Growth in the contingent workforce has continued to outpace expectations in 2021 due to a variety of factors. Chief among them is the desire for flexibility, an attribute that is now seen as a key ingredient of resilient organizations. Accordingly, HR leaders discovered that highly skilled contingent workers could help them address urgent needs.
Of course, the near-universal pivot to remote work also helped spur growth in the contingent workforce. As companies found success throughout remote work, HR teams realized they could hire people to work from anywhere, capitalizing on a wider talent pool to meet business objectives.
Additionally, ensuring worker safety might have been the impetus behind countless workforce decisions in the past year, but there were other drivers, as well. According to data from Gartner, 32% of companies replaced salaried employees with contingent workers to cut down on costs, and many others did so as a means to fill important skills gaps. Looking ahead to 2022, many of these contingent workforce trends will continue, but I also anticipate we’ll see changes that will impact how HR hires and engages contingent workers.
The Future of the Contingent Workforce
It’s clear remote work is truly here to stay. Amid the workforce exodus known as the “Great Resignation,” many companies are struggling to bring employees back to the office. Others have decided to adopt remote models permanently, supplementing remote teams with contingent workers.
As companies gradually increase their reliance on these temporary workers, we are seeing just how valuable they can be. But the fact that this trend is growing means both employers and workers are benefiting from it, suggesting that companies are learning how to engage contingent workers in a way that makes them feel valued. That’s critical to the success of both sides of the arrangement.
For HR leaders who have brought on contingent workers or plan to in the near future, it’s important to understand what these employees expect from you. After all, your success ultimately depends on your ability to meet those expectations. With that in mind, here are four best practices for hiring and engaging contingent workers in 2022 and beyond:
1. Speak their language.
Recruitment messaging aimed at contingent workers should contain language that validates what those professionals are looking for. For example, “challenging work in a flexible environment,” “the ability to work on a remote team,” “flexibility when utilizing technology,” and “someone who can deliver results while working autonomously” are phrases that suggest a possible fit and reflect contingent workers’ preferences.
2. Create value for them.
It’s not enough to tell contingent workers they’re valued. Instead, you need to create value for them. Give them opportunities to connect with one another so they can begin building a culture together. You could also take the first step toward fostering an identity for your contingent team by branding them with an official team name. Create a culture specific to their team. The more these workers feel a sense of belonging to your organization, the more they’ll want to deliver work that positively impacts it.
3. Study the competition.
If you aren’t aware of your competitors’ workforce management strategies, you’re likely already losing valuable contingent talent to them. Study these companies to see how they’re using contingent workers, which roles they’ve chosen to outsource, and what remote or hybrid options they offer contingent workers. Not only will this provide ideas for how to structure your own workforce, but it also will give you a sense of the kinds of initiatives your competitors have planned.
4. Plan ahead.
Don’t wait until projects end to think about where else you can use contingent workers. Think of them as part of your standard talent pool. As projects they’re working on end, these workers will be scanning for new opportunities. And in today’s labor market, where demand far outweighs supply, those opportunities won’t be hard to find. Whenever possible, try to plan how your organization will use top contingent workers well in advance to improve the odds of keeping them in your talent pool.
Current contingent workforce trends prove these workers are finally being perceived as the valuable contributors they are. Even so, the idea of building a contingent team of talent is still frightening to some HR leaders. Those who overcome this trepidation, however, stand to gain significant competitive advantages for their companies.
Antonio Barraza is a business development representative and contingent workforce expert at Innovative Employee Solutions (IES), a leading global employer of record in more than 150 countries that specializes in payrolling and contractor management services for today’s contingent workforce. Founded in 1974, IES has grown into one of San Diego’s largest women-owned businesses and has been named one of the city’s “Best Places to Work” for 10 years in a row.