Following a year interrupted by COVID-19, Jason Main, Product and Strategy Leader, reviews the 3 biggest challenges 2020 has left behind – areas where the most change in talent acquisition and management will be witnessed – followed by his perspectives on the Top 3 VMS trends we can expect to see in 2021.

Challenges faced in 2020

With COVID-19 impacting companies around the world, the normal drivers (sales pipelines, existing customer needs, staffing forecasts, etc) that inform hiring requirements and trends have become unreliable. 

The pandemic has created unpredictability and the need to adapt to that unpredictability.  Here are 3 things that directly impacted VMS systems:

1. Ability to Properly Forecast the Need for Contingent Workers

This is already a complicated thing to do, but when you add in the uncertainty created by the pandemic it becomes increasingly difficult. In most industries, the pandemic has altered the buying trends of B2C and B2B products, which causes a flux in sales forecasts and the need to support products. Particularly in the healthcare industry, it is difficult to anticipate spikes in people contracting COVID-19, and when those spikes will end. 

2. Remote versus in-person working

As a result of COVID-19 and long-term isolation or lockdowns, there has been a shift from employees working in the company office to working from home. Some organizations are expecting to see their contingent workforce to continue to grow, making up somewhere between 30% and 60% of their total workforce. Where some organizations have seen the benefit of flexible working others have felt a dip in their organizational productivity and innovation, as a direct result of having less staff in the office.

3. Ability to Handle the Transient Nature of Workers

As an example, a company in New York hires a worker in Texas, they now need to handle the out-of-state implications such as tax and labor requirements. 

As in-office meet-ups have become more difficult (if not impossible), businesses are turning to online collaborative tools and ecosystems that are able to work through mobile devices as easily as desktops. VMS platforms like SimplifyVMS are now mobile-first to accommodate these needs.

Top 3 VMS Trends for 2021 

No 1.

Contingent worker programs are maturing leading to changes in VMS selection

Leveraging More Value From Analytics – Users will be using their VMS system to analyze data in order to inform better decision changing.  In 2021, we’re likely to see further improvements in the personalization of dashboards and alert notification systems, so that users can create a very personalized view of the insights that matter to them.

Improving Processes – Users will exploit the new digital innovations found in their VMS systems to improve processes in order to become more efficient.  Major strides have been made in the automation of workforce management processes thanks to advances in Vendor Management Systems.  Cloud computing and big data have each played a major role over the last decade to improve accessibility to data, and the quality and richness of data available to support automation.  Yet, there remain many important areas of automation left untouched that technologies like sensor networks, machine learning, Robotic Process Automation, and Artificial Intelligence are now making inroads to improve.

Cutting Costs – Users will use their VMS platforms to better manage costs, with the expectant result being a significant reduction in operating costs.  Key battlegrounds in 2021 will be the application of chatbots and software robots to remove the human from the loop on processes that have traditionally demanded humans to perform mundane– and often repeated–tasks.

Decreased Time to Fill – Users will use their VMS system to drive more value from their time to fill down, thereby increasing efficiencies and cutting costs. 

No 2.
New Technology Adoption

Artificial Intelligence –  A.I. is appearing across the life cycle of flexible workforce management.  It is removing bias from selection processes, auditing candidate submissions for IC compliance, and training chatbots to become more effective in responding to applicant queries. 

Machine Learning – Even before we explore ‘deep learning’, there are plenty of opportunities to apply machine learning algorithms for business advantage within the flexible workforce management discipline.  Machines are much better than humans at spotting small variances in data-sets.  Whether it’s matching applicants or monitoring performance, every task within the recruitment and operational process is today being considered under the microscope of ‘hyper-automation’ and the potential of using machine learning to do things better.

