How Much Love Should We Show for Our Temporary Workers?


from DearWorkforce, February 2014

heart tempsWe’re hearing more people talk about engagement for contractors and temporary staff, or contingency labor. While this sounds great in theory, how plausible is it? And does it carry the same weight as engaging our direct hires?

 — Enough Worries, project manager, architectural manufacturing, Memphis

Dear Enough Worries:

Engaging contingent workers is just as important as engaging permanent staff. Here’s why.

According to a 2012 report by Boston-based Aberdeen Group, contingent workers comprise an average of 26 percent of a company’s workforce, or more than one-quarter. A 2013 report, Rise of the Extended Workforce by Accenture, found that 20 percent to 33 percent of U.S. workers are categorized as contingent labor, including freelancers, temporary workers, independent contractors, seasonal workers and staffing-agency employees.

Organizations are likely to increasingly rely on contingent labor due to economic uncertainty, difficulty finding qualified people, the need for scarce and specific skills, the need for flexibility, and rising costs and regulatory mandates associated with the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This means that at least one- quarter – quite possibly an even higher percentage – of your workforce will have fewer reasons to stick around than the remaining three-quarters of employees. That’s a lot of people who might decide to walk out the door at any time.

Think of it another way. If one-quarter of your population is eligible to retire, and you had to replace every outgoing experienced person with an external hire, wouldn’t you be concerned about the associated knowledge loss and replacement costs?

This is why engaging your contingent workforce is vital.

In many ways, keeping contract-based employees engaged is not much different than engaging your permanent staff. Your organization should:

·       Make sure managers demonstrate an understanding of contingent workers’ interests and career goals

·       Define clear goals and objectives

·       Provide regular feedback, both positive and negative

·       Provide new and different projects, particularly any innovation initiatives

·       Structure onboarding to include cultural orientation, in addition to basic policy and facility information, and a mentor or “buddy” for new hires. (Depending on your contingent hiring volume, you might need to consider one mentor for several new hires).

·       Structure “off-boarding”  for a positive experience when contingent staff leaves the company — alumni are a valuable talent pool for future hires

·       Make administrative activities easy by using self-service technology

·       Use social tools to foster a strong team environment, especially if team members work remotely or during alternative hours

·       Ensure pay rates are competitive with your local market, industry and job functions

·       Structure a strong workforce-management program for contingent workers

Best-in-class organizations have strategies to obtain, manage and engage their contingent workforce. They do this for a variety of reasons: To document employment of contingent employees, measure cost and effectiveness, engage and retain the best performers, calculate future needs, and partner with reliable employment agencies. Engaging this critical workforce segment is as important — if not more important — than engaging the rest of your workforce.

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