How to better manage a contingent workforce

by Contributor14 Feb 2017

Owen Jones provides his tips for managing this ever-expanding component of the Australian workforce

Many experts in the ‘Future of Work’ field are predicting that the workforce will be dominated by a contingent and freelance market, so without that feeling of ‘permanency’ how can you retain your contingent workforce and keep them engaged?

While contractors appreciate the nature of their engagement they still want to feel they are contributing to the culture and values of a business. Some of the key benefits that are forfeited include, annual leave, sick leave and company bonuses but other company benefits should be extended to help bring the workforce together.

Like all things in life and business it’s all about customer experience and this is never truer for a contingent worker. Too many times we hear stories of contractors being left in reception, not being shown where the toilets are and contractors that are not given a log on or lap top days  after they’ve started – imagine how that would make you feel? First impressions really do count and if they are negative, it won’t help get the most out of your workforce and ultimately can be very damaging to your brand.

 What little things can make a big difference?

  • Someone to meet them (with a smile) at reception
  • Full on-boarding and initiation
  • Introduction to immediate team and key stakeholders
  • Invite to team/company meetings
  • Invited to the right e-mail groups to receive company updates/information

Going the extra mile will reap benefits:

  • Buddy up – teaming a contingent worker with a permanent employee who knows the ropes is a great way to help with orientation and answering all those little questions. This is particularly important in a large, complex organisation
  • Organise a coffee or lunch on their first day with immediate team to make them feel welcome
  • Make sure they have a name badge on their desk and that an e-mail goes around explaining who they are and what they have joined to do
  • Any internal functions or social club engagements, make sure they are given the option to attend

Technology
There are now many online tools that can be used to on-board your workforce and also to gauge how your workforce is ‘feeling’. For example, receiving an SMS from the CEO welcoming you on your first day is a great way to make someone feel that they are a part of the team. These types of tools can also be used for reminding staff to complete company specific new starter training such as Work Health and Safety.

Two of the leading tech companies that offer these services are Culture Amp www.cultureamp.com and enboarder www.enboarder.com.

Surveys and online feedback tools are being used by consultancies to stay in contact with their contractors and measure the level of engagement or highlight any contractors with red flags. These responses can then be communicated with the client and potentially stop any early issues or concerns.

Everyone loves achieving a goal!
Another great driver of a workforce is hitting a goal or a target. Whether it be an individual goal or a company target if your contingent workforce is part of that process and they are included in the progress and reporting they will feel like they are adding value, so set goals and explain why it is important for them and the business. Don’t forget, if you achieve the goal to include them in the celebration!

Golden handcuffs
If you are hiring a team of individuals with unique skillsets the last thing you want is for them to walk offsite five months into a six month project with all the IP and no handover. The downside to a contingent workforce is the short notice periods and lack of ownership and this does open up the possibility of contractors not seeing out the full tenure of their contract.

If a completion fee is placed on the assignment it can reduce the risk of contractors leaving at a crucial stage of the assignment and therefore will reduce the possibility of increased cost and deadlines being missed. While offering a remuneration bonus on the completion of a task or project may not be a favoured approach by many companies, it can be very effective for highly specific and critical projects.

Communication
The most common complaint we receive from contractors is the lack of individual communication.

Make sure that all your contractors are receiving regular one on ones and updates as to how they are getting on performance wise and seek their feedback.

When their contract is two months from completion start talking to them about what will happen next. You might not be able to give them all the information or to tell them they will be extended but they need to be kept in the loop.

Our research shows that at 7 weeks out from contract completion contingent workers will start looking for their next assignment. This isn’t a sign of disloyalty, one of the key goals for a contingent worker is to make sure they have continued employment and if there is no communication they need to look after themselves! 

My top 5 tips to keep contingent workers engaged

  1. Make their first day a great day through Introduction, on boarding and technology set up
  2. Set clear goals and expectations
  3. Utilise any internal tools and surveys to get a health-check
  4. Have regular catch ups (formal or informal)
  5. Update and renew their contract as early as possible (if unsure just communicate that with them)


Owen Jones is the general manager (Vic) of Davidson Technology. If you would like to hear more on how Davidson manage their contingent workforce and what we offer our clients please feel free to contact me directly at owen.jones@davidsonwp.com

COMMENTS

  • by Eyal Katz 15/02/2017 8:04:29 PM

    Managing a contingent workforce is not something you tread into lightly. There are so many things you need to concern yourself with, especially if you're brining them in to supplement or take over core functionality within the org. I also liked your comment about the golden handcuffs - You also have to have a plan for the entire life cycle of the contingent worker and for after they leave. I actually wrote an article that compliments yours. It's about hiring contingent labour in retail during the holiday season, which presents an additional set of concerns: https://connecteam.com/contingent-worker-innovation/how-to-manage-contingent-workforce-holiday-season/

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