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MSP contingent workforce trends for 2021

We have entered a golden age for the contingent workforce where everyone – whether that’s our external labour, providers of workforce management solutions, or companies that count on access to talent to help fuel future growth – can reap the benefits of the passion that has emerged for a new way of work.

Any stigma associated with contingent is long gone, and we have access to a whole new ecosystem of tools and technology providers that are focused on connecting people and opportunities. Never before has there been a better time in terms of access to and the quality of work that’s available to the external workforce. We are seeing projects at the highest level being extended to suppliers that would not have access to these opportunities a few years ago.

And in this golden age, there are a number of key MSP contingent workforce trends that we are expecting to continue to develop throughout 2021 and beyond.

Shifting the conversation

Conversations are different now. The expectation from employers is that contingent workforce discussions aren’t just about the service or the solution that can be provided. Instead, we are talking about how we – the Managed Services Provider (MSP) and portal to the external workforce – can contribute to organisational issues.

While these matters are far-ranging, the challenges of 2020 have brought equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) in particular to the front of the table again, and the external workforce is being factored into this to an extent that has never before been seen. We are talking to senior decision-makers on this issue in order to discuss how we as a service provider can contribute to ED&I in their organisation and drive it through our partnership.

The diversity agenda is also extending to wider suppliers, vendor management systems and recruitment process outsourcing. For many firms looking for contingent workforce management solutions, the idea of having the right partners who are aligned with the end-clients ED&I agenda has shifted from a general interest to a priority.

This in turn is having a positive impact on contingent workers who are increasingly being hired based on potential rather than their résumé. However, this is a trend that will require work from the entire external talent supply chain to maintain the momentum. Measuring and assessing the progress across and extended contingent workforce is no easy task and will need to be incorporated into total talent management strategies if HR & procurement teams are to reap the benefits of this new-found commitment to the ED&I agenda.


Transparency across SoW

The pandemic has also highlighted the breadth of the extended workforce associated with Statement of Work (SoW) engagements and suppliers to a greater degree than ever before. With many firms facing a need to review resourcing expenditure, attention was turned by many almost overnight to services spend and where budgets were being used. While this desire for greater transparency has certainly been growing across total workforce solutions for some time now, it has really picked up for SoW in particular. This is occurring at the same time that many organisations are refining their buying strategies to emphasize deliverables-based purchasing over standard time and materials solutions.

With attention focused on the external workforce, a number of businesses identified gaps in information that they have taken action to close, which has certainly been encouraging from our perspective.

Keeping track of the full time, permanent resources that are employed by the company is much easier than implementing the same tracking for the external workforce. And while there are, of course, technology tools available to track and store this data, the ability to do something with these statistics is a completely different skill that needs to really be honed over the coming months.

Interestingly, with a greater need for flexibility, organisations have placed incremental focus on the scalability their workforce to quickly and efficiently shift up or down in line with demand. The pandemic has only accelerated this trend and further driven the uptick in SoW. This development is set to continue as employers face on-going uncertainty, and within the UK in particular, the upcoming IR35 roll out will also likely drive demand for this model of outcome-based work.

The golden age of contingent

Many of these trends were already happening before the pandemic, but we have experienced a much faster pace of change than we would have otherwise expected. We are in an age where ‘outcome as a service’ is a priority and organisations now realise they can package work up and have this managed outside of their business.

The discussions we are having are no longer centred on the transactional element of contingent workforce solutions, but rather contributing to the long-term success of an enterprise. An MSP’s place at the board table has been well and truly cemented, but, for 2021, the focus now is taking this position further in the new normal.

Find out more on the 'Golden age of contingent' in this LinkedIn Live session hosted by HireTalent.

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