Taking a Global Approach to Temp Labor
Offshoring became something of a political hot potato during the latest U.S. election cycle, but all the hand-wringing about shipping jobs overseas overlooks the fact that global corporations these days are, well, global, and they employ armies of full-time equivalents and — more importantly, for our purposes here — temporary labor in local markets around the world through their far-flung subsidiaries and operating units.
Optimizing the procurement of temp labor can be a tough challenge within a single country, let alone globally, according to Beerud Sheth, co-founder and vice president of marketing at Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Elance, which provides a solution for managing services procurement. "Typically customers tell us that they have no visibility into, or control over, their services spend, and they realize that they have a global problem."
Sheth says that Elance's clients usually attack this challenge by first focusing on the U.S. market before moving on to other markets in which they are procuring outside services. In this way, these companies can put in place standardized definitions and processes for the different types of services that they buy, achieve savings in one country, and then export those standards (with modifications for local laws and conditions) to other markets in which they operate.
Sean Chou, chief technology officer with Fieldglass, a Chicago-based provider of services procurement solutions, stresses that U.S. companies must be aware of the impact of cultural differences on relationships with temp workers in other countries. The culture in a given country in, say, South Asia may prompt a staff person to always agree with a boss and gloss over any problems in the course of a project. "That's a big shift for American companies and a lot of European companies that are used to their lieutenants and project team members contributing and questioning authority, but still bowing to authority." Software can help mitigate this type of challenge to some extent, by providing tools for capturing commitments and deadlines, Chou says, but companies must also ensure that their executives let workers know that constructive comments are encouraged and will not be viewed as criticism of their boss.
Specialized solutions from providers such as Covendis, Elance, Fieldglass, ICG Commerce, IQNavigator and Taleo include various tools that allow enterprises to gain visibility into their global spend on services, including contract labor. (For the record, enterprise solution providers such as Ariba, Ketera, Oracle, PeopleSoft, Perfect Commerce and SAP also offer different types of services procurement tools.) These specialized solutions typically handle multiple currencies, support local requirements (such as the value-added tax, or VAT, used widely outside the United States) and provide reporting tools that can roll up total spend for a category and then break it down by country or region. Armed with that level of information, enterprises can do the necessary spend analysis required as a first step toward taking a more strategic, and global, approach to worldwide temp labor spending.