Workday Podcast: The Keys to Strategically Enabling a Global Contingent Workforce Program

As Workday continues to operationalize the contingent workforce around the world, we sat down with Kerry Kiley, the mastermind behind Workday’s global contingent workforce program, to talk enablement and strategy.

Audio also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Enterprises across the globe are leveraging contingent workers to their advantage. Whether they’re hiring consultants to fit niche skill sets or bringing on seasonal workers during their busiest time of the year, organizations need a way to operationalize these workers now more than ever. 

Kerry Kiley, head of extended workforce program management at Workday, needed a way to handle the complex realities of supporting nearly 1,000 workers across 28 countries. Her successful program has now become a model for the future of global total talent strategy and, while still in its early stages, offers a promising look into the next level of managing nonemployees around the world. Using the Workday VNDLY vendor management system, Kiley and her team have the flexibility to configure and reconfigure to accommodate internal business processes, local legislative requirements, invoicing needs, and so much more—all within a single solution, across multiple regions. 

“The technology piece has been critical to being able to actually navigate and manage the complexities of our program,” says Kiley, citing the Workday VNDLY vendor management system as a crucial part of the program. “For us, our program and our ability to solve any of the problems that we’re solving today would be significantly limited without technology. We would be looking at manual solutions involving humans.”

In this episode of the Workday Podcast, Kiley joins host Jess Richter to discuss the intricacies of standing up and managing the contingent workforce, locally and globally. They cover working with managed service providers, the associated benefits to your contingent workers, the agility and efficiency that Workday VNDLY provides, and how technology has become an integral part of the Workday contingent workforce program. 

  • “There are a lot of considerations that come with that kind of global spread and breadth. There are numerous local requirements. There are local customs and norms in the way people hire.”

  • “So there’s a wide flavor of options that our MSP can provide in terms of support, and really honing in with each team, or group, or manager on what that level of support is. If they really need a lot of hand holding or if they prefer to be more . . . self-service and leverage the technology.”

  • “What we’d like to try and drive toward is a much more informed and thorough process, where we can actually connect some of those future dots a little bit more seamlessly.”

Jess Richter: From contractors to gig workers to consultants, companies across the globe are bringing more external workers into the fold. And with that expansion comes a host of opportunities to maximize, optimize, and streamline your workforce strategy. But how do you sustain this growth across different countries, all of which have unique compliance, invoicing, and cultural needs? How are business leaders accounting for contingent workers in their yearly workforce planning? As companies begin looking at their external workforce as a staple of their business planning, they're finding a need for technology that can support total talent management of their entire workforce. And not only are they looking for technology that can optimize their workforce management at home, they also need to support their workers across the globe. I'm Jess Richter, and welcome to the Workday Podcast. On today's show, I'm joined by Kerry Kiley, the mastermind behind Workday’s global contingent workforce program, to discuss some of the best practices for supporting your external workers at home and abroad, and how technology has shaped the strategy that Kerry's team uses for Workday.

Richter: Can you introduce yourself? Tell us a little bit about your role at Workday and the role that you play with the contingent Workforce Program at Workday?

Kerry Kiley: Absolutely, my name is Kerry Kiley. I am the head of Workday’s global extended workforce program. And in the early part of my career, I was an operations manager at one of the largest staffing agencies. And then in the past 12 years, I've been focused on running global extended workforce programs at scale for tech companies such as Google, Meta, and Intuit before joining Workday nearly four years ago. And at Workday, my responsibilities are to ensure that we have all of the right processes and policies in place globally—to ensure that we are both compliant, but also meeting our business needs in terms of how we get work done.

Richter: Perfect. I didn't realize that you came from a staffing agency, but that makes a lot of sense. 

Kiley: It's a helpful background I have if I'm honest with you. It's definitely not required, but I think it gives you a unique insight into the challenges that your partners have and helps you be a better client and a better partner. That's been one of my focuses personally, is: let's just be the best partner we can. It's already hard enough to do the job of finding people and getting them to take contract work, you know? Let's let's try and help facilitate and make that easier wherever we can, right?

