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Supplier Diversity

Supplier diversity at Kelly Services is going strong

“Certification is a great tool, but closing the deal has always been about what we can deliver as a company,” says the leader of a top-tier Kelly Services supplier


Kelly Services, Inc (Troy, MI) is a glo-bal workforce solutions company that believes inclusivity should touch every aspect of the organization.

“Studies show that global leaders have open cultures that create and innovate, while closed cultures acquire,” says Brenda Marshall, the company’s senior director of global diversity solutions.

“In today’s world of emerging markets and changing demographics, the key to a successful supplier diversity process is alignment to our overall business strategy.”

Kelly Services began its supplier diversity program in 1979. “Initially, it was a minority talent initiative we undertook in response to customer requests. That positioned us as the first global staffing company to establish a formal process for supplier diversity development, which of course now includes minorities, women, veterans, the disabled, and underrepresented communities in the definition of diverse,” Marshall says.

“Being first has its advantages, but it’s only significant if we continue to reinvent ourselves and ensure that our processes are relevant to current business demands.”

Proactive, top-down strategy
“In 2003, we established a supplier diversity advisory council that consists of our senior leadership. That has been the biggest contributor to our growth and success in this space,” says Marshall.

Kelly Services is a corporate member of the National Minority Supplier Development Council and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and works closely with the U.S. Small Business Administration. “We take a proactive approach to finding qualified diverse business partners,” Marshall says.

“We participate in small business and professional association matchmaker events and host diversity events of our own. We have an online registration portal where suppliers can register to do business with Kelly Services. Suppliers can call us at (800) KELLY17 for help and information on how to navigate our company.”

The supplier development team recently launched a supplier orientation video that can also be found on the website.

Diverse suppliers who are accepted into the company’s program must have third-party certification. All certifications that satisfy customer requirements are allowed, Marshall notes, but certifications must be updated annually to maintain active status.

“The key characteristics we look for in our suppliers are business acumen and cultural alignment,” Marshall explains. “We’re interested in how well they know our industry and whether their focus on customer satisfaction matches ours.”

Hearing the voice of the supplier
Kelly surveys its suppliers every year. “We want to find out how we rank as a partner to them and what we can do to help in their growth and development,” she says. “Every initiative we create is a result of what our suppliers tell us they need. We want to be their preferred choice when they decide who they want to team with. We think that approach is a game changer.”

Kelly Services has an aggressive mentoring, coaching and counseling process tailored to the needs of the individual supplier, says Marshall. “We have some suppliers who are regional and don’t want to be national, let alone global,” she says. “It’s a matter of understanding who our suppliers are, where we can bring value, and how we can support them along this journey.”

Top-tier suppliers, proven performers over a period of years, meet with Kelly’s senior management on a regular basis as part of its mentor/protégé program. “We help them expand into new markets and broaden their skill sets. They are as vested in Kelly Services as we are in their success.”

MBE Synergy Computer Solutions provides IT professionals
One of those companies is the multinational Synergy Computer Solutions, Inc (Bingham Farms, MI). Synergy is a certified minority business enterprise. It also has offices in Hyderabad, India.

In 1995, founder Sridhar Guduguntla was a technical consultant working on client projects when he got the chance to bid on a large technology platform migration project for Chrysler Financial Corporation. He won the contract, and Synergy was born, says vice president Jeff Petrusha.

Petrusha has led the sales, marketing and operations effort for Synergy for fourteen years. The Kelly/Synergy relationship goes back to the late 1990s.

“Kelly Services was the vendor management service for Chrysler, and Synergy was already doing a significant amount of business helping Chrysler with the original server migration project as well as the implementation of a digital asset management program,” he explains. “Our resources ended up being part of the Kelly program. Since then, Kelly has added Synergy to other programs where their customer is looking for a supplier that can provide and retain qualified IT professionals to service their needs.”

“Third-party certification has helped Synergy open doors with customers that want vendors with a global footprint,” Guduguntla notes. “We satisfy their requirements for quality and diversity. Synergy has always relied on its strength in quality and customer focus. Certification is a great tool, but closing the deal has always been about what we can deliver as a company.”

Learning from the experience
Working under the umbrella of Kelly Services has provided Synergy with insight into how to service large customers, says Petrusha. “Brenda Marshall’s advice on the best way to position Synergy in the eyes of Kelly Services has led to increased business opportunity and revenue growth,” he says.

“Recently, I took a deep dive into the books looking at the opportunities we bid on versus the engagements we won. In a discussion with Duane Green, Kelly’s director of global supplier diversity solutions, I found that Kelly also looks at this data when they try to capture more of the opportunities they go after. This helped validate that I’m looking at the right data to make good business decisions.”

“Synergy has been a great partner to Kelly Services and is a great success story. They are thought leaders and have provided consistent quality,” says Marshall. “They support us on multiple accounts across multiple geographies and disciplines on some of our largest, most strategic, and most valued engagements.”

Reaching goals and making a difference
Kelly Services has specific targets for diverse spend across its business services. “We consistently exceed our goals,” says Marshall. “In 2013 we worked with over 400 diverse suppliers nationally. That represented 30 percent of Kelly’s total procurement expense.”

Marshall points out that 82 percent of the diverse spend was in high margin professional/technical services. “This is significant in creating high-profit, high-value, sustainable relationships.” Marshall says.

Tier 2 supplier diversity is important to Kelly Services and currently comprises twelve percent of spend, she adds. Prime suppliers are required to have supplier diversity programs of their own and have annual quarterly supplier diversity goals. Synergy, for example, has a longstanding goal to foster growth among small minority enterprises, says Petrusha. “We feel it’s important to give opportunities to minority and women-owned businesses just as Kelly Services has done for us.”

“While we’re proud of our annual increase in spend, that’s not our value driver,” Marshall says. “We focus on the quality of the engagement. If we’re doing everything according to our strategy on the front end, the quantity will take care of itself.”

Kelly Services has been recognized nationally as a standard for best practices in supplier diversity, says Marshall. “It’s a team effort and our success is achieved through collaboration and accountability from the top down.”


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