Andrew Wilson: Ten things you wanted to ask about making a resourcing supplier selection but were too afraid to ask

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Andrew Wilson, Head of Resourcing & Workforce Planning at Visa Europe, recently completed a selection process for the supplier of a combined temporary & permanent resourcing service. Here are ten key learning points he felt worth sharing.

1. Understand your current situation
You might think you know how good/bad things are but it is important to be clear. If you have an incumbent supplier, your daily, weekly and monthly reviews and/or your management information (MI) might suggest there is/isn’t much to fix. However, in advance of your tendering process, engage with line managers face-to-face to understand their current levels of satisfaction, what their pain points are and what is working well. MI and surveys do not always tell you the detail of what is going on the ground. Use all the information available to you to shape your tendering process.

2. Be clear what you want
Knowing what you want makes it much easier to shape your request for information & request for proposal and select the right supplier. Some things to consider are:

  • Scope of services (are you extending services? Outsourcing them?)
  •  Cultural match up (Do you want a partnership approach or a more formal relationship).
  • Key areas of improvement (based on the line manager feedback and MI what do you want to improve?)
  • Are you looking to make a leap forward or marginal improvements on existing service?
  • How important is cost? (focusing heavily on driving cost down will lead you to a different solution to one focused on candidate and manager experience).
  • What is going to be your approach to technology? (do you have any? Will you have to transition from an existing supplier’s).
  • When you know what you want, it is important to prioritise/ weight the elements to help in the selection process too.

3. Procurement & HR need to be united!
Having a procurement partner who understands that cost is only one factor and that driving this too hard will affect delivery and candidate & customer experience is crucial. It is important to ensure your procurement partner understands the dynamics of the recruitment world. (e.g. Make sure they understand how the supplier and supplying agencies make money and how that drives behaviours) If they do not, it is your job to educate them!
However, you need to let your procurement partner guide you through the process so that you get the most out of it and achieve your objectives.
It is also vital to agree clear roles and rules of engagement. This is especially the case if there is an incumbent supplier who will need to know who can talk to whom about the tender process.

4. Engage stakeholders throughout
It might sound obvious, but one of the most important elements is identifying and involving all your stakeholders in the supplier selection process. There will be implications for other parts of your organisation including IT, finance, legal & risk as well your hiring managers. Involving them early on will mean your implementation will be much smoother. There would be no point completing a supplier selection process only to find that you can’t obtain enough support from your legal team to create/negotiate and finalise a contract or your IT organisation can’t support a technology changeover.

Another key aspect of making your process a success is making sure you have people from across the business involved in and supporting the ultimate decision. Select a combination of managers who hire high and low volumes and niche skills to ensure you get the perspective of the different needs in your organisation. Without these steps, the organisation may feel like HR/Procurement imposed a decision on them.

5. Recognise your incumbent’s advantage & disadvantage
If you have an incumbent, they have a distinct advantage over other suppliers because they already know how your business works, what works well, what pricing you already have and a detailed understanding of your resourcing operating model. Therefore, you are right to expect them to provide you with a good proposal that aligns with your requirements (e.g. do you prefer an on/off site service, is price more important than speed? etc). However, an incumbent also has the distinct disadvantage that stakeholders know that their service is not perfect, whereas new bidders will be judged (initially at least) on their formal submissions and presentations.

New bidders are likely to put their best bid team together, but that is not normally who will be delivering your service. There is no easy formula to build these factors into your supplier selection process, but making sure your supplier selection team is conscious of them is a good start point.

6. Allow enough time
Good things are worth waiting for. If you rush the process, you will end up with a poorly specified RFI/ RFP, poorly informed bidders, a poorly formed contract, badly implemented technology and customers who do not know what is going on. Building in sufficient time means you can make sure everyone is able to do their best in the selection and implementation process. (Allow extra time for suppliers to submit a quality RFP response and for the RFP scorers to fit the scoring around their day jobs).

7. Don’t leave suppliers guessing
Given that your incumbent supplier will have lots of information on the service, it is important to level the playing field as much as possible by providing the other bidders with information that will help them understand the existing service.

  • Provide them with a breakdown of recruitment in previous years by country/division/skill set, attach typical job specs, outline how the service is delivered (on/ off site) and anticipated levels of recruitment for coming years.
  •  Allow suppliers to ask questions after they had received the RFP and then publish the answers to all the bidders.

8. Be clear on your priorities
Knowing what is important to your organisation is crucial when it comes to scoring and supplier selection. Some things to consider:

  • Is price more important than speed of delivery? (some suppliers promise extremely high direct ratios, but this often results in slower delivery).
  • Do you prefer an on site/off site service?
  • Are you (and your customers!) prepared for the drop off in service if you de-select an incumbent?
  • Is expertise in your key areas of recruitment more important than a “jack of all trades”?

9. Telling the difference between the bids
Inevitably, many of the bids will look similar and it’s key to making the right decision for you to be able to differentiate from what can look like very similar offerings. A few factors are:

  •  Will you be a key account or “one of many”. There is value in being an important account (either in scale or in brand).
  • How customised will the service be? Some suppliers provide a standardised solution and customisations cost significantly more.
  • Is there a culture fit with both organisations?
  • Has the supplier thought about your organisation’s needs in the bid or could it have been copied and pasted?
  • Do you want someone to lead you in driving service improvements?
  • Are they thought leaders?

10. When it’s done, you’ve only just begun
When you have made your decision, you are not finished. You will need to do at least some of the following:

  • Update/replace an existing contract or create a new one.
  • Launch/re-launch a service to your customers, outlining changes and getting them on board.
  • Retain service delivery (as much as you can) in the exit phase.
  • Transfer applicant data.
  • TUPE transfers.
  • Change technology.
  • Build new operating procedures.
  • Train users .
  • Build new relationships etc etc.

A helpful tip in making it a successful roll out is to use your stakeholder group to make sure your roll-out is shaped to each customer group.

Summary
Running a supplier selection process is no small task, done properly. Nevertheless, it is worth the effort. Having the right supplier(s) means you can be sure you have a strong delivery mechanism at the right price to allow you to focus on taking your wider resourcing service to new heights.

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