If your team resides within a Fortune 1000 company there is a good chance your company mandates the use of a Master Staffing Provider (MSP) platform, utilizing a Vendor Management System (VMS), to procure temporary and freelance talent. In years past creative teams were able to escape the MSP platforms as corporations focused on MSPs on categories with larger spend (e.g., administrative, IT, business professional, and light industrial). But times are changing, and it is becoming more common that the company sponsors of such programs are working to pull creative contingent labor spend into the MSP program.

In many cases corporations institute a MSP platform to take advantage of:

  • the centralization of all the spend, invoicing and timesheet processes,
  • consistency of compliance, and
  • for the incredible data provided by the MSP provider about contingent labor buying habits.

Many programs are 'vendor neutral,' and this is defined in varying ways. At the most extreme the vendor neutrality dictates to the supplier base that no contact between the staffing agency and the end client (you and your team) is permitted. More commonly vendor neutrality does not dictate 'no contact' but instead an opportunity for every vendor to receive every requisition for their assigned category (e.g., creative) and for you, as the hiring manager, to receive candidates with no indication of supplier representation. Ideally this allows you to choose the best possible candidate with no need for rate negotiation and no bias toward or away from specific suppliers.

MSP processes are rapidly becoming more and more effective at not just meeting the needs of the corporation but also in meeting the needs of the individual hiring managers utilizing the platform (you).

I have found in that creative departments can be cautious to leap into the MSP program their company utilizes for fear of the loss in quality of talent they need in a timely manner. If you work for a Fortune 1000 corporation, or any company that utilizes a MSP for temporary labor, I offer two best practices to make working within a MSP steamlined and successful:

Develop a relationship with your main point of contact within the MSP. Typically each program assigns a team of coordinators to hiring managers either based on geography or based on spend category--find your contact and develop a relationship.

  • In some cases you are required to enter a requisition into a Vendor Management Tool directly without first speaking to your assigned MSP contact. Even if that is the case, reach out to them directly afterward to clarify anything that needs to be clarified.
  • Understand that, in many cases, this person is your voice to the providers who fulfill your contingent headcount needs. The more prepared they are to answer questions the suppliers have, the better.
  • Provide your coordinator timely feedback on candidates as best you can-- this will help them direct and redirect suppliers so you can find the best talent.

Develop a relationship with the approved niche vendors in the program. I know, I know--you get sales calls frequently from staffing providers. Here's the deal with most MSP relationships from the vendor side of the equation....the approved staffing vendors who are fulfilling your needs typically have restrictions around actively speaking and marketing directly to you and your team. That, however, will not stop the vendors who are not approved in the program from calling you directly. Spend your time developing a relationship with the vendors who receive requisitions to fill your needs. So, how do you do this?


  • Speak with your point of contact at the MSP, and find out who the approved vendors are that receive jobs open in your department.
  • If you run a large team with multiple requests and/or north of 30% of your team falls into the contingent labor category, have your MSP contact set up bi-annual or quarterly calls with all approved niche vendors. The purpose of the call is for you to provide updates about your team and coming needs while the supplier base asks questions to gain insight-- this will produce more on-target talent submittals and filled jobs. And, better yet, if the program does not have too many vendors assigned to your needs to make it feasible, invite everyone in once or twice a year for a tour and information session.
  • When making a request where the job description cannot accurately paint a full picture of what you need, ask to have a kick-off call with the suppliers who will fulfill that requisition. Use this as your time to provide the color between the lines of the description as to what it is you are specifically seeking and to allow the suppliers to ask appropriate questions to better target ideal candidates.

By adapting to the MSP environment without losing touch to the supplier base fulfilling your contingent workforce needs, you can successfully maintain a contingent workforce labor model.