Thought of as a quality and cost improvement tool by some and at best, a necessary evil by others, where you stand on this will be determined by which side of the personnel fence you are sitting.
So, is having a PSL a help or a hindrance? From the Project Manager's perspective, trying to get the best team built to produce the deliverables in the specified time, PSLs are often thought of as a hindrance. Most PMs are not concerned with regulating the day rates being charged by contractors as most of the time these will be written into the overall project costs and charged back to the client. They want the best, most experienced project personnel, who are often sourced by word of mouth and networking opportunities. But what if the person in mind fits the bill perfectly but is not registered with an agency already on the companies PSL? Chances are, by the time the person goes through the registration process with an agency already on their PSL, the HR department will have filled the position from CV's put forward from one of their regular agencies. No wonder then that Project Managers can get extremely frustrated with the whole process.
However, to balance the debate we need to look at things from the HR perspective. Most HR Managers would argue that PSLs are there to achieve consistency, cost efficiency, streamlining and to ensure operational uniformity throughout the company. HR personnel tend to look at the company wide picture rather than a project by project basis and so are heavily driven by cost parameters. They would argue that left purely to Project Managers, the day rates would likely keep going up with no consistency in place throughout the entire business. More than that, the PSL is put in place to increase the quality of candidates and to improve relationships with chosen recruitment agencies. Not surprising then that HR Managers do not appreciate being completely side stepped with little respect being shown for the company PSL.
So what is the solution? Mike Howard, partner of specialist recruitment company Project Excellence believes the answer is simple, "PSLs are necessary for companies as they provide the consistent supply of staff and resources for projects. However, the larger agencies are not discipline specific as they are more focussed on volume rather than specialist placements. We believe there is opportunity for both the larger agencies as well as the more exclusive specialist agencies".
Mike is concerned that the small local specialist providers are being excluded from the recruitment process as a result of cost driven recruitment strategies, "At Project Excellence we know many of the individuals we put forward for positions personally. We meet many of them through our technical networking sessions and social evenings and often they will have worked through us on other projects which is a huge advantage".
"PSLs clearly open doors for recruitment agencies but usually the larger, often global agencies who work in placing large numbers of candidates for non-specialist posts at very low margins that the small agencies can't match. We believe the answer is by utilising a flexible recruitment strategy which includes the small specialist agencies. So for any new position the agencies on the PSL would be notified along with one or two pre-selected specialists for that type of role. This will ultimately benefit all companies by ensuring they get not only the numbers needed but also the best specialist personnel for the required roles", concludes Mike at Project Excellence.