All-In Recruitment is a podcast by Manatal, focuses on all things related to the recruitment industry’s missions and trends. Join us in our weekly conversations with leaders in the recruitment space and learn their best practices to transform the way you hire.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Lydia: Welcome to the All-In Recruitment podcast by Manatal where we explore best practices, learnings, and trends with leaders in the recruitment space. If you like our content, please subscribe to our channels on YouTube and Spotify to stay tuned for our weekly episodes. My name is Lydia, and joining us today is Vinos Samuel of Netflix, Asia Pacific.
Welcome, Vinos, and thank you for joining us.
Vinos: Thank you for inviting me. Happy to have this conversation with you.
Lydia: So, Vinos, walk us through your experience in the talent space. I understand that it’s vast and that you’ve taken on a variety of roles in the past. Could you also share a little bit about your current role at Netflix?
Vinos: I never planned to be in recruitment. As with most, they say, we just land here. I did my engineering back in Bombay. I got into a business process outsourcing company, where I held a few roles in training to be a team leader for operations. That’s where I got this opportunity to get into recruitment and try out the volume recruitment space, which is a very different ballgame when you do it for a call center, housing 2000 people with high churn. So, that got me introduced to recruitment.
Having said that, after six years, I got this opportunity to move to an American company, which manages a contingent workforce for clients across the globe. They had their own technology to manage the contingent workforce as well. So, I thought that would be a good pivot to understand what this landscape looks like. I got there, I managed a couple of their accounts. When I say accounts, those are clients who outsource their contingent workforce management to external consultants or external agencies that specialize in that workforce in terms of hiring, managing, onboarding, payments, and then also exits - the whole lifecycle of the contingent.
That was a very exciting space for me because it was very different. It was a consulting role, helping the client implement the technology, implement the workforce, and manage suppliers that they had who could bring in this population of workforce for their technology roles. I learned a lot.
Then having that experience, I got an opportunity to work for Randstad Sourceright, which again, has a business for managing these workforces for clients. So, I moved to Singapore and managed a few of their accounts, prominently, Johnson and Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, and Walmart. I had a portfolio of accounts and did the same thing, in terms of managing the workforce for clients and driving efficiencies, cost savings, and ensuring that they have access to the right non-employee workforce, in different markets across Asia Pacific.
I did that for about 10 years, and then I thought maybe I should do something else. So, I got into the Recruitment Process Outsourcing field where I worked with sales teams to build solutions for clients when they wanted to outsource their recruitment operations and functions. It could be the whole function, it could be part of it. It could be for a country, it could be a project, it could be any of that. And we build a solution in terms of what technology to use, if at all, how many recruiters can we place. How do we train them, what workflow would be put in, etc. And then the pricing associated with it. And then once we win any of those accounts, I would also implement it.
That was the experience that I had in the recruitment process outsourcing space before I came to Netflix to set up the non-employee workforce team in Asia Pacific. Coming out of COVID, we did realize that the contingent workforce numbers were going up and the need to have a more articulated framework for managing contingent talent in Asia Pacific came up and I came in to support that.
Lydia: So, building a contingent workforce process from the ground up would be accurate to say, right?
Vinos: I wouldn't say ground up. Because we did have some of the practices in the UCAN (US, Canada, Australia & New Zealand) region. I had been managing a contingent workforce for a while, but the practice wasn't set up in Asia Pacific. So, it was quite decentralized and haphazard in terms of the decision-making and supporting the panel.
Circumstances To Hire Contingent Workforces
Lydia: So, in other circumstances, I know you mentioned COVID and that being a critical period your last three years with Netflix. Under what conditions would large companies or any company look through contingent workforces as talent talent solutions, so to speak?
Vinos: So, when the need for hiring rises, not all hiring needs mean that you need an open-ended full-time contract with an employee, right? You might need to hire for a paternity backfill, for example, or you might want to hire where you have a peak upload in your organization, but that’s not going to last beyond six months or a year. So, that means that you will need a contingent workforce to come in.
It could be that you are automating a lot of your workflows within the organization, which means you need some roles to be filled in. But that role is not going to look the same a year or two down the line. So, it doesn’t make sense to go and hire a full-time employee there.
So, these are typically the situations where you will look for contingent talent.