Richter: Yeah, absolutely. That makes perfect sense, especially when you're dealing with both not only trying to make your employer happy, but also trying to make the contingent workforce happy, or the workers that you are working with, I should say.

Kiley: Yes, a lot of different viewpoints on any particular assignment, a lot of different vested interests, right, getting work done, getting experience at a company—there's there's a lot to make sure you're solving for in creating assignments that will both get the work done but meet the needs of any particular worker.

Richter: And kind of going along with meeting the needs of both the worker and the employer, I guess one place that I think I'd like to start just hearing from you about is just how the Workday program is currently? How many contingent workers are in the program? How many countries do you have workers in? And just how do you keep not only compliant and on top of your goals for the program, with Workday, but also making sure that you continue to meet the needs of those contingent workers, regardless of whether or not they're here in the US or they may be abroad in various countries and throughout the world?

Kiley: Yeah, the Workday contingent workforce program is fairly unique. It's not a significantly large program in terms of our total workforce. We have less than a couple 1000 workers, but what makes it unique is that those workers are across 28-plus different countries around the globe. So a lot of considerations come with that kind of global spread and breadth, right? There are numerous local requirements. There's, you know, local customs and norms in the way people hire if they do or do do not take contracts as a sort of standard practice in the in the industry. So at Workday, we are solving for a complexity of the program more so perhaps at this point, than a volume. We definitely are building with an eye towards scalability. But we've just got a really broad set of complex considerations with our geographies.

Richter: Yeah, that is something that I think is so hard for when you're standing up a global program in particular is just all of those little cultural nuances on top of the various compliance differences and all of the different ways that each country needs to be individually considered. And I'm just a little curious: were there any particular parts of expanding that program that you found more difficult than others, is what I will say. Maybe not impossible, but more difficult, and how did you make those possible for Workday?

Kiley: Yeah, and we are still expanding globally, we don't quite yet have a program that fully matches the Workday footprint. So I have the majority of my program, about 91% of the headcount, covered with a managed service provider. So a partner that will help us support those workers and suppliers end to end. And then I have this—what I call the long tail of kind of onesie twosie—you know, one person in this country, one person in that country. And I think those tend to be harder to solve for. Simply because where you don't have volume, your partners often won't be as interested in providing deep support for you. Right, it becomes hard to justify sometimes, you know, getting your MSP stood up in a country for one worker or even getting a supplier, local supplier, to sign a contract, if your estimated headcount for the year is two, or one, motivating them can be a little bit of a challenge. So we're still closing in on that. And I think, you know, like a lot of companies out there do, we have prioritized those countries that have that sort of maximum number of workers first, right, so we can kind of start solving for the many, as much as possible. It's just prioritizing those given some of the local complexities that we have to build and operationalize for each of those countries.

Richter: Yeah, and you know, something that you touched on that I think is so important is the use of the managed service provider. That's something that I think a lot of people they kind of forget is a big part of this industry. Can you tell me a little bit about what your partnership with the MSP is like? Especially kind of focusing in on, you know, not only here, where you've got kind of maybe a maximum amount of workers or countries in which you have a maximum amount of workers, but how you're kind of navigating these conversations with them.

Kiley: I think one other unique thing about the Workday program is because we have some of the countries managed by an MSP and certainly the majority of our volume, we do still have somewhat of a portion of our program that is internally managed. So I've got someone on my team who manages those requests that are outside of that managed service area. So I get a really unique view right now of the benefit and value of having a partner and a technology and the challenges of trying to manage any rec, even low volume, without having those those pieces in place. So my partnership with my MSP has been, you know, several years in the making. And I think most MSP relationships take quite a long time to develop the trust and the sort of shorthand of knowledge around your company's particular set of processes, languages, you know, culture. So we work really closely to try and ensure that the MSP is managing an effective global set of policies. But with that local knowledge of what makes Workday unique, for example, in Australia, or what makes Workday unique in London, and those are really different. They're different teams. They're different cultures, they're different countries, people, everything. So having a partner who can really navigate those kinds of cultural sensitivities and really understanding that certain teams and groups within your your company are going to have very unique, and in some cases, very laser-focused, on tax, tasks and work. And other teams, you know, are going to maybe not need as many contingent workers or have quite that tactical focus. And so there's a wide flavor of of options that our MSP can provide in terms of support, and really honing in with each team or group or manager on what that level of support is, if they really need a lot of hand holding, if they prefer to be more sort of self service and leverage the technology. There's a lot of, I think, nuance in interacting with large swaths of, of people and supporting them the way they want to be supported as a customer.

