Last week we talked about the employment trend of the contingent workforce, referencing Workforce 2020, a global research project that involved both executives and employees. One of the findings:

83% of executives say they will be increasing the use of contingent, intermittent, or consultant employees.

This shift to greater use of contractors and contingent workers will require other shifts, including the need to update and change HR policies, which was reported by 58% of survey executives.

We believe HR policies and processes that address how contingent workers are treated and managed is an issue of critical importance. In the past, use of contingent workers was often limited to work that may have been necessary, but not business critical. They did the work with limited integration into the culture and systems of the business.

Today, contingent workers are involved in all kinds of work, front line and back office. They bring specialized skills and experience, and they are in a position to make significant contributions to the organization’s knowledge base. Many of them will need to collaborate with employees and work with company data and other resources.

With 30 years of staffing experience and pioneering work in outsourced library and information center services, LAC Group has learned a great deal about the contingent workforce. Our Library as a Service® platform was developed to deliver flexible access to researchers and other knowledge and information professionals on a contractual and contingency basis. And LAC Group’s own HR Manager, Greg Galaida, has seen it all. He works with guidelines and processes that cover 80% of our on-boarding and deployment situations, yet there is a critical 20% that is client-dependent.

“In some situations, while the goals at the finish line may be clear, the path to success is a continually adapting process between us and the client, with LAC Group lending technical expertise and solutions to challenges we may not have known about going in to the engagement.”

If your organization is relying more regularly on contract workers, we recommend you develop a plan to manage the process. Two areas that your HR policies should address are training and technology.

Training

Whether contractors or new employees, leaving people to figure things out for themselves is not the recommended approach—not if you care about worker productivity, satisfaction and longevity!

All contingent workers will require some level of training that may include one or more available options: self-paced training aided by technology, classroom training, third-party training, individual coaching as needed.

Yet any organization that contracts with an individual consultant/freelancer or a service provider like LAC Group should expect that the contractor is knowledgeable, experienced and prepared to take the lead. One reason we re-hire good former employees whenever possible is that we are then assured the person comes in with an understanding of LAC Group’s expectations and quality standards.

“It is incumbent upon us to ensure the lead managers are coming to the project with the necessary skills already in hand, which is achieved through careful recruitment and selection. They are then tasked with delegation and oversight of the team and project reporting. In a somewhat different light, many projects are sole staffed, so the immediate expectation is that our candidate be able to hit the ground running and engage the project with fresh ideas and new perspectives. In these situations, training primarily falls to LAC Group to be sure the employee has the necessary tools to be productive and understands company policies and procedures as well as resources.”

The more you are engaged in welcoming the contract employee and assisting the transition to the organization, the greater the likelihood of success for everyone.

Technology

Because technology is involved in so many jobs, and the opportunity for security breaches and other problems is very real, policies that address contractor use of your hardware, software and systems is a requirement. It may mean extending policies for passwords, use of personal devices and other technology issues to include all contingent workers. It requires attention to access, controlling how much is made available and what remains off-limits, and ensuring that access is revoked when needed. Also important is to understand and manage how the contractor will use your information and manage your work product if they use their own computers, personal devices and other systems.

Communication

HR policies are about communicating expectations and standards, and communication is important in all aspects of working with contingent workers. Within an organization, employees come to know the implied expectations and standards. While assumptions can always lead to problems, they tend to be safer among employees who have worked with each other for some time.

Contingent workers do not initially possess that knowledge, so good contractors prefer to over-communicate than assume. Greg agrees: “Regarding success versus failure, I fall to the old standby of communication. Communication is truly a two-way street, so it is imperative we ask the right questions and solicit feedback.”

Contingent workers will play a bigger role in the employment picture in the future, and they can bring great value to an organization. Service flexibility is key to our clients, who benefit from the economics and scaling of ‘just in time’ service as they need it, versus the operational burden of maintaining  ‘just in case’ capacity.

Yet reaping those rewards will require a shift in thinking and a fresh look at HR policies, processes and culture in order to accommodate and leverage the knowledge and skills of your contingent workforce.

We invite you to contact us to discuss your questions about contingent workforce trends and benefits.