And contingent talent, again, is very broad. We define it into three buckets. One is where you are hiring a temporary worker through a staffing agency partner. So, that’s like a temporary contractor that you hire. They are more like full-time employees. They are on-site, integrated with your teams, and working on things that are similar to what a full-time employee would do. But they are not your employees because they are paid by a staffing agency. Then you have independent contractors who can also be called freelancers. So, you bring them in for specific projects, they’re SMEs in that field, say, graphic designers or video editors. So you bring them on a services contract.
And then you also have parts of work that you outsource to other providers such as in technology or in marketing. It could also be your facilities in the company. So, through those contracts, you have vendor workers coming in and supporting your organization and that’s contingent as well. So broadly, it’s these three categories.
Lydia: What might be some takeaways you’ve had from the contingent talent landscape in Asia Pacific? What is the uptake rate for them? And is there really a demand for the kind of work that’s coming in from needs such as what you have described?
Vinos: Most organizations have a big chunk of contingent talent, but because it’s very decentralized, nobody knows at any point in time, how many contingent talents they use. Because it is not your people cost. It is your operating expenses from where contingent talent payments are from. So, for example, in an organization where headcounts become difficult to get, you would go and hire a contractor, but because you’re not tracking it, you really don’t know how many contractors are there in your organization.
I think about 30 to 40% of the workforce in an organization is contingent, depending upon however you want to slice and dice it, like if you want to consider outsourcing because many companies outsource a lot.
Do you want to consider that as contingent or not? So depending upon that, it’s close to about 25 to 30% of the workforce would be contingent, in my opinion.
Have a Visibility First Before Building a Process
Lydia: In terms of operational challenges, I’m sure you had to set up these processes as well. In all the roles that you’ve taken, most of the roles at least, what are some of these operational challenges? Or where do you start in terms of building a streamlined process in order to manage the workforce?
Vinos: It connects to my previous answer. So, you need visibility, right? You need to know what you are doing. What kind of roles are you hiring with contingent workers? Where are they placed? Where are they located? Who’s hiring them? So you need to do a bit of due diligence, and that can happen with your financial records. It can happen with your security information in terms of who’s coming in and going out. It could also be connected to your procurement agreements that exist with suppliers, like staffing agency partners, outsourcing partners, etc. So, you can start somewhere to try to get visibility of what’s happening in that space.
Many times, there is no clear owner for contingent talent in terms of who owns this workforce, and how it should be brought into the strategic conversations. Many organizations have it under procurement because they think about it as cost savings. It’s like procuring something at a lower cost to do a particular work. It’s got a very procurement angle to it as well, some have it under finance because it’s a cost and finance manages it. So, it’s different between organizations.
At Netflix, we have it under talent, because we know that, though we are hiring contractors, we are hiring certain skills that are coming along with it. And that is part of your overall workforce. So, “What are you building within versus what you’re buying outside,” we look at it that way.
From a talent perspective, or from an HR perspective, it is a great pipeline for us to build full-time talent as well. So, if you’re hiring good contractors on the temporary workforce side, or independent contractor side, tomorrow, when you have a full-time need, you could easily convert them. If you do this well, it is a great inlet for your full-time employees.
With regard to processes, compliance is key because these are not your employees. You need to know what the regulations are in different countries. What is your risk appetite to put in? You need to put some safeguards in terms of how you are going to show who’s your employee and who’s your non-employee. For example, How are you going to categorize them within your HRIS system? What are the role types can you go to for a contractor versus a full-time employee? You take countries like Korea or Japan, where there are well-defined roles that can only be contractors. So, how do you put controls over it? What are the tenure limitations that you’re going to put in? It shouldn’t happen for any reason, businesses just procuring contingent talent.
So, the practice should be only when the need is for a contractor to come in, they do it. You put guardrails, like a 12-month check-in to say, “Is this really a contract need?” Or, “Is it a full-time need?” Then you can probably extend it to 18 months or so. So, you put some guardrails to build your workflow.
Lydia: Now, generally speaking, although these might be short-term work or short-term engagements with contractors or freelancers, how do you ensure that they have completed their time, in terms of retention of contingent workforces? What goes into that?
