A s the role and remit of procurement functions continue to evolve within organisations, it is critical that our supplier relationships and engagement models keep pace. This is especially true in the contingent labour category, where the provision of external talent can have a direct effect on business success.

The contingent labour category — perhaps more than most — requires procurement and our talent suppliers to be jointly invested in each other’s success. Any imbalance in this relationship might create challenges that could ultimately disrupt the essential goals of our organisations. There are five key elements to developing a successful partnership with talent suppliers:

1. Treat procurement as ‘potential ambassadors’. Procurement wants our talent suppliers to excel. We are not here to drive down bill and fee rates; this is an old perception of the role of procurement. Procurement can and should be strong advocates for the capabilities, both internally and externally, of our top partners. We are happy to promote and advocate on behalf of suppliers who are able to stretch our thinking and encourage us to become best-in-class.

2. Seek feedback on what you do well as well as where you can improve. The best way to improve is to understand where you are meeting expectations and where you may be vulnerable to someone else who can fill the gap. As a procurement partner, we are always willing to help you understand your current standing, and equally, we want to know how we can become a better customer. Being open to this two-way dialogue will set you apart from those supplier organisations that just hit the submit button to provide talent and wait for their invoice to be paid.

3. Be proactive in sharing new ideas — don’t wait to be asked. Show you are engaged by understanding our business and sharing new ideas. Don’t wait for quarterly or annual reviews and create a few slides because historically that has been the approach. Organisational and talent needs shift on a daily basis and you are our frontline eyes and ears. If you see something that can be done better or differently, bring us that idea. The only constant is change and you can be the catalyst to bringing innovation into the way we are leveraging talent within our organisations.

4. Don’t assume we are only interested in cost savings. This goes hand in hand with being proactive and sharing new ideas. Think like a problem solver. Whilst we must always be mindful of cost, that is only one dimension of how procurement professionals assess best value. If you can help us respond to our business partners more quickly, or offer recommendations on how we can be more efficient or effective, we want to hear that too!

5. Be honest about your capabilities and your interest in winning our business. We put out an RFP, your organisation requires you to respond, and the dance begins. There is much more value in a supplier partner that is honest about their capabilities. We all want the best providers for our organisations, those with capabilities that match our needs and are interested in investing time to understand what is needed and where they can play a role.

As the talent equation becomes more complex, organisational expectations continue to increase, and the economic and legislative influence continues to disrupt. The only way to be successful is for the procurement community to partner strongly with our talent suppliers. If you, as a supplier, show the value and bring innovation, truly hear our feedback, and act proactively, you will excel and so will our mutual organisations.