How can a staffing agency become a Master Vendor?

A strategic role as a Master Vendor is considered an ideal position by many staffing agencies that want to do more than ‘just supply manpower’. But how do you lay claim to this role?


Organisations that no longer want to rely on temporary employees as an ad hoc solution, often opt for a collaboration with a number of preferred suppliers. Often, a more or less coordinated approach is put into practice, with arrangements regarding duties, powers, and responsibilities. Knowledge within the organisation is pooled, for example in the Sales department.
But what do you do if this approach stops yielding the desired results over time? Usually, the next step in the so-called maturity model is to bring in a Master Vendor: one preferred supplier who takes charge of the entire process of hiring temporary employees for an organisation.
Many employment businesses dream of being a Master Vendor. Not only does this guarantee them of an ongoing collaboration with a particular client, but above all it allows them to do what they do best: providing strategic solutions for an organisation’s staffing needs. Instead of simply supplying manpower, they will provide added value.

Not just for major players

It may seem like a role only large staffing agencies can play. In reality, however, small businesses are starting to prove to be equally capable of holding their own in this role. A prerequisite is they have the proper tooling to gain insight into a client’s needs and their suppliers’ options.
In practice, clients often tend to ask for independent tooling. They do not want to be bound to a single supplier’s system, out of fear of becoming dependent on it. A Managed Services Provider (MSP) is an option, although they are generally focused on white collar jobs and don’t ‘speak the language’ required for the temporary staffing industry. A dedicated Master Vendor model in combination with a Vendor Management System (VMS) is usually the better choice.

The ideal situation

In previous episodes of this series we elaborated on what a Master Vendor has to offer in an ideal situation: professional supplier management, adaptability, orderly processes, compliance, and multiple sourcing strategies. In short: they would be in control of the entire hiring process for temporary employees.
But how do you get this dream role as a staffing agency? First of all, you will have to invest in a high degree of automation. If staffing agencies are willing to overcome their fears, effectiveness of temporary employment processes could be drastically increased. Good intermediaries excel at interacting with candidates. Rather than making them superfluous, automation facilitates contact moments. It may not be the most original of examples, but consider a candidate’s birthday. An automated system can, in fact, ensure the intermediary has the opportunity to contact the candidate on their birthday. This allows you to set yourself apart from the rest.
Second, I believe proper supplier management provides opportunities. Enter into agreements with fellow staffing agencies to be able to always guarantee candidates and ensure no technological barriers might hinder candidates starting at the client company.
Third, make sure you are able to live up to the expectations that come with the role. Be prepared to discuss strategy, and use all available data and insights to spring into action and start delivering added value to clients. Make sure you have tooling at your disposal that allows for optimal insight and transparency. Only then will you be able to see what difficulties a client faces and subsequently show them how you, the Master Vendor, can help them overcome these difficulties.

Bart Goossens, Commercial Director at Nétive VMS