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External Workforce

Who is responsible for external employees?

External Workforce

External employees are a significant part of our business world and are becoming increasingly important in today's agile working environment. However, they are often not treated in the same way as permanent employees, but as a side issue. One problem here is the lack of clear responsibilities, which are essential in order to deal effectively with external specialists and the associated processes. In this blog, you can find out how the employee journey differs from the workforce life cycle, and what measures our experts recommend to improve the situation.

The growing relevance of external employees

External employees are playing an increasingly important role in a fast-moving, agile working environment. This is not just a matter of outsourcing complete services, such as payroll accounting or IT support, but also of adding external specialists to the team. Nowadays, external employees are deployed in all kinds of functions and at all hierarchical levels.

And these trends bring new challenges in their train. Many companies struggle to clearly define the responsibilities for managing external employees within the organisation. In particular, the Purchasing and HR departments are often involved in discussions about responsibility for external employees.

Employee Journey vs. Workforce Life Cycle

Internal employees are usually recruited by line managers and the HR department jointly. The specific division of tasks and responsibilities may differ from company to company. The HR department is usually responsible for job advertisements and job interviews. External employees, on the other hand, are usually engaged by the relevant teams in collaboration with the Purchasing department, as Purchasing has the necessary expertise in procurement, supplier and price negotiations. The processes differ even at the point when the vacancy is advertised. After procurement, however, the steps are often the same.


Visual: There is essentially very little difference between the end-to-end process of an internal and an external employee. Only the responsibilities are divided up differently.


The steps for inducting new employees are clearly defined to ensure a consistent and positive employee experience – for internal employees, at least. HR supports internal employees either directly or in an expert role supporting line managers. The process is different for external employees. The induction steps are defined and supervised independently by the teams, in some cases also by Purchasing as part of the procurement process.

Having these processes run independently of each other is not ideal. Whether employees are internal or external should make no difference. HR Campus believes that internal and external employees should be treated as equally as possible. This would facilitate the integration of external employees and help in identifying any problems more quickly.

Recommendations on the ideal Workforce Life Cycle

External employees and orders should be procured by Purchasing as usual. However, support during the assignment should be provided by HR and the relevant line manager. This allows each department to use their strengths to the best possible effect. A clear division of responsibility helps the departments to understand which process steps they are responsible for, resulting in greater efficiency and better support for external specialists throughout the entire workforce life cycle.

For large companies with a large number of external employees, an MSP (Managed Service Provider) setup may also be useful. An MSP can relieve the burden on internal HR and Purchasing by taking over procurement and recruitment, for example. It may also make sense to create a new position or department that takes responsibility for external employees, in order to improve the overview and communication.

As with internal employees, internal communication with external employees should be handled by the HR department or their line manager. Purchasing should take on communication between the company and the suppliers. The unambiguous separation of these responsibilities is a challenge. Support can also be provided here by a VMS (Vendor Management System) software solution, which clearly assigns the responsibilities of the individual work steps to the relevant departments and individuals.


A clear distribution of responsibilities is crucial in order to handle external employees efficiently. It is important to define which department is responsible for which steps and tasks in the workforce life cycle. Such a definition enables complex workflows to be handled more quickly and efficiently. This is achieved by splitting up the work steps in order to use the respective departments' competencies to the best effect. For example, the Purchasing department will be responsible for procurement and for maintaining supplier relationships, while line managers and the HR department will take care of the next steps in the workforce life cycle. A Vendor Management System can digitalise this division and make it efficient by providing a clearly defined workflow with defined responsibilities.







Total Workforce Management, HR Campus AG

Etienne Herren

Etienne completed his studies in work and organisational psychology a year ago. Since then, he has been advising companies in the area of external employees in connection with SAP Fieldglass. Thanks to his own experience as an external employee, he knows both sides of the process and continuously optimises it.

Published: 25. June 2024

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