Natural Language Processing – An essential ingredient of voice capture, Natural Language Processing is the subject of how to program computers to process and analyze large amounts of natural language (i.e. voice) data.  The advantage of speaking into a computer rather than typing is pretty clear: humans can speak at 400 words a minute while their typing skills normally fall into the area of 60-90 words a minute.  Additionally, vocal communications are more convenient for system users, and removes an obvious constraint for those unable to type or lack the necessary communications skills.  Use of Natural Language Processing is gaining in popularity as the technology becomes increasingly democratized.  For many, it means those mundane typing tasks will be displaced by having the ability to simply seek into their phone or computer.

Hyper-Automation – As I’ve already touched on in this article, there are many new digital technologies now available for systems developers to play with when developing useful systems for enterprise users.  While many of these technologies have been around for some time, 2020 saw the further democratization and community understanding of technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence, and software robots–making these capabilities more accessible and re-usable.  Behind the scenes in technology stacks, the standards and methods that underwrite how data interchange happens, how cloud ecosystems can scale and cluster, how data can be protected, how individuals can be identified (and data kept secure)… all of these underpinning technologies have matured at a pace in 2020 and I think we will see the rewards of these innovations through visible systems improvements in 2021.

No 3.
Leverage New Workforce Sourcing Channels

Companies are working more remotely today than ever before, and seeking to source more and more flexible workers.  It means they are driving demand for better ways to reach out to talent, onboard it, and manage it.  Through these drivers, talent leaders are exploring smarter and more economic means to hire the talent they need.  Three noteworthy topics for 2021 are:

Direct Sourcing – This is an approach to hiring where, instead of working through indirect staffing partners to source talent, companies reach out to their extended talent pools through social media directly; then to hire them as contractors or have a Master Vendor or MSP partner employ the talent they find through existing contractual relationships.  Direct Sourcing came of age in 2020 when the world of work went home.  Having seen many companies make this approach work in 2020, and develop their social media recruitment sites to front-end job boards and gig working micro-task sites, it’s unlikely they will ignore the significant economies they’ve made through reduced agency fees and move back to old ways, while other companies will soon see what they’re missing as these case stories come to light.

Statement of Work – I would have to describe the use of Statement of Work contracts as one of the biggest misses out there for companies that aren’t already doing it.  Many projects and tasks can benefit form being framed in a Statement of Work that essentially offers work out based on outcomes, instead of the age old resourcing approach of finding someone to do the job and paying for their hours.  In a world where more and more jobs are being fulfilled by contractors, it makes sense to reward outcomes for jobs delivered rather than paying for time. That said, one of the biggest hurdles to implementing a Statement of Work sourcing approach lies in thinking through the waypoints and rewards for activities, and framing outcomes in robust contracts.  This is where a good Statement of Work software implementation comes in.  It makes the delivery of jobs through Statement of Work contracts easy to setup and administer, increasing the audience of suppliers and reducing the likelihood of jobs not getting completed on time and on budget.

On-demand Platforms – Micro task management platforms have turned a corner in the last few years with the gig economy really becoming a mainstay of workforce management systems. No VMS platform, like Simplify VMS, can ignore the importance of on demand platforms to proposition work ‘by the task’ and manage it through to completion.  Companies benefit from using micro-task platforms by offering out easily packaged work, such as marking, testing, design and creative tasks, etc.  The number of gig workers now creating wealth through on-demand platforms has grown from thousands to millions, and I can’t imagine will stop the onward trajectory of that particular juggernaut in 2021.

FINAL THOUGHTS

“Just as we were seeing several very exciting and seismic shifts across the workforce management landscape, in walked 2020 and said “hold my beer.”  The status quo has not been challenged, it’s been utterly re-invented.”

Leslee Kress, Director of Implementation

About SimplifyVMS

The digital tech that runs flexible working for businesses around the world. 

Simplify is a technology company operating in the contingent workforce and service procurement market. Our savvy team of technologists create unique and agile solutions that enable human resource, procurement, and talent sourcing professionals to maximize profitability, optimize their non-employee labor programs, and gain visibility into their extended workforces.  To find out more, get in touch.