Spark Ideas & Innovation

How-to sessions that provide tools and techniques for handling select category management topics, like managing a flexible workforce, are among the offerings at ISM2019 in Houston.

By Sue Doerfler

Phrases like “the gig economy,” “contingent workforce” and “flexible workforce” are increasingly common when describing supply management personnel.

“Consider the changing demographics of our industries and employee base,” says Brad Dunn, head of procurement at Farmers Insurance Group. “No longer can you look at your workforce as FTE (full-time employees) only.” He is one of three ISM2019 Conference Leadership Committee (CLC) members helping coordinate the How-To learning track sessions at the Conference, presented by Institute for Supply Management® (ISM®) April 7-10 in Houston.

At Farmers, Dunn is responsible for procurement and contingent-workforce management. “We have thousands of contingent workers across dozens of suppliers,” he explains. Over the five years Dunn has worked for the company, he has gained a great deal of knowledge and experience about contingent workforces — non-permanent workers who include consultants, temporary workers, independent contractors and those who are hired on an on-demand basis. “We need to ensure we have the appropriate controls in place while providing flexible and agile solutions to Farmers,” he says.

Farmers isn’t alone in that endeavor. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 5.9 million people — or 3.8 percent of the workforce — held contingent jobs as of May 2017. Many of these workers were 25 or younger, the agency states. Among the top contingent workforce-management challenges facing organizations are (1) becoming more agile and (2) finding, sourcing and engaging talent, according to a 2017 study by Ardent Partners, The State of Contingent Workforce Management 2017-2018: The Convergence of Talent, Technology, and the Future of Work.

“Managing Today’s Flexible Workforce — and Why You Should Care” is one of the 70 scheduled sessions at ISM2019. Part of the How-To learning track — one of six tracks — it joins eight other sessions that offer in-depth looks at strategic supply management categories and the tools and techniques for navigating them.

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