A great (and bankrupt) business person once offered this insightful query: “Am I running my business, or is it running me? Or, am I just running around?” Do some intense navel-gazing at your management of contingent labor (or lack thereof), whether outsourced to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or not, and be viciously honest – who is running whom? And who belongs to the tail that is actually being chased?

Problematic or Programmatic?

When most companies candidly look at the way they use and manage extended workers, they see problems and not solutions, more heartache than help. Yes, a programmatic approach to the way we use contingent labor and assimilate free agents is a recent development in the history of workforce solutions – the “womb to tomb” employment era is officially over. And the way organizations have strategically integrated the non-employed worker into their overall business paradigm has drastically changed even since 2009. That said, the intricately planned use of “buffer” workers should provide viable solutions to competitive challenges and changing economic landscapes instead of wreaking havoc.

Isolated or Integrated?

One of the challenges to a successful contingent labor program is the lack of a holistic, global point of view. In other words, talent acquisition of any sort doesn’t stand alone – it’s not just a component of your business model; it’s a pivotal part of a comprehensive model in positioning your company for immediate and imminent success. Is staffing really that critical to an organization’s prosperity? Of course, because it should be the lifeblood of your most important asset – talent! Is the way you use extended workers on the radar in your C-suite? It should be – it could make or break your company’s future. Trust me: if you don’t get a handle on your staffing woes, they will simply magnify.

Reactive or Proactive?

Plan the work and work the plan, right? Or just wait until the chaos intensifies to the point where you have to do something drastic, something potentially destructive long-term. Workforce strategies aren’t something that are the result of today’s crisis of being understaffed – they need to be much more intentional than that. Are you looking one week down the road, much less one month, one year or one decade down the road? Are you forecasting what talent needs you require to be a thriving, sustainable enterprise for years to come? My father, a professional baseball player, said the best way to hit a curve ball is to move up in the batter’s box. Indeed the old saying, “It’s always a good thing to get out in front of a problem,” is wise to this day.

Subjective or Objective?

How do you determine the quality of your staffing strategy? If you ask me, I’m tall, dark and thin, but in reality, I’m only 5’ 11 ¾, gray-headed and a tad heavier than my doctor likes. My perception of my circumstances varies greatly from someone who is more objective, on the outside looking in. Stockholm Syndrome often causes our rose-colored glasses to be dangerously tinted by what we are in proximity to, not what the reality of the situation is. Look outside for honest guidance and counsel and love the truth more than you love false comfort, even if it’s difficult to hear.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” said the inimitable Kermit the Frog (and common sense genius Yogi Berra, too). More than likely, your staffing program is at a fork in the road today. It was yesterday, and will be again tomorrow, unless you start running it instead of letting it run you and your business. Take a programmatic, integrated, proactive approach to the way you use contingent labor. And if you need a little perspective, which you most likely do, seek the counsel of someone on the outside, someone who is an expert and more objective than you might be. Don’t continue to live the nightmare of magnified staffing problems.

The fork, please.