, yet you can create a more persuasive narrative by recounting those experiences in case studies. Regularly survey your clients and use that feedback to portray successes and the ways you went above-and-beyond to overcome obstacles. Post these stories on your websites, blogs, marketing collateral, and sales sheets. Even better, reach out to happy hiring managers and see if they’ll author a post about their experiences with your firm or appear in a video.
To really evidence your capabilities, try to illustrate your achievements across a variety of critical program touchpoints – your unique resolutions and advances in conquering issues with billing, operations, administration, candidate recruitment, presentation and on-boarding, enhanced reporting, cooperative management, issue abatement, follow through, and innovations that led to added program value.
When clients are inspired to declare the benefits of your offering to others, your staffing services become irresistible.
Total business value
The market, clients and MSPs have become more sophisticated. Having low bill rates no longer differentiates providers of choice – people want to see the total value you’re delivering. This reaches beyond the traditional metrics of fill rates, submittal times and turnover. Today’s hiring managers and MSPs want to delve into a more holistic assessment of your capabilities: total staffing ROI, total cost of ownership, the quality of your candidates, the ways in which you’ve enhanced productivity, how you reduce risks, and the creative approaches you use to contain costs and find additional savings opportunities as programs mature to their 2.0 states. To win new business, your brand should speak to quantifying the overall value of the assets and improvements you deliver – not just low markups.
It’s true that contingent labor buyers today are genuinely interested in superior quality over squeezing margins to produce below-market rates. And they’ll want solid examples with real-world data to justify those claims. This is what your brand should convey. And if you’re working tirelessly to provide the best service you can, your brand will create itself organically, becoming a magnet that attracts hiring managers, MSPs, and top talent to your organization.
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