Avencia Consults: Melanie Forbes, Managing Director, APSCo OutSource

Chris Buckingham (Director) and Louisa Newell (Talent Solutions Lead), were recently joined by Melanie Forbes, Managing Director of APSCo OutSource, for the latest Avencia Consults.  Melanie has an extensive background in outsourcing and has recently launched, and will lead on, APSCo OutSource; the first trade body for the talent solutions outsourcing sector.

In today’s Avencia Consults, we find out what this means for the outsourcing community and its customers.


Why has APSCo OutSource been launched and what will it look to achieve?

APSCo OutSource was created because of demand from APSCo members. The challenges, needs, and agendas of staffing and outsourcing are so different, so there was a clear need for a trade body that specialises within outsourcing.

APSCo OutSource will support and advise members, lobby government around policy for the outsourcing sector, raise standards, drive change, and challenge poor buying-habits, creating a non-competitive peer-to-peer environment to encourage the outsourcing sector to share knowledge and best practice.

We started with 20 founding members and 1 trusted partner, and I am delighted to say that since the launch at the end of January, APSCo OutSource now has 27 members and 11 trusted partners, so things are heading in the right direction.


Avencia is a relatively recent entrant to the outsourcing market, how will APSCo OutSource meet the needs of emerging providers alongside long-established providers?

Providers like Avencia can be flexible, agile, and adaptable, which is what your customers want you to be. I think the lack of maturity works in your favour as you can be seen to be better equipped and able to adapt to the ever-changing market.

APSCo OutSource can support entrants like Avencia by working to challenge and influence public policy to help to level the playing field. As an example, there could be a situation where Avencia is precluded from working with a particular customer because of onerous payment terms. Our political lobbying work means that OutSource can work to influence policy to challenge payment terms to give providers like Avencia an opportunity to work with customers across the whole spectrum.

There’s also the prospect for entrants to hear directly from the end-user client and
long-standing outsourcing providers in sharing knowledge and best practice.


You’ve talked about raising the standards in the outsourcing industry. Where do standards need to be improved?

There are two sides to this. When we talk about raising standards, we don’t just mean raising the standards of our members, but also the standards of how end-user clients engage with our members.

As an example some outsourcing providers are not great at supply chain management and, when direct sourcing, at managing the candidate experience. APSCo OutSource will look at how we can advise and support so that outsource providers lead the way.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) will also be a focus as this is a huge discussion point for many businesses. We will aim to help, but most importantly encourage our members to own ED&I; helping them to drive the conversation and provide the necessary support and advice to the outsourcing sector and its customers.

For end-user clients, there are so many organisations trying to commoditise the outsourcing sector, making it transactional and less valuable. We will aim to challenge these buying habits through influencing the buying market to drive value.


Out of these changes, what do you expect to be the biggest challenge?

All of it is going to be challenging. The outsourcing sector has evolved so much and many of these topics have been talked about for some time. The fact that there is still space for change tells a story. The real question is: are we going to be able to collaborate fully, members, trusted partners, end-user clients - that will be the real challenge.


Quite rightly, and understandably, there has been a lot of focus on what APSCo OutSource will mean to the members, but what will it mean for an end-client?

I have been in the outsourcing sector for over 30 years and have a vast network of customers. Before I took the role at APSCo OutSource, I reached out to some of my network and asked them what they thought, and the overwhelming feedback was that it will help demystify the outsourcing sector. Many end-clients find outsourcing very confusing and overly complicated. I have sat on both sides and understand the market very well so can be that client interface.

It is my vision for APSCo OutSource to be the place where customers can come for help and advice on topics such as going out to tender or changing a supplier, and, that eventually, they insist that a provider is a member of APSCo OutSource as part of the RFP process.


From your perspective is there a need to demonstrate the points of difference between outsourcing and staffing to end-clients? Will APSCo showcase these differences?

An APSCode was written a few years ago to define the relationship between outsource providers and recruitment agencies, however, it was written in the spirit of some recruitment firms feeling let down by the outsourcing providers.

One of the things on our representative committee’s agenda is to review, rename, and reshape this code, so that both recruitment firms and outsource providers are able to adhere to it and in doing so work better together.

I think most end-user clients understand the differences between staffing and outsourcing so I don’t think APSCo OutSource needs to showcase these differences but we will highlight that our members are best in class.


In a recent interview, you mentioned that RPO has not evolved as much as contingent workforce/MSP solutions. How has it not?

RPO has evolved, but I don’t think it is evolving at the same pace. Many customers become engrossed within the cycle of outsource-insource-outsource, and quite often, depending on the customer, want to own the employer brand and most of the process, so I just wonder how much the provider can truly influence the things that are more innovative.

Innovation means different things to different customers and the key is to keep pace, either by introducing new ideas/concepts or by challenging existing ways of working.


The IR35 reform has naturally been a huge topic of discussion within our sector. Do you think contingent workforce will grow or contract because of the reform?

I am not sure the private sector will adopt the legislation in the same way as the public sector and I think the true outcomes from the reform will not be seen until months down the line.

I am worried there may be an increase in non-compliant umbrella companies offering higher levels of take home pay by creating disguised remuneration packages, however, I know this is under review with HMRC.

Businesses can overcome this by maintaining membership of the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA) or Professional Passport and any umbrella companies that are members of APSCo OutSource and APSCo UK must either pass an audit by APSCo external audit partners (Saffery Champness & EY or maintain membership of the FCSA or Professional Passport). 


What Avencia thinks: 

What is certain is that businesses will continue to use contingent labour, but we are likely to see a change in the categorisation of the workforce with SoW and consultancy agreements on the increase. However, this will in turn place an increasing burden on procurement to manage the contractual administration, compliance, onboarding, and offboarding processes of the workforce. We have also seen at Avencia, examples of poorly constructed SoWs by a range of providers that do not fit a genuine outsourcing agreement – Louisa Newell.


You mentioned earlier about the importance of candidate experience, and in a recent podcast with Jonny at Zivio, you mentioned that the war for talent is over and that talent had won. What did you mean by this?

We live in a world where everything needs to be quick and easy, however, that doesn’t mean we should fully digitise the process – people still want human interaction!

There are so many new recruitment technology providers and recruitment technology can most certainly improve both candidate and client experience, but I don’t think it can be totally automated. It must be hybrid and retain the human touch.


Avencia is proud to be a founding member of APSCo OutSource and a provider of out-sourced talent solutions, specifically for the Speciality Insurance and Reinsurance market.

Our solutions include Recruitment Process Outsourcing, Recruitment Technology, Managed Service Programmes and Contingent Workforce payroll and SoW solutions.

Find out more on avenciaconsulting.com or contact Louisa Newell via email or LinkedIn. 

avenciaconsulting.com | apsco.org/outsource


Popular posts from this blog

Avencia Asks: Carina Barclay

Avencia Asks: Bianca Pennington

The importance of aligning culture with talent