What is the contingent workforce and how can you manage it?

Published on 26th September, 2018 in Workforce Management

In August 2016 there were just under 2.5 million contingent, or casual, employees across Australia, according to government statistics. This represents roughly 33 per cent of the national workforce, a significant increase from the 13 per cent recorded in the 1980s.

Employing these workers presents unique opportunities and challenges for business mangers, but what exactly is the contingent workforce, and how best can you go about managing staff who fall into this category?

                                 

Defining the contingent workforce

The contingent workforce refers to people employed by a company on an on-demand, often short-term, basis. Examples include consultants, independent contractors or freelancers who aren't full-time employees and therefore don't appear on the company payroll.

They're often engaged through a recruitment agency to cover staffing shortages and sudden increases in workloads. This workforce offers a flexible solution to these problems without the costs associated with hiring and on-boarding full-time employees.

Often staff engaged on this casual basis receive fewer, if any benefits, and lower salaries than permanent personnel. However, bringing in external manpower can be daunting to managers. These people aren't aligned with your business's goals, workflow and culture – so how do you manage them effectively?

Here are some key tips to maximising the potential benefits of the contingent workforce.

1. Integration is key

Integrating all newcomers is a key responsibility for anyone in a leadership position.

This refers to both social and professional integration, as the two are intrinsically linked. Companies that make workplace collaboration a priority are twice as likely to be profitable, according to research by Deloitte, so encouraging a culture of teamwork and social integration should be top of the to-do list for managers of contingent staff. Have a look at these suggestions for how you can achieve this:

  • Send an email to existing employees prior to the arrival of contingent workers to introduce them.
  • A team lunch or coffee on the first day can be a great welcome and a way for everyone to get to know each other.
  • Provide a volunteer 'buddy' from your permanent workforce to help new staff get used to the surroundings and procedures. 
  • Include them in social events outside office hours to help them get to know their peers. 

As you would with any new personnel, full onboarding and training should compliment social integration and is integral in allowing contingent workers to effectively complete the tasks you will assign them.

Integrating newcomers is a key responsibility for anyone in a leadership position.

2. Make your expectations clear

One of the challenges of managing the contingent workforce is ensuring they're aligned with the aims and objectives of the organisation as a whole. 

A crucial step in bringing casual workers up to speed with what's expected of them is setting clear performance targets. These can take the shape of individual and team goals, both of which come with unique benefits:

  • Individual goals: The provision of SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound) objectives give something tangible to aim for, as well as providing teamleaders with a way to measure performance and progress. This is something we'll return to shortly.
  • Team goals: Including contingent workers in team-wide goals not only aids with the integration process, but also gives them a sense of responsibility and understanding for how their personal efforts impact the team and, by extension, business as a whole.
Both contingent staff and full-time employees should have clear goals.Giving contingent staff clear goals is a good way to engage them with your workflow.

3. Track their performance

Quality management software is a great asset for team leaders. It allows you to to assess the day-to-day performance of staff to ensure standards remain consistently high. 

Having core performance data at your fingertips means you can determine whether your contingent staff are achieving the targets you set, and identifies areas where further training is needed. It also provides the opportunity to recognise and praise those exceeding expectations.

One of the challenges of managing the contingent workforce is ensuring they're aligned with your aims and objectives. 

4. Make communication easy

There's a lot to communicate when managing the contingent workforce. As well as providing regular feedback on performance, listening to their experiences is critical to improving your contingent worker strategies in the long term.

Keeping an eye on time frames is also a must. Be open when talking about ongoing work, and when contingent staff are two months out from completing their contract start the conversation about next steps. If your initial reason for engaging them was due to a workload increase, effective forecasting should allow you to plan for future trends, but even if you can't give any concrete information, keeping them in the loop is important if you to wish to renew their contract.

Contingent staff can provide added flexibility to businesses should the unexpected happen, but proper management is key. Call Design provides tailored training and solutions to equip you with the essential skills to effectively unlock the potential of this workforce. For more information, get in touch with our team today. 

Share