Vinos: So, retention is mostly a conversation for the temporary workforce, where you have a clear staffing agency partner. That gets down to how you select the partners to support you. How are they integrated with your program? How well are you doing the assessment of the workers who are coming through them in terms of them achieving the outcomes that are required? It could be in terms of quarterly feedback that goes to the hiring manager for the worker, then that feedback going back to the staffing agency partner, in order to think about feedback, coaching, etc. So you can build those mechanisms.
Overall, as a program, you can also track who started with a specific end date in mind, and whether they complete those contracts or not. If you see more and more contracts not getting completed, then that’s a conversation that you can have with the suppliers to see what can be done to keep that going.
What I’ve seen is that Netflix is a good pool brand. You can pull good work for contingent talent, so we never have an issue in terms of attracting talent. And the experience that they get is something that they won’t get outside in terms of understanding the culture, in terms of the work that they do, and also the talent density that we have. So, the amount of learnings that they can have with the interactions that they get, and all of that adds in to keep contractors to complete the engagement as well.
And we don’t stop them from applying for full-time roles when they are in the last two to three months of their contracts, too. So, that’s another way that you can engage them to say if you complete the contract well, then you have an opportunity to even work full-time if that’s what you want.
Create a Balance Scorecard To Retain Contingent Workforce
Lydia: When it comes to managing or even working with partners, in terms of retention or in terms of getting the results that you might set your team out to get, what are the key metrics or KPIs they might have?
Vinos: You should have a scorecard. It should be a balanced scorecard because the way we look at it is; for one, they are responsible for hiring good talent. So, you have your recruitment metrics that go into it. Like, how quickly can they turn around profiles for us? How many candidates have they submitted to convert to a contract hire? Then, how many contractors complete their engagements and what’s the feedback that comes from the business workers that they have?
Then, how proactive are they in engaging with us, like wanting to know our culture, wanting to know our business, and the proactiveness with, which they come in with pointed questions so that they know what is the requirement of the business, and how they can match it with the external market. So, you assess them on all of those in your balanced scorecard.
And also, compliance plays a role. You’ve got to ensure they pay their workers on time, ensure that they have good benefits. We don’t dictate benefits, because they’re not our employees. But we want to ensure that they have good benefits, which is paid out on time. And we track contractor satisfaction with their suppliers as well. And that then adds to the scorecard, too.
Lydia: You also mentioned earlier that you don't stop them from applying internally, right? Is there a proactive approach, when you've identified that these non-employees who might be performing well, to get them to try to become employees?
Vinos: So, in the Netflix environment, because it’s a smaller setup, we do get them connected to TA when the need arises. It’s not like a clear flow in a system. But I’ve had situations before, where, for example, you have a contractor, you have a check-in with the manager, and they say he’s great, and it’s the last two months of the contract, then that pulls into the pipeline for TA.
And the same thing goes the other way, as well. Like, if you have a direct sourcing function within your organization from where you can hire contractors yourself, using your brand and your internal career site, then talent acquisition, when they are connecting with candidates, they can have a small question saying, “Would you be interested in a contractor role with our company?” And if they say yes, then that becomes a pool for the contractors’ population as well.
And whenever we have roles that match the skills, we can go in. Now, that’s what the technology can enable, and those are innovations that are happening, and many organizations are on different trajectories to implement them.
It’s a Contractor Role
Lydia: So, advertising for these roles, you go through a third-party vendor or partner agency to look up these roles. But shouldn't we be doing that in-house? What goes into a job ad? What do you need to disclose, when it comes to hiring contingent workers? What might be best practices?
Vinos: Depending on who you ask, you will get a varied perspective on this. Some would say that you should not hire at all. And that’s the conservative side of compliance. And some say you can, provided you keep enough guardrails between your full-time structure of JDs and what you communicate, what you offer, and your contractor hiring. So, it depends on what’s the appetite within the organizations and who’s your compliance advocate as well.
One of the things that you should make very clear is in the job title itself, you call out contractor so that it’s clear from the outset that you’re hiring for a contract role. And in your job descriptions, ensure that you’re not going to payroll them, but they will be pay-rolled by a third-party agency.
So, you call out those things so that it’s very clear that the person who’s applying is well informed, to know that they’re applying for a contractor role.