Richter: Something that you touched on that I think is a really big deal is the fact that you still maintain an internal program, in addition to working with your MSP partner, I think that's something that is seen really commonly in this industry. If you could, could you potentially talk a little bit about how you make sure that you're maintaining your view across your entire contingent workforce? How are you kind of navigating? And are you using technology to help overcome some of the potential blind spots or things that could be created by having these kind of two separate entities managing your contingent workers?

Kiley: Happy to share, because the technology piece has been critical to being able to actually navigate and manage the complexities of our program. We, in a previous iteration of our program technologies, we didn't have all of our workers in one place where I could see them easily. I had the MSP workers in a VMS, but not these other workers that I'm referencing is internally managed, we call them non-MSP contingent workers. It's very creative. But it really calls out that they sit outside of that program, but are doing effectively that same type of work that is very close to the work that we have FTEs managing that is, you know, managed very closely by Workday. So it's important that I'm able to see those and and really understand where are we growing outside of the… where are we growing within any aspect of the program is important, but particularly for those pieces that I have to self-manage, I have a unique interest in keeping my own close eye on those because they don't have a partner doing it for me and keeping me informed about where we're growing, where we're shrinking, where we need to add different partners. It was a challenge to really get my arms wrapped around that program. We didn't have partners in every country, we really didn't know what we didn't know about how workmates outside of North America and the UK and Ireland were using contingent workers. And so it's been a very interesting journey of learning, I think for my team and also for those managers as we offer more support and more guidance and try to help them navigate those, you know, somewhat tricky waters in some unique countries—to make sure that we're compliant and doing what we need to do to meet those local regulations, while still getting that work done.

Richter: That makes a lot of sense, honestly, especially when it comes to what it was like prior to the technology, because I personally cannot imagine trying to manage all of these people over all of these different locations without some kind of technological help. And I think the thing I really want to ask you about kind of going along with that is you've you've touched on this a little bit at this point. But this idea of like a “total talent strategy”, or “total talent management” or “total workforce management”—there's a lot of different names for this. But when you especially get into the global space, can you tell me what these terms mean to you and to your program? Because it's one of those terms that can mean a lot of different things. And so I'm just kind of curious how you view that, especially with such a global and complex program that you're running.

Kiley: Those are really hot terms in the in the industry right now. And I think that they do have a unique flavor. Each of those terms can mean something slightly different, but I think the the crux of the point of those terms really is that we're finally at an inflection point in the industry where more and more companies are using contingent workers. And having visibility into that workforce is is that very first step. And I think a lot of folks will use the term “total talent management” to really be referencing that sort of visibility aspect. Do you know where all your workers are? Do you know what they're doing? Who they're doing it for, what teams, and hopefully, in a best case scenario, you can even very quickly get to who they're working for in terms of that partner, right, who's their employer? So I think that's the first step. And I think, you know, this has been, a, these terms have been batted around the industry for, gosh, at least the last 10 to 15 years. And it really hasn't progressed much past those theoretical discussions, a lot of imagining of a future where we could not only see all of our workers, but actually manage them in a different and more integrated way. Right? If you have a company where you're hiring is, for example, a lot of your contingent workers is FTE is what is that lifecycle look throughout all of your systems and, and in that workers, sort of lifecycle of being an employee of a company first to contingent worker, and then maybe shifting in to an employee. And then I think it starts to get a little bit more exciting. Even as you start putting those pieces together, then there's this opportunity to get into, you know, workforce planning, and how are you thinking long term and in advance about the work that you need to get done? I think a lot of companies, you know, before they have a formalized contingent workforce or extended Workforce Program, you've got managers kind of just getting the work done, however they can. And without having a strategy around that and saying, “This is how we, as a company, from a company culture perspective, want to be using temporary workers through staffing agencies, versus how we want to be using outsourced vendor partners for services, versus how you want to engage unique expertise that perhaps independent contractors, or other gig workers could provide your company.” And until you have some of those big pieces of program fundamentals and governance in place, I think it becomes really—it's difficult without that, to move forward into this new landscape of thinking about your workforce holistically and saying how do we want to manage across this entire workforce, employee or otherwise? And when do we want to dip into each of those buckets? For what type of work, for how long, in what way are we going to engage them? And I think when you start doing that, then you have an opportunity as a company to build out a future and forward looking, you know, much more like forecasting for at least a portion of your contingent workers. There's always work that's going to come up that you cannot expect or see coming down the road. Those are going to come up anyway and in most business plans or many business plans, but there's a book of work out there that, you know, naturally expands as your company expands. And really being thoughtful about how you're going to expand the workforce that supports that work can make your company much more effective and efficient in maximizing the use of the talent that you already have on hand.

