If you are a hiring manager within an in-house creative department at a Fortune 1000 company there is a very good chance you have been asked to filter all of your contingent workforce hiring through a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or Vendor Management System (VMS).

As acquiring top talent becomes increasing more challenging buyers are beginning to voice their frustration with MSP and VMS systems. According to Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), after eight years of rapid growth MSP and VMS usage and adoption rates are stalling. In a recent report SIA stated "the percentage of contingent buyers reporting VMS and/or MSP usage did not expand materially in 2011 from 2010. In the eight years since this survey began, this is the first year in which clear plateauing was evident. The stall in expansion was robust across a wide variety of buyer company types."

I think that for some industries and companies, if managed and implemented properly, using a MSP and/or VMS system can be an effective tool. In high-volume, boilerplate, repetitive hiring environments these tools can be beneficial. Like any purchasing program if there is not some level of standardization or policies regarding vendor management, pricing and relationship ethics, it can lead to transactions that are not in the best interest of the buyer. That being said, many times MSP and VMS systems implement policies that go too far and get in the way of following best practices when it comes to talent acquisition--especially for creative professionals.

Examples of MSP and/or VMS practices that can inhibit getting quality talent for your openings include:

  • Prohibiting contact between the vendor and the hiring manager. Many programs only allow hiring managers to enter their requirements into a VMS system and prohibit conversations with the vendor regarding what intangibles are needed outside of the core software skills, such as culture fit and soft skills needs.
  • System limitations. Most VMS systems do not allow for any information about candidates to be submitted other than basic personal information, background and a resume. This can be particularly challenging for creative hiring managers due to the fact that work samples and portfolios can be just as, if not more, important than a resume.
  • Encouraging a "first in, first hired" process with the vendors. Many programs create environments where the vendors are encouraged to submit resumes rapid fire into the VMS system before time expires on the opening. This results in a situation where firms are simply submitting resumes as quickly as possible to "get into the game" and not properly screening the most qualified applicants. The hiring manager winds up with a high volume of resumes but few qualified applications--not the best use of a creative leader's time.
  • Commodity pricing. The foundation of any lasting partnership is mutually beneficial pricing and quality where both the seller and the buyer's needs are met. Not all positions and niches are created equal. Hiring a creative is much different than hiring a light industrial professional or an administrative assistant or accountant. People are not commodities and should not be treated as such in a purchasing program. Isn't our human capital our most valuable asset?




Creatives are different.

Creatives are proud they are different and wear their uniqueness like a badge. In corporate environments it's not hard to spot the creative professional and department--walk through the sea of grey cubicles and when you stumble upon the department where color, fun, and personality pops out odds are you have found creative services. Another tell-tale sign is to just peek at the equipment creatives use--can anyone relate to having difficult conversations with your IT department regarding getting support for your Macs, iPads or creative suite software? Being different isn't good or bad, nor is it a knock on other departments. Different is, well, just different. The fact is that because creatives are different, and the work creatives do is different, the way creatives hire people is very different too.

It is crucial hiring managers remember that YOU are the customer and if your hiring needs are not being met, or are limited by an MSP or VMS system, make your voice heard and build a case as to why hiring creatives is a unique process. Here are helpful tips to help you successfully get the best talent when hiring in an MSP or VMS environment:

  • Take time to meet with the key stakeholders responsible for implementing and managing your MSP or VMS program. It is important that you build a business case as to why hiring creative talent is different. SHOW THEM! Many times the people responsible for implementing or managing MSP or VMS systems don't understand why hiring creatives is different, so get buy in by showing them the work your department does, give a tour of your environment, discuss the importance of the intangibles when hiring a creative and how a resume is only a very small portion of the process.
  • Demand contact with the vendors. Again, people are not commodities and it is very challenging to fully describe what you are seeking in a creative when you can't speak or meet with a vendor. I can tell you factually from personal experience that our quality and placement ratio is dramatically increased when our recruiters can see the work environment in person and speak with the hiring managers.
  • Come armed with information. Again, hiring creatives is different. While the national unemployment rate has hovered around 9% for 2011 did you know that the unemployment rate for professionals with a bachelors degree or higher was only 4.4% in November? Have you tried to hire a top notch Flash Developer, Web Designer, Copywriter, SEO/SEM or Account Manager recently? Creative professionals are highly skilled and in-demand, and many times corporate human resource professionals tasked with hiring throughout the enterprise aren't aware of the challenges recruiting top creative talent.

It is the talent in an organization that is the key differentiator for any company. Having access to quality talent is crucial and any roadblocks to recruiting can be a true hindrance to meeting your objectives. You are the customer and it is critical that you express your concerns if you are working in an environment where your access to top talent is being obstructed and not enhanced by an MSP or VMS program.