In his second blog on supplier relationships, KellyOCG Supplier Engagement & Services Consultant Paul Blackborow shares practical tips for building motivated supply chains.
If you caught my last blog, you’ve probably realised by now that supplier engagement and relationship building is not just something I do – it’s something I’m truly passionate about. I really believe that great contingent workforce solutions – and particularly managed service provider (MSP) solutions – need great supplier relationships to work well. And to have a motivated supply chain is to unlock access to better talent, greater operational efficiency, and better opportunities for solutions providers, clients, and suppliers.
But shouting about motivated supply chains and building them are two different things. Imagine the rollout of a brand-new vendor-neutral MSP solution; an existing supply chain is in place, but it’s fragmented, unorganised, and many suppliers feel left out in the cold. Where do you start? For me, it’s about developing personalised, trusted, and open relationships from the very start. In this blog, I outline practical tips for developing highly motivated supply chains that effectively power MSP solutions.
Match the right suppliers with the right customers and roles
Many MSP partners focus all of their time on their biggest talent suppliers, ignoring those smaller, specialised suppliers who may be crucial in rounding out a successful supply chain. This can be a false economy – with smaller suppliers often more in need of a high-touch onboarding and engagement approach. Simply, it’s about matching the right supplier with the right customer and distribution list, and giving them the tools and support they need to thrive. At KellyOCG, we use a capabilities matrix to understand where a supplier’s strengths truly lie; setting up suppliers for success is one of the best ways to promote an engaged supply chain.
Hold regular meetings between MSP provider and supplier
Poor communication can quickly dissolve into disengagement. Holding regular talent supplier meetings means that supplier concerns and challenges can be resolved speedily and effectively. It’s also crucial to update suppliers regularly on changes or trends inside a programme – even if that’s through short summary emails. Engagement isn’t something you can tick off and forget about; it’s something that needs constant work and adjustment on all sides. Program specific supplier summits, also attended by the client, help to keep lines of communication open and ideas flowing.
Provide talent supply chain visibility
While individual supplier names can’t be shared with the wider supply chain, it’s crucial for suppliers to understand the size of the pool they are operating in and how their performance stacks up against their competitors. This visibility creates a level playing field, helps suppliers to recognise opportunities to improve, and grows overall engagement across a programme. At KellyOCG, Helix Analytics enables our team to share detailed, anonymous scorecards every quarter, meaning that suppliers always know how they are measuring up.
Think beyond immediate need
Trust takes time to grow, and truly engaged and motivated supply chains are honed through constant collaboration. This includes both supplier and solutions provider setting short and long-term goals and understanding the expectations placed on each party. Supplier planning is about more than ensuring a programme can fill X number of roles in whichever key specialism. Instead, it’s about having a deeper understanding of current and future programme needs and shaping supplier relationships that will mature over time.
Our Supplier Champions Academy meets every month to discuss a huge range of topics around supply chain management and to ensure we are proactively working with our supplier partners to maximise engagement, collaboration, and performance within our programmes.
Promote open communication
Information must flow quickly and smoothly through every part of a talent supply chain, and it’s vital to create near-transparent communication – particularly inside a vendor-neutral MSP programme. A supplier network is not just the engine used to power a contingent workforce solution; it’s a true extension of a programme team and its efforts to get the right candidates to the right hiring managers at the right time and for the right price. The more trust, openness, and accountability across a supply chain, the more likely a programme is to succeed.
It’s important to remember that none of the tips outlined above are quick fixes. Building a motivated talent supply chain starts at supplier onboarding and it never stops. But with consistency and a focus on engaging and welcoming all types of suppliers – big and small – solutions providers and the organisations they serve can reap big benefits. (See my previous blog for more on that…)
Ultimately, supplier motivation comes down to people. Amongst all of the technology and big ideas that have shaped contingent workforce solutions over the last decades, human relationships remain at the heart of supply chain management, and treating suppliers fairly, honestly, and in a way that actively promotes their success is the best way to ensure that a programme functions at its best – today and well into the future.