Confidence in Success

AGS' Executive Director of Sigma, Jessi Guenther returns to Subject to Talent. In this episode, she sits down with Rachel Henney, Head of Procurement at The Standard Insurance Company. They discuss what motivated The Standard to want a Managed Service Provider and the ultimate decision of how they partnered with AGS. Check it out!
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F:Welcome to Subject to Talent, brought to you by Allegis Global Solutions. Similar to you, we're always trying to learn more. On this podcast, we speak to talent experts around the world, covering workforce management, market trends, technology, and a forever evolving dynamic industry.

Hello, hello. My name is Frank Edge. Hope everyone is staying safe out there. Thanks for joining us for another episode of Subject to Talent. It's hard to really put into words how grateful we are to everyone who is still working and helping us get through these strange times, but to show AGS' gratitude, I reached out to my colleagues across the globe to share some messages of appreciation.

Patty Martinez: Spanish

Maria Boyse: Portuguese 

Paula Sala: Romanian

Tatyana Soto: German

Naveen Mascreen: Hindi

Madan Manoharan: Tamil

Kim Nguyen: Vietnamese

Yuki Wang: Cantonese

Daniel Tekle: Amharic

FAgain, thank you so much for all that you do.

We are very excited to have our first client on the podcast today. Joining us is Rachel Henney. She is Head of Procurement at The Standard. She has a broad background in consulting services, outsource services and supplier management. Rachel has 23 years of experience in procurement and supply management with a focus in business process and IT outsourcing, supplier optimization, strategic sourcing, procurement operations, supply governance, and spend analytics.

My colleague, Jessi Guenther, Executive Director of Sigma was able to spend some time with Rachel. Let's listen in.

JHi Rachel. It's a pleasure having you today. I'm going to kick this off the same way we kick off every podcast and ask you to share with our listeners, how you got into the industry.

RThe shortest answer is by accident. My original career path was organizational behavior, human relations, change management and process redesign. I got my first job out of college at Accenture coding in COBOL, coding local number portability to make sure that people could transition their phones to a new carrier. As a result of that, there was a lot of conversations with suppliers that happened and people kept saying, "You're really good at talking to suppliers. I think you should do procurement." And I said, "I don't know anything about sales." They said, "No, no, procurement's not sales." After a few different conversations with some leaders at Accenture, I started to get into outsourcing and services, manage services and solutions, and really enjoyed some of the partnership components of procurement and supplier relationship management, and started to really increase both my interest and my domain expertise in the area. Made a transition after 10 years with Accenture to work at Microsoft. At Microsoft I started in their global procurement group.

JAnd now you've moved to Standard Insurance. Can you tell us a little bit about Standard Insurance?

RYeah. I came to work at Standard after realizing that a career in consulting and high tech and lots of travel wasn't really conducive to raising a family. Somehow you've done it anyway. Congratulations Jessi, but I didn't find myself as successful in being on a plane every Monday and Friday. And so I started to look at some companies that were more local to where my family lived back in Oregon.

I moved back from Seattle to Oregon to work at a company called Standard Insurance Company. They're a company that's been around in business since 1906. Originally they were chartered as Oregon Life Insurance Company and they sell insurance products like disability, life, accidental death and dismemberment, dental insurance, vision. They also offer retirement plans, annuities and absence management. But what enticed me about The Standard was they're focus on their community, their constant focus on giving, focused on giving back to their local industry as well as their community at large. I really was inspired by their leadership. Their focus on that was far above and beyond what I'd seen from many of the companies that were in my current industry of high tech. And so coming to Standard in 2015, I looked at a couple different opportunities in Portland and they were really the company that stood out to me.

JThat's great, Rachel, and congratulations on finding a great home. Can you talk a little bit about the role that you have there?

RWhen I first joined Standard, they really only wanted somebody to help with their IT procurement; buying, contracting, purchase order and invoice management. They had a decentralized process prior to that and they wanted somebody to lead that team for IT. After a couple years, they asked me to expand my role to be enterprise wide, so I'm now the division head for Procurement, Supplier Management, Governance and third party risk management for Standard.

It's been a quickly evolving transformation as we expanded to be an enterprise wide team. And so my role currently leading that division focuses on risk mitigation, cycle time and timeliness, of course cost savings because no procurement organization would be in business without saving some money, but also really that end user experience and customer satisfaction is critical to how we deliver our business. Understanding our business' needs, their drivers, their goals and outcomes is a big part of our current division model.

JFantastic. We're obviously here today to talk a little bit about the Standard's decision to move to a MSP model. So I'd love to hear a little bit about what drove you to the decision to implement an MSP.