Richter: That thoughtfulness I think is one of the biggest things to me when it comes to the contingent workforce because like you said, there's always going to be ad hoc work. And I personally think that no matter what, that's that's always going to be a thing. But being able to plan for your workforce, I think is something that you touched on, especially when you were kind of talking about the buckets and this idea of maybe talent pools and what talent pools can you pull from? I think that the contingent workforce is honestly invaluable in that way, because not only are they someone that you can look at for ad hoc work, but they're often someone that you could look at for a full-time or employee position when something comes up that's right, as you're scaling up or scaling down or changing how you're working. So I'm just curious, how often do you kind of take that into consideration with your workforce planning and what, what is your role in the overall workforce planning for not only the program but for, like, Workday as a whole?

Kiley: I think this is an area that is really in its infancy and just now moving from the theoretical discussions that have been happening to a more practical application. So Workday, like many companies, you know, is not necessarily doing full workforce planning across the nonemployee workforce. We're talking about how that would look in the future, we're talking about how we can connect technology into those conversations and thought processes. And it definitely is on the roadmap, you know, for future iterations of this program. Right now, we're able to take what we know to be true and the information that we have in our technology around, you know, what work is being done by workers today that is ongoing in nature and is critical in nature. And then we can forecast out that those roles will likely need to stay whether they stay, into one of our contingent buckets or at some point, shift into an FTE bucket, those are still discussions we're having, but we can do some light forecasting based on what we know today about how we use workers. What we'd like to try and drive towards is a much more informed and thorough process where we can actually connect some of those future dots a little bit more seamlessly. So for example, if a company knows that they're going to name a particular geography as a strategic growth location, making sure that there's some workforce planning conversations about that location and geography, will there be challenges with contingent workers? Or, is it maybe a location where contingent workers are ubiquitous, and that's a great strategy for growing organically your local presence in a location, there's some really significant considerations there that can shift a strategy. And so it can become a really company, you know, enterprise-level consideration when you start talking about a global strategy and how a company, or where a company, may want to grow in any particular year.

Richter: There's something that's kind of a theme in everything you've been saying is is this idea of an enterprise level and getting to that enterprise level in the future state? How valuable is the data, just the straight data that you're getting from having a technology that is kind of recording all of this information about your contingent workforce and maybe getting even integrated in some way with your full-time employee workforce data, and how is that data being beneficial to your program at Workday?

Kiley: It's really the linchpin of any conversation that I'm having, whether it be with a business leader, or you know, a requester at a field level, who's interacting with the workers. Being able to set the context, being able to use that data, and conversations to drive the right actions. You know, we have X number of workers with that skill set in the program. I'm confident that our suppliers can recruit for that skill set, right, and having data at your fingertips that is at that level and being able to drive those conversations is really critical towards having the business understand what you need them to understand about their contingent workforce. Anytime I'm speaking with a leader, I always start with some context-setting data. Because you'd be surprised how many leaders in any company anywhere, don't really have a sense or don't have that information at a company-wide level or even at their team level. And so being able to tell them, you know, your team has X percent of our total contingent workforce, or, you know, this particular group on your team has a whole bunch of workers that are contingent and about to reach their tenure limit. So your headcount ask this year is going to be critical for that business continuity if you need to keep those people, right? And so this data can continue to help us drive those conversations and the actions and the outputs that we need to see from those conversations to help make sure that the company is looking at their talent strategy in the right way, and that we're bringing in the right talent may be holding on to the right talent, and encouraging the right talent to grow as we continue to grow and evolve as a company.

