August 30, 2022

You’re Doing It Wrong - The Argument for Extended Workforce Guided Buying

Steven Williams & Pete Buer
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The Story in One Paragraph

With the backdrop of a tumultuous global economy, contract labor markets are increasingly volatile. Companies are running into significant and unanticipated cost and performance failures because they’re not sufficiently in tune with changing market rates and conditions. The good news is that a new approach exists—Guided Buying—which equips contract labor buyers, as they are buying, to make better informed, economically sound decisions.

Our New Ab-Normal

“Vibecession,” “’Weird’ Economy,” “Job-full Recovery” … Economists spanning the continuum from government types to TikTok influencers are finding all kinds of fun hyperbolic language to describe current economic conditions. While they tend to disagree on the vector—up, down, sideways—they have a common view on how change in any direction happens nowadays: constantly, quickly, and increasingly unpredictably.

In the markets for contract labor (consultants, outsourcing providers, project teams, contingent workers, etc.), this same pattern holds true. Demand, supply, and rates are all moving up, down, and sideways with continuing volatility. And in this environment, the cost of being out of sync with market is substantial.

To illustrate, consider patterns in the market for US-based contingent software developers over the past year:

  • 3 out of 4 companies are paying higher bill rates; the median increase is $5.10 per hour, which translates into $10,600 per year in additional cost per developer.
  • 3 out of 4 companies are adding software developers, most increasing their ranks by 50% or more.
  • Financial services companies are adding developers most aggressively, some doubling or tripling their numbers.
  • 7 out of 10 companies adding developers are paying higher bill rates than before (so much for the theory of lower prices when you buy in bulk).

With swings like this happening—and fast—just think about impact on the business when bill rates change substantially, suddenly turning your 5% over-market position for software developers into a 5% under-market, or worse, turning your 5% under-market position into a deadly 15% under-market one for those mission-critical roles you're so desperate to fill. And what if you stay misaligned like that for weeks or months on end?

This Is Where Companies Have Got It Wrong

The great risk labor buyers face, as what feels like an abnormal market evolves to become our steady-state operating reality, is longer periods of being farther off market, leading to greater cost variance, hiring lags, and quality issues. And, if you don’t have a ready, granular, dynamic read on what bill rates are doing at any given point in time for all of the different types of contract labor you employ, you simply can’t make good buying decisions.

Consider this: elsewhere in supply chain management, it’s standard practice for buyers to follow the market prices of key inputs minute by minute to manage costs for the business, in the hopes of avoiding mistakes that can cost $millions. Why wouldn’t companies take that exact same approach in contract labor buying, where those same $millions are just as much at stake?

How To Start Doing It Right

Our first, fast guidance? Update your rate cards—stat. Despite the growing challenge of keeping buying in tune with market rates, we hear confessions from an awful lot of companies that their rate cards haven’t been updated recently, in some cases in years. The observations range from “We only really do updates in the places where we’re feeling pain,” to “Refresh our rate cards? We don’t even have rate cards!”

Without the foundational boundaries of an up-to-date rate card, there’s little hope of pricing work correctly. To that end, our data shows that 1 out of 3 companies has rate card compliance below 70%, and 1 in 5 has compliance worse than 50%.


We’re happy to report a recent surge in companies coming to us to update their rate cards. It’s a wise move for more than one reason, as the rate card of old is no longer cutting it. In addition to helping companies recalibrate to changing markets, we also help them:

  • Broaden their scope of coverage to include both CW- and SOW-based workers; and,
  • Balance their objectives by optimizing for cost management but NOT unduly at the expense of speed, quality, and risk.

All of this is done with a timesaving, work-enabling, automated approach. Not your father’s Oldsmobile.

Speaking of Oldsmobiles …

How To Do It Really Right Over Time

Rate cards are fundamental to setting parameters around what you consider to be the safe space for buying—guardrails on the sides of the road, keeping your buyers out of the ditch. What if, in addition to setting those guardrails, you could also equip your buyers with Lane Keeping Assist technology, helping them stay between the white and yellow lines, past all the on- and off-ramps, and at a safe driving distance at all times?

This is the concept behind Extended Workforce Guided Buying. Distributed requisitioning is happening throughout the extended enterprise, with greater frequency, expanding volume, and (frankly) frightening variability in buyer experience levels. Companies need a better way both to enable all this activity and to guide buyers to optimal decisions, even as rates and other labor market conditions are changing.

Brightfield offers such a solution. Within the guardrails of your price parameters, and right in your requisitioning system, TDX AI Guided Buyer deploys market intelligence and behavior-based prompts in an automated fashion to "nudge" buyers, as they are buying, to the right decisions that optimize for price, speed, and quality.

Learn More

We challenge you to reflect on the proficiency of the contract labor buyers in your organization. How many of your buyers are either unaware of or simply don’t follow your guardrails? What proportion of your buyers can stay in the center of the lane regardless of the twists and turns of market conditions? We’d love to talk with you about it - Contact Us Now.

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