Contingent Workers; how to attract, manage and engage with transient staff

Figures have shown that the employment market is changing, and the contingent workforce is continuing to rise. As such, recruitment services, human resource experts and employers will have to change their current processes in order to attract, and subsequently manage, a workforce that is becoming more and more transient.

What is a ‘Contingent Workforce?

A phrase that is becoming increasingly common amongst recruitment personnel, contingent workforce, or contingent employees, is the name given to the growing group of workers who are employed by companies on a non-permanent basis. This includes a wide pool of talents, including independent professionals, contract workers and consultants, and freelancers, as well as those taken on by short fixed-term contracts. While there is diversity within this pool, they are unified by their desire for greater flexibility in their work and a greater variety within the work they do, combined with more control and independence within their career. This trend has largely been promoted by the millennial generation, there are increasing numbers of older skilled professionals who are looking to take control over their careers independent from a single company.

Employers are also finding that the rise of the contingent workforce is suiting their needs too. Given the rise of labour costs, combined with the necessity of using specialists on an ad hoc basis; temporarily employing members of the contingent workforce allows them to supplement their existing employees with experts on specific areas, without retaining and paying them for the long term.

This is all part of a global trend

The rise of contingent workers is occurring across the globe and, as expected, countries in the developed world are leading this. The United States Government Accountability Office suggests that, currently, 40% of the existing workforce are contingent workers, with this figure being expected to rise to 50% around 2020. Equally, the Australian Government finds that approximately 30% of their workforce is made up of contingent workers.

Along with the increasing desire for independence from workers, and the need to reduce labour costs from employees, Deloitte suggest that this trend is also being caused by the increasing need for specialist skills, with their 2015 Global Human Capital Trends report finding that 80% of their respondents believing that this is the main driver of the increasing contingent workforce.

Engaging a contingent workforce presents a new host of challenges

However, as increasing numbers of contingent workers are looking to undertake new experiences in their career, it means the established ways of engaging and attracting talent need to be reconsidered.

As such, you must ensure that your company and workplace culture fits with the ideals of those within this transient workforce. By creating a culture which prides itself on flexibility, variety, and skills, you can draw in new temporary workers who align themselves with your core values.

The important point is not to try and present a culture that encompasses everything, however, it would be difficult to market yourself as flexible and innovate while also being process driven. Instead, stick to what you know best and focus on your key competencies. For example, Subway pride themselves on operational efficiency, Red Bull on their showmanship and Tesla on their innovation. By presenting and promoting your business culture effectively and honestly, you will easily find temporary workers who will easily synchronise with you on projects.

Established management processes must also be reconsidered

As temporary workers will only be with your company for a short period of time, the traditional management process surrounding employees needs to be adapted. Building up capabilities and competencies within a contingent employee may all be well and good to increase the speed at which the project is completed, by the moment their contract is over, you will be losing the time and resources invested in that individual. As such, any and all training and development must be considered during the recruitment process.

This then presents two distinct pathways that must be considered:

Firstly, management models need to be created that work to the fundamentals of revenue generated based on the utilisation of skills. This revolves around the strong understanding of business goals and how to achieve these so the company can decide on exactly what skills need to be brought in from the outside. As such, this requires a greater understanding of the processes themselves and the skills required to achieve this, rather than just focusing on broad overviews.

Secondly, there also needs to be a focus on creating ‘stickiness’ between companies and the contingent employees they choose to use. By making an active effort to keep in contact with the most efficient and productive external workers, a company can foster an environment and business relationship that allows these workers to want to return to the company. Equally, by maintaining a solid pool of transient workers, a company knows that they can quickly find a known entity, rather than searching the large pool of employees out there for someone who has the exact skills needed.

Technology is at the heart of the transient trend

Companies that wish to gain the benefits of using the contingent workforce must embrace new technologies which can significantly help them in the planning and management of these temporary staff. The use of workforce analytics, cloud platforms, and payroll management software will make the monitoring and management of an influx of temporary workers far easier.

Technologies such as these also allow for greater visibility when it comes to the employment of contingent workers, with this visibility being noticed from all angles.

Companies will be able to see the processes and progress of their transient workers, the workers themselves will be able to access important information far more easily, and this culture of openness and transparency will generate an environment where these workers will be more likely to return to the company in the future.

This trend is here to stay

Therefore, while more workers are looking to take control of their careers and work with greater independence, and companies are looking for skills rather than people, it seems that this trend isn’t going away. As such, recruitment teams and human resource operators will need to adjust their mindsets and processes to capitalise on this. However, if this is done quickly and effectively, there will be significant benefits for everyone involved.

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