Richter: That is so critical when it comes down to it. Talent is one of those things that is so valuable at a company. And I'm just a little curious how not only, like, obviously there is that data that is coming from this technology. Can you talk a little bit about the technology that you're using? I believe you're using a vendor management system, is that correct? 

Kiley: That's correct, we use the Workday VNDLY product.

Richter: I'm just curious how the Workday VNDLY product fits into your overall global strategy, as not only that kind of data collector, but beyond that, in addition to you know, how it's helping you on the day-to-day as well as maybe just overall planning-wise you know, where does it really sit within your strategy?

Kiley: I would say in the year and two months or so that we've been live on the VNDLY product, it has become the single crux of all of our strategy every time we're trying to solve a business problem currently, the first question we're asking ourselves is, can we solve this with VNDLY? And the answer is a vast majority of the times yes, we actually can leverage the technology to collect, or disseminate, or report out whatever it is that we need about the data, we can generally figure out a way to leverage not only given its flexibility, we can have a lot of control over how we're using it and the business processes in it and the data that we collect in it. And so as we identify new problems that we want to solve, we're able to use and leverage the technology as the solution. And so for us, our program and our ability to solve any of the problems that we're solving today would be significantly limited without technology. We would be looking at manual solutions involving, you know, humans, so it has very quickly gone from sort of a nice-to-have, you know, tool that was in its—in our—legacy VMS we were only having a subset of the population and it served a very specific set of processes around rec distribution and billing. Once we've gone live with and really started to understand the capabilities and flexibility of VNDLY it has very quickly become the thing around which the sun really around which all of the other components of our program orbit—everything from direct distribution, to supplier management, to workforce, man, everything is really being done in VNDLY today. And it's really offered us an interesting set of new solutions to provide to the business.

Richter: That's interesting, I didn't realize you had only been on it for about a year and a half. I'm a little curious when you were in the process of looking at new technologies and maybe considering moving away from a legacy vendor management system or whatever other VMS you had in place. Were there any particular like features or capabilities that you felt were necessary to streamlining your global workforce program?

Kiley: I would say at the time that we were making the switch, the one thing that I desperately needed and didn't have and that VNDLY offers is an integration with our Workday HCM product, especially being Workday, we use the org charts. And there's a lot of aspects of Workday that we use internally, it drives access internally, it's connected to so many other systems. And so having that integration with Workday was the most critical thing that I thought I needed at the time. The bonus thing, the bonus item that VNDLY brought to me that I have now decided is a deal breaker and needs to be part of, you know, any technology really, is the flexibility. I didn't know how useful that level of flexibility that VNDLY gives you again to, you know, update business processes or approvals, or what data you're collecting on an intake form, the flexibility that we have now to sort of chart our own course in terms of making changes and updates as we need and in the timeline that we need to make them in has been significant. And it's been really fun to get to have an idea about how to solve a problem, and then literally go into our test environment and try it out. And then when it works, because it mostly will do exactly what we think it's going to do. But like I said, we're solving a lot of different problems we didn't even know we could solve with VNDLY today, then we can go put it in production very quickly. And we can get that same process update, you know, mirrored in our production environment very quickly. So I have never had that level of flexibility with a VMS before. And I really didn't understand the level of value it would bring to my program, it's been a real game changer, honestly.

Richter: I could imagine it would be kind of, it would definitely be fun to just be like, “Oh, well, we have this problem. Let's just do this. And we'll slide it here and look it works.” I can see how that definitely feels like a very awesome feature to have and to be able to do that feels, like, incredibly nice. That being said, so you’ve mentioned a little bit about the nuances of all of these different global locations that you you work with and that you have implemented your VMS in. I'm a little bit curious if you feel like sharing what do you personally think that the risks of not preparing for and enabling a global workforce ecosystem like this are for like not only like larger enterprise organizations, but maybe those like midsize organizations?

