Total Workforce Management Evolution: How OG&E and Brightspeed Manage Employees and Contingent Workers


In today’s dynamic world, the workforce is not only confined to permanent employees. A significant change in recent years is the rise of external workers, heightening the need to proactively manage everyone – from full- and part-time employees to services providers and contingent workers – all while reducing manual processes. This is now an integral part of many companies, including Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) and Brightspeed.

A total workforce management strategy allows businesses to keep the whole workforce in focus for increased agility, productivity, and bottom-line impact.  

OG&E’s experience with contingent and contract labor is unique. Despite the 121 years under its belt, OG&E has embraced the changing landscape of employment with open arms. For over 25 years, OG&E has been utilizing SAP solutions, including SAP Fieldglass solutions for over a decade. Together with the HR solutions of SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Fieldglass solutions – a comprehensive vendor management portfolio for external labor – help pave the way for the successful workforce management of permanent and contingent and contract labor. 

The challenge lies in determining which positions to fill with contingent workers or profile workers, a process OG&E has mastered over the years. The decision hinges on the specific skills required and the immediacy and duration of the need. This flexible approach has enabled OG&E to successfully bring in workers with diverse profiles for various projects, such as its recent SAP SuccessFactors Human Experience Management (HXM) Suite implementation project.

Ownership of this process is shared between the departments of HR, the business units, and procurement, reflecting a trend observed across various organizations. A study conducted in 2022 revealed that HR was responsible for external worker functions about 51% of the time.* This is a testament to the rising importance of contingent and profile workers and the need for HR to engage them effectively.

However, this process isn’t without its complexities, necessitating collaboration between HR and procurement. Issues such as rate cards and other procurement-specific processes require strong cooperation between the two functions.  

Previously, a lack of comprehensive understanding about OG&E’s workforce made everyday HR and finance decisions increasingly challenging. The management of contingent workers through SAP Fieldglass solutions was handled by a third party. However, the transition to internal management provided more visibility.  

HR teams must plan, source, and manage their workforce across all types of labor

This has empowered OG&E to make more informed decisions. For example, OG&E had 10 excellent candidates from different suppliers for a position, two of which came at a significantly higher cost. Recognizing the value of the other eight candidates, it challenged the high markup, resulting in one supplier lowering its rate. This type of negotiation was previously not possible for OG&E due to the lack of visibility, but now it’s an integral part of the process. 

In contrast, Brightspeed, a company that has recently started out, is managing a dynamic workforce of  4,200 employees and almost as many contractors. Its mission? To lay high-speed fiber in the South and Midwest of the United States. Alongside this, it also had a recent divestiture from Lumen, with hundreds of inherited applications and a fresh contingent workforce.

But its workforce needs are ever-evolving. With a contingent workforce that ebbs and flows according to the company’s needs, Brightspeed is flexible and can adapt, from field workers laying fiber to IT specialists building new applications.

Brightspeed utilized SAP’s suite of applications to help streamline its operations post-divestiture. Lumen had already implemented SAP SuccessFactors solutions and SAP Fieldglass solutions, so Brightspeed decided to create a seamless transition and continue to use these solutions. The suite it uses now includes SAP SuccessFactors solutions, SAP Fieldglass solutions, and SAP S/4HANA.

The SAP Fieldglass portfolio is used to help manage contingent workers. Within this context, Brightspeed’s managed service provider plays a crucial role. It liaises with the hiring manager, handles candidate selection, and ultimately delivers the temporary worker in SAP Fieldglass solutions. These workers are then trained in compliance and technical procedures, with all the information interfaced back into SAP SuccessFactors Learning. From an SAP S/4HANA perspective, cost center project activities and other elements are pushed out to its time system and raw time is imported to SAP S/4HANA, capturing millions of dollars in project cost every pay period.

However, the journey wasn’t without its challenges. As a young company, Brightspeed had a massive task ahead of it in getting these systems up and running in just 10 months. The team successfully navigated this initial hurdle, but soon realized it hadn’t fully prepared for the post-go-live period due to the compressed implementation period. This led to a challenging few months, as it scrambled to train personnel and resolve system errors. Despite this, the team has since stabilized operations.

As these examples show, the role of contingent and profile workers is evolving and becoming increasingly integral to the success of organizations. They are no longer just field workers but are being relied upon for specific skill sets. This allows companies like Brightspeed and OG&E to stay agile, adapt to business needs, and manage their contingent and profile workers as well as their permanent employees.

A total workforce management strategy, when done right, can leverage the full potential of a diverse workforce and make companies more agile. SAP SuccessFactors solutions and SAP Fieldglass solutions can work together to help create and manage a dynamic, flexible workforce that can easily adapt. The experiences of OG&E and Brightspeed highlight the importance of strategic planning and the effective use of technological tools in managing the workforce.

Andrea Domhardt is part of Product Marketing for SAP SuccessFactors.

*“Workforce Solutions Buyer Survey 2022, Americas,“ Staffing Industry Analysts, 2022.

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