RAt Standard we initially had a very decentralized model of procurement for contingent staff resources. We had a single provider for temporary resources that often didn't meet the needs of our customers, and so we ended up having many, many statements of work and quick contracting needs when the resources that they wanted weren't available through that single provider of services.

We started to look at the challenges and the benefits of that program, and initially we looked at using that single provider as sort of a pseudo MSP. Asking them to onboard subcontractors onto their program and expand their ability to support our service model directly. What we found as a result of that decision was there are some positives that come from having a single point of entry that can expand out to your supplier portfolio, but what was really missing for us is a true partnership and managed service. None of the suppliers felt like they were included in the program in a consistent, repeatable way, and they felt like it was more of a competition than a partnership with their kind of host supplier, if you will. So that's what drove us to make the decision. It wasn't working in the way that we were expecting and hoping based on the relationships that these entities had.

Additionally, it was really hard for that sort of single leading company, so it started to make us look at what types of managed services could we implement to make sure that we were driving to those core values of our company around diversity and inclusion around the right talent at the right time at the right price. So we started to assess whether or not it was cost effective to have an MSP, whether or not we had a program that would be reasonable.

And truly one of the drivers of initiating the program to be quite frank was a conversation with you. I think what inspired me was that there was a company that was looking at a solution really tailored to what we were trying to do. They were focused on really finding quality talent at the right price and a good timeline to implement that solution as well as get results from what we were looking for. I was able to take that conversation back to leaders who were struggling and anxious about change. Then we got to take a deeper dive into a request for proposal where we really figured out what our requirements were. But truly, I think that's how we came to that decision was a very open, honest conversation with you. So we're grateful initially that you were able to give a true perspective on the industry and the opportunity for our type of needs.

JThat's great. I mean, there's no doubt that the timing was somewhat serendipitous. If you had called us even two years prior, I don't know that I would have had the same answer for you, so I'm grateful for that, and I'm grateful for having the relationship with you to get that call in the first place. I know I've thanked you before, but thank you for that call.

I'd like to hear a little bit, if you could share what were some of the non-negotiables from your perspective when you were ... because certainly you didn't hand it to us. We had to earn the opportunity. It started with our conversation and then obviously a number of subsequent meetings. When you were evaluating, what were the things that were non-negotiable from your perspective?

RI think to preface what was non-negotiable is what did we want in a MSP? We didn't know everything that we could have. As a corporation we wanted to make sure we were mitigating risk. We wanted to make sure we were thinking about a way to be more productive. My team's volumes were growing exponentially. My resources were not. So how could we scale our program to be able to make sure we met or exceeded the expectations of our internal hiring managers and leaders that needed these resources?

So that really was our first step is what do we want? And we really wanted risk mitigation, productivity improvements and true assessment of competitive market rates. When we started to dig into what an MSP service model could look like for us, we kind of narrowed it down a little bit to risk mitigation was critical, confidence in our selected MSP's ability to provide a regulatory compliant program that was maintained and current to ever-changing laws and regulations was very important to Standard. I don't think I've ever finished a year where a law or a state's law or interpretation of that law hasn't impacted a business or appear in this industry, so it was really, really important. That was number one.

It was also important to me that whomever we selected would grow with us, would be able to expand our program and extend to new areas of scope beyond this immediate initial need. So finding a partner that had that trajectory roadmap already in place, or a clear way to get there was really important; things like expanding into the utilization of SOWs or independent contractors for example.

Second was spend optimization. We were disparate in our spend with the same suppliers. We had a lack of rate card realization, even if we had one executed because different people talking to the same supplier didn't go through the same pricing negotiation strategy. We didn't have a centralized procurement model outside of IT until about a year and a half or two years ago. So that transition in general into making sure you had the same rates and that they were consistent and valuable was new to a lot of business users who are used to just negotiating their own contract and guessing. And so that was really important that we could present to them back; this is going to get you optimize spend.

And then the last one, which I briefly mentioned earlier was we wanted a partner and not a supplier. We didn't want someone who was going to send us things and give us goods and meet transactions and click the button. We wanted somebody we could talk to and partner with and find a company that was a good fit for our culture, understood our commitments to our community and would partner with our team and really be a part of our strategy.

So those were things that weren't negotiable. Where people were located, how we would set up that model, what was in scope first and second and third, we're a little more flexible, but thinking about that partnership and that risk mitigation strategy, as well as spend were key.