Then, of course, there are things like they can’t be in a position where they’re managing people. So, your JDs don’t have those kinds of languages in them. Then whatever best practices that you have on your full-time site in terms of inclusive language, more in terms of what they’re going to deliver to or learn from, is what you put forward. So, those elements stay the same.
Extend Your Benefits To Contingent Workers
Lydia: In terms of presenting culture, Netflix is known for its forward-thinking culture, and it's famous for that, right? So, how do you get the contingent workforce to integrate into this culture and what impact does it have on the contingent workforce experience?
Vinos: We’re very high on inclusion and diversity and that’s a key enabler for our business and decision-making within Netflix. Because we are so invested and so high on applying inclusion and diversity to all aspects of what we do, starting from our content creation to our business strategies, we can’t leave the contingent workforce aside, because they are closer to us, they are part of our teams, and etc. So, we apply the same lens when it comes to them.
In terms of any facilities that we have in the office that the contingent workforce are part of, they have access to it. We have free lunches, for example, it’s extended to them, we have a hardware setup, which they can pick up what they want for enabling their work, they have access to that. We don’t put any restriction.
So, it’s kind of open. We do set some guardrails, in terms of they can’t be part of any employee resource groups, for example, because that’s for employees.
When we have off-sites, they will be part of the off-sites, but only from a work perspective. So, whatever we discuss, in terms of what is needed for them to do the work that they are part of it would be, but if it’s anything developmental, if it’s anything, where we are talking about strategy for the team, or the business, etc., then they won’t be taking part of.
When we onboard a contractor, we also have an onboarding workflow for them. So that under culture, they understand the office space, they understand the team that they’re going in, and they have a one-on-one, like an onboarding one-on-one with our team, the contingent talent team, where we also make it very clear in terms of, “What are our pillars like cultural pillars? How does it apply for contractor roles and who to go to for what?” So that confusion doesn’t stay and that’s clearly called out.
For example, some companies have badges that differentiate between a contractor versus a full-time employee, but we don’t. So, kind of bringing into smaller things that we do to ensure that there’s that inclusiveness.
Lydia: And it really looks like a team at the end of the day with no segregation in that sense, right?
Vinos: Exactly. If I see someone walking in, I will know if that's an employee or a contractor. I think that's the most important bit, which the contractors themselves feel that here, they're not treated any differently.
Best Practices to Manage Contingent Talent
Lydia: For businesses that are looking to maybe improve the way they manage contingent talent, what might be some best practices in your experience for them that you might recommend?
Vinos: One of the things we touched upon was finding out where your contractors are based. What are you hiring them for? Which teams are hiring them, etc. That’s one. You need a good vendor management system, as we call it in this industry. It’s like an ATS, but it does more than an ATS where you’re also hiring through it.
You’re also managing your contractors through it in terms of timesheets, invoicing, feedback data that I was talking about, surveys, etc. It does a lot more; it can also integrate with your HRIS if you want to create a profile for access, and so on. It can also connect to your talent database. So, having a good vendor management system is key. There are lots in the market. A key decision that companies also make is, “Should we do it in-house or should we outsource it?” Many times, that expertise doesn’t lie within the business.
So, in the first stage, they look at getting somebody else to come in with the expertise who can do the due diligence, who can get the technology, who can put in a workflow, and also have a team to manage it within the organization, so you can think about that. Even before that, I think it would also be like making a task force, including your legal employment, legal finance, procurement team, technology team, and HR, in order to define what this program would look like. Put some guidelines in terms of how you define contractors, who are responsible for what, etc. Once you have a better understanding of that, you can build from thereon.
Lydia: You mentioned the vendor management system and also ATS, right? So, in terms of technology, and the impact it has on managing contingent workforces, what kind of technologies do you use to manage a contingent workforce? Is it the same tool that you use for full-time hires?
Vinos: No, it’s different. It is kind of merging together. Even if you have, let’s say, an ATS, and let’s say you have a vendor management system, both fields create a worker profile, right? That worker profile or non-employee worker profile, because you want to track what the workforce looks like, whether they’re on-site, off-site, what their end dates are, what equipment they have access to, etc.
So, you have that development happening, where systems are coming closer together to that enterprise system. Then, depending on your program, if you’re doing direct sourcing, does the management system have that capability? Or would you want to build in a standalone direct-sourcing technology? Some organizations also have an intake for contractors or full-time employees, so that could sit in, let’s say, your ELP. Or it could sit somewhere else where you’re helping the business make a decision about what to hire, “Should I hire a full-time employee? Or should I hire a contractor?”
