Welcome back to the new year! As most do, it’s a time of reflection and of setting goals for the future. Who do we want to be, and how do we become that better version of ourselves? As an ever-evolving industry, it’s imperative that we do the same. Thinking forward to how we adapt to new technologies, generational talent and competitive advantages. As we kick off this new year, here’s my wishlist and thoughts for our industry.
1. Become a Mentor
One of the most significant impacts we can have on this industry is becoming a mentor. SIA shared that 50% of the CWS attendees were first-timers! Our peer group is growing, and they are hungry for knowledge and guidance. For seasoned veterans, use your experience to encourage, listen, and motivate them. Remind these neophytes that relationships really matter and teach them how to navigate internal red tape and legacy ways of working and thinking. Industry history is helpful, but teaching them how to influence, lead a project, and wield stakeholders is the tougher art. We should be mindful of not directing them down our former paths; new roads we didn’t have are available. Mentor with an eye towards change - a new generation will come with new ideas, mindsets, and technology assumptions. Mentorship is an impactful way to give back to our community and rewards both parties.
2. Serve the Business
Our number one job is to help the Business solve their problems. Yes, it must be compliant and sensible, but it’s about finding solutions, not demanding obedience. If you serve the Business, you serve your company's revenue-generating muscle and help it get stronger. That makes you a partner and invaluable to the company. Therefore, our first response should not be rate cards and supplier consolidation. Instead, it’s about engaging with the Business and offering solutions, technologies, and recommendations that will continue to serve their needs. Time should be spent within the organization, not only within the corporate departments.
3. Pilot, Evaluate by Using
A ‘try before you buy’ is the way of the future. However, newer technologies allow us to activate and turn them on in very simple ways. Blind buying and lengthy implementations are becoming an antiquated and unnecessarily sedate methodology of the past.
Pilots typically run between 6 weeks to 4 months with a clear hypothesis, business champion, and success metrics to determine whether it’s a fit or not. Compare that with the typical RFP process of around 9-12 months…you could run three separate pilots (concurrently or consecutively) and have a much deeper understanding of which partner solves your needs in a significantly shorter period of time. Pilots focus on the product and service reality vs. the sales and marketing pageants that RFPs have become. We need to get active. Solving problems one year at a time is too slow. Try it!
4. Honor Self Service and Automony
In a time when we have self-driving cars and a 95-year-old can order DoorDash without issues, our programs and technology should be able to enable the right behavior and experience in our managers without a helicopter parenting style. We used to have to create manual interventions to accompany legacy and rigid tech. Today, technology advancements enable us to remove ourselves as a middleman or police role. This is a win for all parties. Empowering the Business to work directly with platforms and workers creates speed, experience, and relationships. If technology can quietly enable the required compliance and ideal behavior, let them work together. Let the managers free.
5. Utilize an Ecosystem Approach
This will be a tougher one to swallow. Our industry has spent two decades defending and demanding that the VMS can and should do everything for all types of workers. We know - and have proven - that this isn’t possible, nor is it fair to ask these systems to be.
Companies have successfully adopted ecosystem approaches that focus on a combination of systems - and their data - working well together. They’ve recognized that most modern systems have been built with an open architecture mindset and that point solutions are not the devil.
For our industry, modern ways of working differ from typical staffing and will likely not go through the VMS. Enable these new solutions; don’t block them! Learn about these new suppliers and become a repository for potential new solutions for the Business.
Remember, the span of your program’s control and impact is not the system; it’s your influence and reputation to solve problems.
6. Compliance AND, not Compliance Alone
Ya gotta follow the law. Everyone knows this. It’s a bare minimum proposition. Any partner should be offering you Compliance AND something else.
Providers will vary on whether they choose to market their speed, efficiency, experience, quality, or cost savings, and Buyers can select their winning combination. But it must be that: a combination. Just following the law is everyone’s duty, not a differentiator.
7. Lead the Way
Finally, lead from the front. Leaders inspire, create a shared mission, ask for what they need, and hold teams accountable. Too often, CW teams ask for permission and wait in line with backlogged priorities. We aim to be a team player and settle for less, especially compared to our peers. Our CW program’s scope is often multi-national and serves the entire company in a way that HR or Procurement isn’t familiar with. The only way out of line is forward.
Never asked for money before? Ask a peer for their business case template. Can’t articulate your problem statement and set clear goals or metrics? Ask a peer or benchmark among colleagues. Tools are readily available to help you create clarity and unity. Your real job is in how you articulate, inspire, demonstrate, and corral your needs forward. Let’s lead.
Let's make 2024 a year of evolution and growth, where we focus on mentoring, piloting, and leading from the front. It’s a new era. I’m looking forward to hearing everyone’s stories. Onwards and upwards!