Your Guide to Managing a Contingent Workforce

October 10, 2022
By Cara ChatellierOctober 10, 2022

Manager stands in front of a whiteboard while training her contingent workforce, seated at a table

In the past decade, workers have sought more independence and flexibility in their jobs, and companies have grown more intentional in hiring employees with the right skills. As a result, there has been an uptick in contingent workforces. This new dynamic brings a myriad of benefits as well as challenges. Here's what you need to know about those challenges and best practices when managing a contingent workforce.

What Is a Contingent Workforce?

A contingent workforce refers to temporary workers, including consultants, freelancers, or independent contractors. They work on a contractual and are paid hourly or by deliverables. These workers have more flexibility on when and where they work, instead of sticking to a nine-to-five routine. Depending on a project's workload, companies can upsize or downsize without going through layoffs. 

What is Contingent Workforce Management?

Contingent workforce management simply describes how a company handles its contingent workers. It encompasses the policies, processes, activities, and guidelines necessary to incorporate them into the company. 

Generally, there are two approaches a company may take: an exclusive or inclusive approach. 

In the former, the company handles contingent workers as a separate group of employees and bypasses existing HR processes and systems. And in the latter, companies incorporate contingent workers into their normal HR practices. That said, combining different elements from the two approaches can create an array of contingent workforce management methods.  

Best Practices for Successful Contingent Workforce Management

Contingent workforce management varies depending on the industry and culture. Often, the process is influenced by factors outside the company's control. Despite this, here are some best practices to guide your implementation and achieve operational excellence.  

Less HR Activity 

The hiring process for permanent employees is different from that of contingent workers. For permanent hires, the process includes posting job positions, receiving applications, identifying the best candidate, interviewing them, and hiring. With contingent workers, the hiring process may be based on recommendations or previous collaborations. 

Most HR policies and processes that support permanent employees don't support contingent workers. Contingent workers will likely hit the ground running without much paperwork and training. 

Communicate the Process of Engaging Contingent Workers to Permanent Employees

Contingent workers add flexibility to the company and help with the bulk of work. However, you need a system where permanent employees can engage with contingent workers to finish work on time. This could be possible by granting all employees access to the same communication avenues. In addition, invite contingent workers to meetings, so they can share their concerns and ideas. 

Have Detailed Documentation of Best Practices and Guidelines

Documentation clarifies the process of hiring contingent workers. For example, are nondisclosure agreements and contracts signed? Are onboarding activities taking place? Additionally, are the expectations of contingent workers and managers defined? Documentation gets rid of blurry lines that could cause trouble down the line. 

Consider Working With MetaExperts

Learning the ropes of hiring and managing contingent workers may be something you are willing to do. However, it will cost you valuable time and resources. Conversely, outsourcing this responsibility to a company like MetaExperts can ensure a smooth transition between periods of high and low workload and finding the right talent for the job.

Potential Challenges

Having contingent workers is a huge plus for the business. However, it's good to be on the lookout for some common pitfalls. Consider these four.

  • Employees don't understand the role of contingent workers. Without clear onboarding and communication processes, permanent employees may be confused about the role of contingent workers. Adding contingent workers to the internal lines of communication allows interaction and understanding of everyone's work. 
  • Animosity sometimes forms between permanent and contract workers. If handled wrong, permanent employees may harbor animosity against contingent workers. As a result, management must be transparent and present the contingent workforce as a buffer instead of a replacement for regular workers.  
  • Contract workers often feel out of place. Contingent workers are usually not around long enough to learn if they're a cultural fit for a company. For example, consider what happens when they are left out of company events and meetings. They feel like outsiders, negatively impacting their work. 
  • Contingent workers sometimes take on permanent jobs elsewhere. The perks of permanent employment can be hard for some contract workers to ignore. When they leave for new opportunities, it creates unpredictability for the company. Because of this, MetaExperts hires contingent workers who understand and embrace the lifestyle, leading to fewer inconveniences. 

Conclusion

A contingent workforce adds a lot of value to a company. To derive this value, these workforces must be managed effectively and seamlessly integrated.

Are you still considering the idea of hiring contingent workers? Wondering if it's a good choice for you? Contact MetaExperts today for a free consultation to learn about your choices.

About Cara Chatellier

Cara Chatellier is a digital marketing strategist & content writer. She lives in the Boston area and has worked with MetaExperts since October 2018. She loves travel, wine tastings, and podcasts.

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