Jappreciate that. You've named a number of criteria and perhaps the answer to this question is all of the above of what you've just named, but would love to hear a little bit about what you recall were the deciding factors and ultimately selecting AGS' Sigma product.

RWell, let's see. The first one I would think of was flexibility and potential for growth. Those were one of the ways that AGS stood out in their presentation to Standard both to our skeptical HR department resources, our high volume, hiring managers and procurement, who by nature thinks everything is risky. So they said there is a strong potential for growth and flexibility in their model. That was one of the primary, top three deciding factors.

The second was confidence in success. Our company is scared of lots of change. They're scared of ambiguity. They're a risk driven model. We are focused on making sure that if a customer wants to make a claim, we can pay that claim. It's even more important now. As we've looked at the implications of some of the current environment to our industry, we want to make sure that there's no disruption to our ability to do that. And so finding somebody who we were confident that if we reached out to in a state of a pandemic could react quickly and fulfill those needs with confidence was originally important and has become even more so as a result. So we're confident that thinking about our company's ability to be successful and our partner's ability to be successful with us was important.

And then track record from my personal experience. I also reached out to a couple of the customers that you have, secret procurement reconnaissance and said, "How's your experience been with this new model? Is it different I wonder than my experience with a big company that has lots of ability to influence change and get the right people in those positions? I'm not as big of a company. What is that going to mean and look like for me?" And AGS did not have a single company that I talked to, both that I reached out to personally, or your defined resources that said anything other than track record of success. Those were really important to us.

I think the only other thing I would mention was the leaders that you have down to the individual contributors and workers on the frontline, all represent themselves as equal, and that's hugely unique in this particular industry. It doesn't feel hierarchical to talk to the person answering the phone when I have a staffing need. Anybody that I talked to you was welcoming, open, and responsive and timely and helpful. I think that when our extended group of hiring managers were looking at that relationship as a model, it was inspiring to them and felt positive to them as a choice.

JThanks Rachel.Are there things that you would have done differently in hindsight?

RI think there's always opportunity for improvement. The first is that change can be hard for people, and if we could have done anything differently, our number one focus change would be on change management. We had some individuals really struggle with adopting a new tool or learning about the tool at the time that they were ready to engage a resource. So I think we would have created more short training videos for those people to look at real time when they're ready to get onto their system. A quick two to three minute video on here's what this is going to look like would have eased a lot of their initial use of the program for first time users or people that don't use it as often.

So change management above everything else was the number one recommended increase scope. And a lot of people quickly look at change management and say, "Well, where can I cut costs?" This is not one that should be cut. It's really important. Even though we had a change management focus, we should have done more.

The second is we had two teams. This one's probably going to be a little bit controversial to many people, but we had a team that led the transition from as-is to to-be and then a separate team that ran steady state. And holistically the feedback I received was that we really should have kept at least some of the same people in both teams to ensure that there wasn't any disconnect between the time of transition and steady state. We lost a little bit of knowledge when those resources pulled out of the program. So having somebody that was consistent throughout transition and steady state would be a second recommendation of something I'd do differently.

And then third, and this is probably still a recommendation I have for myself, we would have ensured that we automated the integration between our VMS system and the HR and ERP systems internally. We chose to partially do that and that was a mistake. I think that a lot of people think, "Oh, integration is going to be hard and it's a lot of work and we don't know if our data is good in every system and what's going to happen if we integrate," but I think that the big lesson learned that we have is that integration would have alleviated a lot of challenges that some people faced with the change. So guess what we're going to be doing next, Jessi?

JWe're ready. We're ready. Thank you for that because I think obviously the target for a conversation like this is customers like The Standard that are early on in their journey for how to solve their talent problems and I think you've given some really beneficial, meaty nuggets of advice as they sort of segue from idea to reality, so I appreciate you sharing what you would have changed.

Rachel, you talked a little bit about the criteria that weighed into the decision ultimately to select AGS. If you could share some of the things that are working well in meeting that expectation. I think the listeners would like to hear a little bit about what the positives are within the program today.

RI think your question is timely. We just recently submitted a survey internally to my team and externally to gather some feedback about the program. It's been in place now for some time, and we want to make sure that as we're considering the program's roadmap that we thought about what's working well and what are areas of opportunity for improvement. One of the things that really stood out, Jessi, to me was that everybody that was interviewed or support group or AGS customer council or any of the resources that currently support our program, our onsite account manager, Ted, the leader of our operations, Mike Danzek, outstanding, constant, positive feedback about their partnership, their ability to consider that relationship as important as the results and outcomes and parallel far exceeded our expectations.

