So Remind Me Again, What is a Managed Service Provider?

Managed Service Provider (MSP) noun

man·aged| /ˈmanijed/

serv·ice| /ˈsərvəs/

pro·vid·er| /prəˈvīdər/

A Managed Service Provider (MSP) is a contingent and/or statement of work management solution. This solution is implemented by an external organisation that combines process, personal expertise and technology to support an organisation’s gig, temporary, temp-to-hire, direct hire, independent contractor administration, Statement of Work (SOW) hiring and other complex services such as vendor management.

A spectrum of organisations seek MSP services – some are looking for the first time and others have mature programs focused on driving continuous improvements. In addition, some are looking to transition into a Total Workforce Solution.

When an organisation partners with an MSP provider to outsource its contingent labor and SOW management, the provider assumes all or portions of an organisation’s procurement or HR functions, managing the contingent talent lifecycle from requisition through invoicing and payment. They are often HR Generalists between the supplier community who employ the workers and the Hiring Managers working within a client’s organisation. In addition, they are often workforce consultants who provide insights into the ever-changing talent landscape and workforce needs of a client.

An MSP provider works alongside a client’s internal HR and Procurement teams and can perform its duties remotely and onsite at a client’s facility. Below, we highlight a few reasons why organisations seek MSP providers, and conversely, when MSP may not be a good fit:

Reasons to engage an MSP provider:

  • If your organisation is looking for better cost control amongst your staffing vendors
  • If your organisation wants faster access to high-quality talent through vendors, directly sourced or through other hiring vehicles
  • If your organisation is looking for greater compliance protection from potential litigation due to worker misclassification across all categories of non-permanent workers
  • If your organisation is looking for more detailed reporting, workforce analytics and key insights to make better and more informed contingent labor decisions
  • If your organisation is looking for a workforce consultant to advise them on labor trends and custom solutions that will work within your culture.

Reasons not to engage an MSP provider:

  • If your organisation is not comfortable or willing to have an external organisation manage your contingent workforce and SOW needs
  • If internal stakeholders are not ready for a centralised program and are still operating in decentralised governance.
  • If your contingent workforce volume isn’t high enough to justify the use/cost of an MSP

What Can a Managed Service Provider Do For Me?

At its most basic service and delivery level, a managed service provider can help your organisation improve contingent workforce process efficiency, boost talent supply chain efficacy, introduce better cost controls and provide you with superior access to contingent workers.

MSP programs can alleviate the pressures placed on both your HR talent acquisition and Procurement functions by managing your contingent workforce in a way that is both cost-effective and compliant. Similar to recruitment process outsourcing programs, MSP programs can be customised, planned, managed and implemented in a manner that truly reflects your organisation’s needs, your position in the market and your Employer Value Proposition (EVP).

MSPs leverage the influence of your EVP and reputation in the market to source contingent and SOW workers through the management of preferred suppliers, reduce your agency spend, and ensure that you secure the best talent in every market at competitive rates, not just the most readily available talent on the market. An MSP partner should also provide market intelligence on where to find the best talent and at what price.

Common MSP program services include:

  • Engagement of all forms of contingent and SOW workers
  • Building pools of high-quality candidates
  • Review of current supplier and vendor contracts
  • Contract management
  • Providing reporting and analysis for the contingent workforce program
  • Management of the supplier base
  • Management and payment of staffing supplier invoices
  • Talent advisement of key labor trends
  • Partnership in the creation and execution of workforce solutions customized to fit the client

Your MSP provider will deliver these services through dedicated support teams that leverage their experience and expertise to provide a tailored level of service to your organisation. This allows your HR and procurement teams to focus on what really matters: meeting strategic and day-to-day business goals.

Want to learn more? Next, we will get into the finer details of how a managed service provider can help elevate your contingent labor program.

Vendor-Neutral Managed Service Providers Improve Visibility and Cost Controls

In a survey conducted by Deloitte titled Human Capital Trends, 42% of executives surveyed said they plan to increase or significantly increase the use of contingent workers over the next three to five years. Conversely, only 16% of executives expect to decrease the size of their contingent workforce.

And for good reason. Contingent labor provides organisations with a cost-effective, flexible workforce while offering workers the flexibility and balance not typically found in traditional forms of employment. A win-win for both parties.

Whether you currently manage your contingent workforce centrally or through a fragmented approach throughout your organisation, unless you have dedicated resources constantly observing labor markets, it’s going to be hard to have true visibility to a labor market and its rates. This can lead to hiring the wrong people, at the wrong rate, with the wrong experience.