Those get in when you go to the independent contractor or the freelancer side of things, you also need to vet them well, and you need to ensure that they are really freelancers, which means what are their prime source of income, or you’re not giving them guided feedback, directing them how to work, choosing the time to work, etc. So, there’s a lot that goes into vetting contractors, and that vetting today is also supported by some technologies. So, it could become a group of different technologies for the contingent workforce. It hasn’t come all together, but I think that’s what will happen.
Steps into Forecasting the Need for Contingent Workforces
Lydia: In terms of forecasting the need for contingent workforces or contingent employees, what do you do in order to prepare yourself maybe for the next 12 months. As we’re entering into 2024, what steps go into them?
Vinos: It’s a difficult problem to solve to forecast for contingencies proactively. One of the things that many organizations are thinking about is a skills-based organization. So, if you go in that direction, and say, “Okay, these are the skills that we want to build, and then make a decision of what those skills that we already have are, or which can we build internally, which are core to our business, and what are the skill sets we can always procure from out”, then I think forecasting will become easier.
Otherwise, the way we do it is we look back at the past trends of hiring contractors. And then if there are any incremental changes, then we feed that back to the business to keep that in mind. But it’s not very proactive, it’s still very reactionary hiring that we do, especially on the temporary and the contractor side.
Maybe on the outsourcing side, it could be forecasted, because you can say, “Okay, we’re setting up a different function that has certain types of work that can be outsourced and you build it into your forecast.”
Lydia: As we enter 2024, we’ve seen so many disruptions already, such as mass layoffs, availability of talent, and even difficulty in finding the right talent with the right skill. Is there any trend you think might be affecting the space?
Vinos: What I've seen is availability of talent has become easier over the last 10 years. Even in countries like Korea and Japan, where stability is what's needed for the world. But now, more and more, because of the situations that we see no job is safe, right? No job is permanent. If you can look at it that way.
So, with that understanding, going into the talent pool, more and more candidates are open to either full-time or contract roles. So that's one trend, and also with the New Age workforce coming in, who are also non-traditional. They don't have the same mindset as what probably the millennials are.
Lydia: The Gen Z you mean?
Vinos: Exactly. They are open to trying different things before they make up their mind in terms of what they want to do. So, you do have that workforce, which makes it easy. Different countries are thinking about labor codes and labor laws differently as well. They’re trying to make it more liberal, which helps. Because that has been one of the deterrents for companies to think about contingent talent holistically, because they think it’s riddled with so much compliance, “Maybe we should just completely avoid it.” So, those are the things that will play out, and of course, technology with generative AI coming in. You never know how efficiency will come in and what that will drive things forward.
Lydia: Has generated AI played a role in your team so far? We've been seeing lots of different use cases and newer tools coming out in that sense, over the past year.
Vinos: No, we haven't yet. At a program level, we haven't. Individually, you try to gain efficiencies, in terms of learning or doing some research, etc. So it's just limited to that.
Lydia: So, what advice would you give someone who's starting out in the talent space today?
Vinos: I would say forget what talent has been so far. Think of it from a branding, marketing, and technology lens. If you know technology in terms of using data, and etc., you will have an edge. If you know how to market yourself and your positions as well as your company outside, you will have an edge. So, I think those are the things that I would put in like understanding data and using that to consult with your business will give you a super edge compared to how TA has operated traditionally.
Lydia: Thank you so much, Vinos, for your time and these great insights into building a system or a process around managing contingent workforces and all the different nuances that come into play, and all the different stakeholders you need to be thinking about when you build or when you plan to go down this way.
Now, for the benefit of those who are listening in and if there's anyone from the audience who might want to pick up a conversation, can you share your contact details?
Vinos: I think LinkedIn would be the best way to reach me. You can just search Vinos Samuel. I am not so active, but I'm on X (Twitter) as well, Vinos25 would be another avenue.
Lydia: We have been in conversation with Vinos Samuel of Netflix Asia Pacific. Thank you for joining us and remember to subscribe to stay tuned for more weekly episodes from All-In Recruitment.