I think that one of the biggest opportunities for us as we implemented this program was really thinking about like you asked me originally, what did we want out of this program? And that partnership was really one, and that feeling that we were in this  alignedtogether to come up with the right solutions was key.

I think we had one place where we really reached a challenging position at our company, and we reached out to AGS to think through that together. We said, "Hey, we have some changes internally to our resources. There's been some changes in our operational model, and we need to create a unique opportunity for internal and external visibility to some of our roles that we're posting." This was brand new and not something that was typical to an MSP. And particularly our leader of operations, Mike Danzek and you stepped up and said, "Let's think about a different way of looking at this problem and what can we do to help." It was incredibly well received, positively viewed by our internal stakeholders and our leadership team and our board. And I think that that was a huge Testament to that partnership coming to fruition.

JThank you, Rachel.Can you talk a little bit about some things that might still be on your wish list?

R: The things like I mentioned, automating our integration is one. The other things that we're looking at are really about true cost savings and not just cost avoidance, but we need to start looking at true cost savings. That number one on our wish list is how much were we spending before for these types of roles and what are opportunities to really save money through an AGS' program?

The second is looking at our supplier list and is it appropriate for our needs? Is it creating the right opportunities for the suppliers in our program? Or do we need to look at reducing our supplier list?

And the third area is some updated training. Like I mentioned earlier, some targeted training and real time education of people using the program that maybe don't use it every day. And so what we're looking for is some updated training that helps people avoid that cycle time delay through real-time focused education.

JThat's great, Rachel.You mentioned earlier the fact that we're in a different environment. I mean, we're recording this podcast from our houses; we're still both in stay-at-home orders due to the current pandemic. When we think about that and the fact that the MSP industry is evolving, are there things that you would like to see not only the program but the industry based on your perspective evolve to, kind of keeping in mind the current environment and your own personal desires?

RI think that's a great question. Overall, as our industry evolves and changes, the biggest change right now that's impacting us is real time demand spikes in unexpected areas; location and skillset. So that makes me think is this going to be only right now that we need to plan for this, or do we need to a model that really adjusts when we have a change in our environment, a change in our demand or a change in opportunity?

Some of the things I'm hoping the program can start to look at is data modeling. AGS has a huge set of data. Historical data is only as good as models can predict, but it is at least a leading indicator and it's better than guessing. And I think that AGS has a unique opportunity to evolve their program as an MSP to really help people think through those models. Here's what we saw happen when these three scenarios happened. Whether that be the challenges that we faced with a pandemic or a change in the number of people and resources available in a particular industry, based on what people are studying that time and how people are coming out of school with skill sets and what types of jobs have a high volume of candidates and what have low volumes.

Looking at fill rates of certain roles as it relates to those spikes. That's one of the areas that I think I'm hoping that our program can expand to really improve on data analytics. We've started to look at some of that with Allegis' Acumen program, but we are in its infancy. So that's what I'm hoping.

The second area is I think that today we still look myopically at contingent staff differently than we do some of the other ways we engage non-FTE resources. And I think some perspective from a manage service provider like AGS' Sigma program can really help people think through what is the right area to expand this to. And how do you define a non-FTE worker differently?

The third is the hardest. I think that people are challenged right now when they work regularly with resources that are not FTEs. And because of different risks of co-employment or laws and regulations, they can't treat their employees in the exact same way as they might treat a contingent worker that is engaged to support their program. There's somebody else that is responsible for that person and their benefits and their rewards and their evaluations and performance. And I think continuing to manage and monitor this regulatory requirement in parallel with having an open mind about the industry and about the resources and the people themselves is an area that I think could be optimally evaluated and potentially improved by an MSP.

JIt's interesting because the second and third points in particular that you named are probably the things that we're spending the most time on to the point where I think you've just inadvertently nominated yourself to join our advisory board, so stay tuned on that.

ROh I'm excited. More work.

JNo, it was great. I appreciate that input and happy to hear that some of your thoughts are feeding into the way that we're looking at the world of work. So certainly more to come on that.

Technology, and you've alluded to this a few times and certainly your background feeds into it has played a huge role in how we operate. I mean, in the world, quite frankly, but in our industry and in business. How has it changed how The Standard operates when it comes to staffing?

RI have a two-part answer. Standard as a company from 1906 forward has really been focused on relationships, and the migration to technology has been slow because they want to maintain that feeling of that relationship as the first layer and so the adoption of technology change has been a challenge. That being said how the technology solutions that AGS has been able to implement and provide, have significantly improved our ability to report on data well beyond our HR and ERP systems.