Managed service providers that value a vendor-neutral approach are dedicated to providing clients with the most reliable, trustworthy and cost-effective suppliers. They place an emphasis on sourcing the highest quality of talent. This approach removes much of the legwork required in vetting the right supplier for a client’s needs. The managed service provider assumes these responsibilities. This ensures that the best staffing providers are chosen based on the client’s specific objectives, strengths and weaknesses.

Vendor-neutral managed service providers have no conflicts of interest with staffing suppliers, so an organisation can be certain that their MSP is operating for their benefit only. The managed service provider works to fulfill staffing requirements with the best available talent and opening up the process to competitive rates to drive cost savings.

A vendor-neutral MSP has the independence to design, implement, manage, negotiate and optimise your contingent program with no hidden agenda.

Better Vendor Engagement and Lower Contingent Workforce Spend

When you partner with a managed service provider, they assume responsibility for the engagement and management of your current staffing agency vendors. They can introduce new vendors and negotiate new rates with existing ones, opening up the competitive playing field, making sure you get the right talent for the right price.

In addition to these vendor engagement strategies, your managed service provider may also provide feedback to vendors to inform them of which approaches worked well and which did not equip vendors with the tools and resources they need to be successful and host supplier summits to discuss strategy and optimise the program.

Additionally, MSP providers can consolidate invoicing to save the amount of time spent managing and reconciling individual invoices, allowing the client to make one payment to the MSP provider who then pays vendors and suppliers on the client’s behalf. This means that vendors and suppliers are paid faster than if invoices were paid individually.

Your MSP provider will improve your current vendor relationships. They will also grant you access to new, proven and trusted suppliers you might not otherwise have come across, all managed by a single point of contact: your MSP provider.

This can help reduce the workload on your internal HR and procurement functions and ensure your contingent workforce is managed by a specialist dedicated to your organisation. This level of workforce management is unique to the MSP model and can only be provided through a workforce management specialist.

Managed Service Providers Improve Governance and Compliance and Reduce Risk

So, your organisation has increased its use of contingent labor to enhance your workforce outcomes. Great! But with growth comes growing pains, such as the need to centralise your contingent workforce management program.

When an organisation begins to bolster its contingent workforce, it opens itself up to increased compliance and liability risks associated with non-permanent employees. The most common risks include worker credentialing, worker misclassification, co-employment issues, unemployment claims and workers’ compensation claims. Failure to properly address these risks can result in fines, tax penalties and other consequences that can set your organisation back.

With an MSP model, organisations benefit from external expertise on compliance best practices along with insights on local, regional and global regulations and processes that adhere to relevant laws. A managed service provider can also help your organisation vet suppliers and workers to mitigate risk.

If you hire independent contractors or temporary workers directly, a managed service provider can advise you on the best structure to analyze and assess your current processes to help ensure that you are staying in compliance with these directly sourced workers. In today’s changing labor economies, these worker types are coming under increased scrutiny by governments the world over, so having a trusted partner to advise you on risk-reducing strategies and the implementation of best practices is essential.

Manage Service Providers Can Give You Access to World-Class Technology

An expert managed service provider possesses in-depth knowledge and experience with major VMS platforms and can operate in a client’s legacy systems. In some MSP programs, the managed service provider will collaborate with a client to select the right contingent vendor management software (or VMS) for their needs. Another critical technology is a centralised business intelligence reporting and analytics tool. One such tool is PeopleScout’s proprietary AffinixTM platform. This platform can easily show you how your organisation is buying and managing contingent labor today.

Through the use of cutting-edge contingent workforce management technology, your organisation can automate many of the key processes of workforce management and can gain insights into program performance.

For example, your MSP provider can leverage a VMS to help transform your recruiting strategy from a fragmented process to a unified and centralized database. In addition, your organisation gains visibility into worker wages, the most effective sourcing methods, where your workers are located, payment tools and much more.

FMS technology is newer and better able to process freelancer information (in addition to other types of contingent workers), compared with VMS technology, so depending on your contingent workforce requirements, your MSP provider can deploy the right technology solution to meet your organisation’s needs.


With contingent and SOW labor playing an increasingly important role in the talent acquisition and procurement mix, organisations can no longer depend on ad hoc and disparate approaches to managing their contingent workforce.

When you engage a managed service provider, your organisation can more effectively manage your contingent workforce by leveraging your MSP provider’s expertise in supply chain and vendor management, risk mitigation and compliance, talent technology and talent markets.

This expertise and experience will proactively ensure that your organisation gets the contingent talent you need, exactly when and where you need it, from a cost-effective and centralised contingent workforce program.