Selecting the Best Staffing Suppliers: A Primer


Staffing suppliers play a critical role in the overall health and efficacy of any workforce management program. Whether you’ve engaged an MSP to manage the process for you or you’ve implemented a VMS to manage the relationships you develop on your own, the end game is the same – finding the best, most consistent, and reliable staffing suppliers to keep your candidate pipeline fully populated with top talent.  So how do the top performing workforce management programs ensure they’re partnered with the suppliers best-suited to service them? 

Like any other practice, the selection and management of staffing suppliers fares best when informed by a clearly defined, thoughtful, and replicable process. This begins with identifying and enlisting the proper internal resources to serve on a supplier evaluation team. Top ranked MSPs leverage best practices established by Supplier Category Management leaders and Sourcing Effectiveness Teams modeled after those within leading groups such as professional services companies like KPMG and consultancies like the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC). These practices largely involve assembling an evaluation team comprised of people within the organization who have a stake in ensuring the best vendors are selected.

The team should capture all the objectives, needs and requirements thus being able to issue a clear, standardized call to prospective suppliers. By including cross-functional stakeholders in the process, the organization is able to align services supply chain strategies with broader organizational ones.

The next step zeros in on performing a detailed needs analysis in which the organization’s business and technical requirements are clearly articulated and codified.  Leading MSPs develop sourcing and engagement strategies taking into account organizational objectives, potential contingencies/exigencies, areas of risk and plans for risk mitigation. The output of this step may include process maps and transition plans for suppliers identified for removal.

With these steps behind them, an organization is ready to begin the supplier engagement phase where a sufficient volume of prospective supplier companies are considered.  Generally speaking, the number of suppliers examined should comport with the size and scope of an organization’s program. This ensures the program ultimately arrives at the right-sized complement of suppliers.

Once identified, all prospective suppliers should be vetted via a thorough and well-designed RFx process.  The RFP should clearly define the purpose of the partnership, specifications, requirements, expectations, necessary qualifications, and clear criteria for evaluation and selection.  RFx experts (Rfxperts?) recommend ensuring your questions are designed to support solid discovery via the responses received. Make sure the questions have a point and require the respondents to answer with concrete and detailed replies. A well-conceived statement of purpose for the questions and a methodology for weighting and calculating the responses will also ensure higher priority requirements are afforded greater significance than less weighty ones.

Once collected, review the responses against the backdrop of your program’s unique needs and requirements. Any staffing supplier that can rightly be characterized as a “top supplier” should be able to answer each of these questions in the affirmative:

  • Can you provide well qualified candidates with the required skills sets now and in the future?
  • Does supplier have an efficient and well-documented recruitment process?
  • Is there a positive cultural compatibility between the supplier and our organization?
  • Does supplier report specific experience filling positions in our industry?
  • Does supplier have experience filling niche roles specific to our industry?
  • Is the supplier financially stable and solvent?

Whether outsourced to an MSP or managed by internal workforce management resources using a VMS (or using both), strong partnerships with staffing suppliers is a mission-critical element of overall workforce management success.  Make sure sufficient time is dedicated to this important process.

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