We can tell you how many people we've onboarded in an HR system, and we can tell you how much we've spent an ERP, but what the MSP's technology solution combined with our VMS has delivered is a real way to evaluate the quality of those sourcing candidates and solutions and models that we've implemented. It's given us ability to optimize how many suppliers we have. We didn't have that level of data about expertise, about candidate pools or about projections and models to support our business needs. So that's one.

The second is an improvement in our ability to support customers. They know to go one place and they like it. And they didn't in the beginning. They were struggling with that adoption, but now they know that everything is in one place. They can see it and they don't have to go to 12 different suppliers and have a conversation. They have a relationship with our onsite account lead and highly value that interaction.

And the third, the significant reduction in cycle time that technology brings. As much as that conversation is still a core part of our values as a company, reducing the time it takes to fill roles that are needed in an urgent manner is really, really important. In our recent last few months, we've had huge spikes in needs in particular areas of opportunity we never had before. My internal customers are calling me with more gratitude for the MSP's ability to provide quality candidates than we've ever had since I've joined The Standard.

JThat's a great piece of feedback right there. I mean, if there's nothing else that comes out of it, having a testimonial like that define success from my perspective, so it's really great to hear that.Your experience and your feedback and just the overall kind of 360 degree view that you have of the full life cycle of a program like this, because you are heavily involved on the technology side as well, both given your background and how you have the structure with our VMS partner, but I'd love to have you sort of wrap this up by giving advice to those that are starting off on their journey in selecting an MSP, defining the business case for an MSP, and I think you bring a perspective that is quite unique.

RI think that maybe throughout this call and conversation, it sounded like I'm the biggest strongest AGS champion ever, and that's unusual for someone in procurement to pick a supplier. They base their decisions on a lot of criteria and math and due diligence and monitoring of results. So what that means in my recommendation for those starting off is that I still believe you should be very thorough in your assessment of an MSP. But how do you do that? And how do you get to a place where you end on your selection of an MSP and get what you need when you need it with the results that you're expecting? You need to be realistic about what you can accomplish in the first 12 months. You need to make sure you have the right internal resources, IT, HR, et cetera, for the implementation and for steady state support.

I highly encourage people to talk to the MSP customers that they're working to assess, and any RFP. And I'm in procurement; I highly encourage everyone to do a very thorough RFP to assess the comparatives between providers. Think about your current needs and opportunities, as well as your future state roadmap.

Lastly, I think that it's important to find an MSP that has experience in staffing for your specific industry and location. Standard Insurance has a very focused few sites of needs, and those are critical to us to have people onsite because of our guiding principle around all of the things that are important to us as a culture. Relationships are key with our customers, internal and external and finding somebody that understood those things in that location was also important.

The last one I would be remiss if I didn't remind you that change management is critical. It does depend on the adoption of change that's innate here company, but change management is incredibly important for companies who have individuals that are adverse or resistant to change. Having a clear path of how you take people through the journey of change will help with your adoption and overall results.

JPerfect. Thanks, Rachel. And I'll sort of defend you when you commented on your support of AGS and I've appreciated that support through all of these years, but it goes without saying that you've been a tough customer firm, but fair. It isn't a path that you pave for us easily. You make us earn it and we appreciate that. So from me to you, I appreciate, and thank you for the ongoing partnership. I thank you for your time today. I know you are absolutely running hard right now in general, but particularly in this pandemic, so thank you. I appreciate it. I know that our listeners will find it valuable.

R: I want to say thank you also. We faced some unusual challenges in the last few months, and there has not been many weeks without tears by people in our company needing help and AGS has really stepped up to the challenge and changed with us and provided incredible support for some people that were borderline desperate for immediate help and needs. The feedback that I've gotten, not only about the quality, but the help and the support, and maybe a little counseling on the side by the people that they're working with is pretty phenomenal. I think that it's a credit to you and your team and the setup of the Sigma program that put us in that position of that positive partnership. And I think that it's really rang true, and we are incredibly grateful for our continued success in our program.

JThanks so much, Rachel. Appreciate that. Have a great rest of your day.

R: Thank you. Bye-bye.

F: Thank you for joining us on this episode and a big thanks to Rachel Henney from The Standard. If you'd like to learn more about the AGS Sigma program, please check us out at If you would like to learn more about The Standard, you can find them at If you have any questions for Rachel or Jessi, feel free to tweet us @allegisglobal with the #subjecttotalent. Also, you can email us at And if you enjoyed our podcast today, please subscribe rate us and leave a review. Until next time stay safe. Cheers!