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Building the MSP of the Future: The GRI Approach


Managed service providers (MSPs) failing to adapt to evolving enterprise standards for contingent workforce management risk becoming obsolete before the end of the decade.

As we explored in Part 2 of this series, the basic requirements for sourcing, engaging, and managing talent are becoming more complex. Organizing a base of staffing suppliers, regulating contingent workforce spend, and enforcing program compliance are now part of the expected standard level of service for all MSP providers.

To win and keep business, MSPs of the future have to reposition themselves as experts, becoming trusted advisors offering a consultative approach built on modern contingent workforce strategies. Successful providers will do this by incorporating new program components such as enabling a multichannel talent sourcing approach, proactively identifying workforce risks, and integrating the latest data and analytics tools to continuously improve program offerings.

So what does this look like in practice? To find out, we take a look at how Geometric Results Inc. (GRI) is tackling the contingent workforce challenges of tomorrow and examining how its solutions and services align with the three characteristics of successfully evolving MSPs.

1. Enabling a Multichannel Approach

Forward-looking MSPs enable their clients to move beyond ordinary staffing suppliers and engage the expanding contingent workforce ecosystem, which includes new channels such as digital work/services platforms and increasingly important areas such as SOW services. Those employing the new approach understand the differences between various talent channels and the importance of effectively accessing these varied sources in the context of a client’s contingent workforce program.

GRI enables this multichannel approach through two offerings: Talent Clouds and Ascend SOW solutions.

Every Talent Cloud provides a single interface through which clients can select qualified talent. Each company has its own unique cloud that houses talent in custom-defined pools. Candidates come from groups like current employees, alumni, retirees, armed services veterans, and specialized freelancers. GRI curates each pool to offer the best-fit candidates from all manner of talent sources, performing ongoing analysis of emerging offerings (e.g., digital work intermediation platforms) and incorporating those new sources appropriately for a client.

Ascend provides transparency into an area of spend that is often three to five times what clients spend on traditional contingent labor. This enables clients to understand key aspects of their SOW business including cost and supplier performance. In addition, by leveraging Ascend’s AI and natural language processing capabilities, clients can quickly understand and mitigate the risk within their contracts.  Ascend uses best-in-class processes, expert resources, and leading data analytics technology to establish complete ownership in the start-to-finish execution of the SOW lifecycle, filling in the functional gaps often left by more transaction-focused vendor management systems (VMS).

Both solutions allow companies to tap the benefits of a multichannel talent strategy — from addressing critical skills shortages to claiming significant cost savings — without losing time to process and in turn gaining better risk management. With the ongoing curation provided with every Talent Cloud, clients don’t have to interact with each individual talent source to identify new candidate pools. Instead, GRI’s solution identifies, sorts and presents qualified candidates in one place, giving clients the outcomes they want without all of the upfront work. Similarly, Ascend gives companies the tools they need to embrace and manage SOW engagements, enabling contingent workforce managers to fully embrace this growing category.

MSPs of the past could stay relevant merely by maintaining a connection to staffing firms and automating the transactional processes of sourcing and hiring. Now, successfully-evolving providers like GRI are helping clients achieve the outcomes they want through new talent sources and greater control over their engagements.

2. Becoming a Strategic Advisor to Clients

As companies move toward a multichannel talent-sourcing approach, they’re also encountering an increasing number of internal and external compliance risks. If internal stakeholders, for instance, engage a freelancer without using established sourcing and quality controls, they may select a candidate who cannot provide the desired results. Or more concerning, rogue selection of contingent labor can open the business to regulatory risks like improper worker classification, which can lead to lawsuits.

To help clients understand and minimize these risks, GRI takes a proactive approach, teaching organizations the best ways to approach talent strategy and address emerging risks before they become a problem. On-site strategic advisors, placed at many GRI clients, have at least five years of MSP industry experience; more complex programs are managed by veteran client services executives with more than 10 years of experience.

Placing experts on site with clients allows GRI to bring the latest ideas about acquiring and engaging talent directly into businesses. This adds considerably more value to programs — clients can quickly and effectively improve programs by using the guidance to find and engage needed skillsets or understand the benefits and risks of various talent sources (e.g., W2, 1099, SOW, staffing suppliers). There is no longer a need to outsource basic tasks to a third party.

Beyond talent-strategy education, GRI’s experts also advise on best practices for contingent workforce risk management. For example, the MSP continuously monitors active legislation and proactively notifies clients about how changing laws could affect programs.

Recently, Ontario, Canada’s government passed the 2018 Pay Transparency Act, which imposes numerous requirements for employers in Ontario related to the disclosure of information about the compensation of employees and prospective employees. GRI had been monitoring this legislation and its potential impact on Ontario-based clients, so on-site advisors brought the details of the new law to program managers, discussing how and where clients could be affected. The company also made recommendations about what changes their clients would need to make so they were in compliance.

In the past, an MSP’s risk management merely ensured compliance with internal program rules. Going forward, however, successfully evolving MSPs will have to take a consultative approach, educating clients on the updated approaches to contingent workforce engagement while also preventing the introduction of serious external risks.

3. Driving Strategy with Data and Analytics 

While on-site expertise brings considerable value to modern contingent workforce programs, the underlying strategy of this approach is supported by the latest analytics capabilities. This allows clients to make better decisions and use data beyond the historical transactional information available within their VMS.

GRI enables these analytics capabilities through Envision, its workforce decision analytics solution. Envision delivers workforce data and strategic advice using machine-learning models that are continuously retrained with fresh data to ensure accuracy and real-time relevancy. It also augments the data within a client’s existing VMS with more comprehensive market and standardized benchmarking data.

Building on the consultative approach GRI’s on-site experts offer, Envision asks clients what problems they’re trying to solve, then assesses the best approach to solve those problems. For example, a company in the high tech industry wanted to address the ongoing challenge of finding the skillsets it needed to stay competitive. Through its old process, the company pulled candidates from all of its global talent suppliers, then manually screened the results to see who qualified. By utilizing Envision, GRI was able to improve this process, by building a heatmap that illustrated the concentration of the desired skillsets by geographic area. The visualization showed that the company needed to focus on only two regions rather than globally, ultimately reducing the recruiting process time from 90 days to just 24 hours.

To ensure the success of their new technology and its impact on contingent workforce management, GRI hired a chief data officer to lead these new efforts. Her focus is on showing clients not only why things happen in their programs, but also what can come next. This includes predictive analyses of everything from how talent market rates can change with multiple variables (e.g., specific skills, geographies) to uncovering relationships between external metrics and talent (e.g., the relationship between the price of oil and worker wages for an oil and gas firm).

An Inflection Point for the MSP Industry

In many areas of business today, old-guard approaches are giving way to new, innovative strategies. The MSP industry is no exception, and providers that hope to survive the current disruptive environment will need strike a balance between doing too little (and becoming uncompetitive) and doing too much (and becoming diluted and ineffective). So, MSPs must not only evolve, but evolve successfully.

Doing so requires MSPs to listen closely to customers to determine what their top issues are, reshaping current offerings around those needs and future priorities. GRI is one example of such a provider. Its innovations are allowing clients to attain continuous incremental improvements while building a strategic perspective — all while leading clients into their own successful futures.

This article was written on behalf of Geometric Results Inc. (GRI) by the Spend Matters Brand Studio team and not by the Spend Matters editorial or analyst teams.