Kiley: Yeah, I think there's a lot of considerations when you're talking about the importance of making, or being prepared to support, really, a global workforce. And more and more companies are touching a global workforce, even if they don't sell their product outside of their country, right, they maybe have support teams, or engineering teams, or offshore development teams. And so it's really hard I feel like in this current business environment to operate without having some touch points with an international or global workforce. And I think that there's a variety of risks and not being prepared to do that, I think at a very basic level, you're, you're at risk of, you know, paying too much for services that you don't need to, right, and really just running, maybe a less efficient business than you could be. And then I think on the other extreme, you do have this risk, even if you're a small or medium-sized business of stepping sideways of local compliance regulations unintentionally, in most cases, because you're not aware of what's required and/or you don't have a good way to operationalize whatever that requirement is. And I think a really good example of this is, is pay parity, or pay and access parity, a lot of countries out there require that you're, you know, paying any contingent workers that you have doing work for you, that is staff aug, or the same in nature that you have FTE is doing that you're paying and providing the same access in the office to these workers. And if you're not doing that, there's a risk to you as a company that is both real in terms of liability from the local regulators, but also is reputational, right? No company wants to be highlighted as one that is operating in a particular locale and not following those regulations or norms and customs. And so I think there's a whole spectrum of risks that runs from, you know, as as maybe unimportant is paying too much for services, or not maybe using the full benefit of the talent channels in any particular location to you know, running amok of the requirements that are regulatory and having that create a whole host of potential issues for your your company.

Richter: Yes, I, we've all heard those horror stories of companies that maybe didn't even realize that they were, and like you said unintentionally, that they were accidentally doing something outside of compliance, because it's just one of those smaller nuances that you don't necessarily know of until you run into them. And so having that kind of support, I feel like is crucial nowadays, especially as you're going global and, you know, countries put in laws like pay parity, and, and change and grow as, you know, uh economies, there's a lot of countries that people do business in now that they didn't maybe do business in five years ago, strictly because the economy of that country has been growing. To kind of start wrapping this up and kind of give a nice little put a little bow on it. You know, you've touched on a lot of different things about supporting and creating and enabling a global contingent workforce and looking to the future of your global contingent workforce. Is there one piece of advice that you would give for anyone who is maybe trying to stand up this kind of program, or even maybe just scaling it up outside of where they're at currently?

Kiley: If I had to boil it down to one top tip or one piece of advice, I would say that there's no need to go it alone. Right? There's a whole industry out there of partners, whether you're internally managed or you do have an MSP partner. There's a whole industry of peers out there of people like me, who are running programs who have done things like this before, anytime I'm going to be, you know, touching a new country or having to start operationalizing my program in a new country, the very first thing I do is reach out to a very close group of industry peers that I have. And I ask them, hey, has anybody ever had a program in this country, anybody have any, you know, information they can share with me of like a few things I should be paying attention to, or maybe something I should definitely not be missing in this country in terms of, of knowledge of setting up a program in it. And I've really found that having that that group, that industry group of peers that you can rely on, just helps get to the end point of success and going live in a country much faster and much more successfully, right, you don't need to recreate the wheel. And from that you can do so much learning and so much understanding and it doesn't mean that you're always going to do things exactly the same as those companies, right, you'll have to assess the risk and operationalize it yourself. But it's a really good sort of a head start on what your sort of best few issues you should be thinking about in any particular geography are so I really encourage folks in the industry to make sure that they're, you know, connected with each other, and that they're having those conversations with peers instead of feeling like they're operating you know, all on their own out there trying to figure it out when somebody probably already has.

Richter: Yes, and I feel like in this industry especially there are so many partners out there. MSPs, VMSs, they're all very standard in this industry, they're very, very common. And they all bring a lot of knowledge to the table. And I definitely agree with you, just having that group of peers and those partners and knowing that you don't have to be alone in this makes a lot of sense when you're trying to stand up a program that is essentially built up of people. These programs are about people at their core, and about working with those people to benefit your company and also benefit them. And that’s all we have for today. Thank you so much Kerry for being here. It was great talking with you. I had a wonderful time and I learned so many new things. This was awesome.

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