Contingent workforce

Is Your Contingent Talent Strategy Derailing Workforce Diversity at Your Company?

In the wake of Black Lives Matter and other social justice movements, many companies made bold commitments to expand and improve their diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives.

While organizations have made important strides for their full-time employees, D&I efforts are often not extended to contingent and temporary workers, whose ranks have swelled during the pandemic.

As more and more organizations pursue a more holistic and comprehensive talent strategy that increasingly leans on contingent talent, human capital leaders must rethink how they engage with this growing cohort of nontraditional workers. Doing so will ensure companies continue to attract the best talent, build a diverse talent pool, and provide the same inclusive experience across their entire workforce.

From workers enjoying the autonomy of flexible-work arrangements to businesses increasingly utilizing contingent talent to become more agile, temporary and gig work is unquestionably on the rise.

A pre-pandemic Gallup poll found that 36% of all U.S. workers — or 57 million Americans — participate in the gig economy. Another more recent survey found that 40% of all white-collar business professionals are working on a contingent basis, a number expected to eclipse 50% by the end of 2021.

The uncertainty of the pandemic and the subsequent labor shortage has only accelerated the shift towards flexible work. A recent Randstad Sourceright Talent Trends Quarterly report found that 40% of organizations said they are experiencing talent scarcity after the pandemic, which has resulted in organizations relying more heavily on contingent workers for business continuity, growth and innovation.

In fact, 69% of organizations surveyed said they plan to implement a total talent management strategy that integrates both full-time employees and contingent workers this year, with nearly half increasing their budget allocated towards total talent investment.

D&I Strategies Must Adapt to Include Growing Contingent Workforce

This shift has forced HR leaders to rethink how to attract the best contingent talent — from integrating and including those workers, many of whom may work remotely, into existing teams to nurturing flexible workers to keep them engaged and part of the organization’s available talent pool. Another key component is not only reaching out to and recruiting diverse and underrepresented talent populations but also setting those individuals up to succeed.

Although contingent workers don’t often factor into an organization’s diversity and inclusion priorities, it is crucial to account for this segment of workers due to their proven impact of D&I on overall business success.

A Deloitte study has shown that employees at diverse and inclusive organizations say they are better able to collaborate and innovate. Elsewhere,  a McKinsey study found that companies with diverse teams were 33% more likely to achieve above-average profits.

In light of this data, why do organizations continue to fall short in their D&I efforts for contingent talent? To put it into perspective, a company may require that 50% of individuals interviewed for full-time positions be diverse candidates, but the company may then partner with a contingent-talent supplier — even a diverse one — who doesn’t adhere to those same practices. The same is often true when the selection strategy for full-time and contingent talent is inconsistent, resulting in a contingent workforce that lacks the diversity of the full-time staff.

Technology & Talent Analytics Crucial to D&I Strategy and Success

So, what can organizations do to ensure their growing contingent talent is part of their overall D&I strategy? First, organizations must utilize technology, including talent analytics and market data, to understand the composition of their workforce before setting realistic and measurable goals to reach underrepresented populations.

Second, companies should partner with suppliers who both share the organization’s commitment to diversity and can extend that strategy through measurable KPIs. Finally, we must remember that diversity means nothing without inclusivity; building a diverse contingent workforce does no good if those individuals can’t be their authentic selves and showcase all their talent at work.

Measuring success in inclusion can be difficult. One way could be tracking how many contingent workers are converted to full-time employees. Another is to emphasize and track contingent worker engagement and growth. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do contingent workers continue to return to your company?
  • Do they get involved in the company’s social and community initiatives?
  • Are they able to build on their skills and capabilities while contributing to the bottom line and overall growth?
  • Do they refer colleagues to your organization and jobs within their network?

Ninety-three percent of respondents of a recent Deloitte study  said fostering a sense of belonging drives organizational performance. In other words, resources, training programs and support services developed for full-time employees should be made available to contingent workers. Temporary staff should also be included in company-wide communications, team meetings and social events to ensure contingent workers feel part of the organization.

Many organizations have made tremendous strides toward building more diverse and inclusive workforces. But as more and more organizations — and individuals — embrace the flexibility afforded by contingent work, businesses must adopt a more holistic view towards their talent acquisition and management strategies. This includes a sustainable D&I strategy that embraces all workers, regardless of whether they are full-time or contingent.

Vaishali Shah serves as Randstad Sourceright’s Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion for the company’s managed services programs (MSP) practice in North America. Vaishali has over 20 years of experience in the consulting, HR and talent acquisition space with Ericsson, Adecco, Citi and McKinsey & Company. She has experience building global Talent programs and driving change to enhance business outcomes. Randstad ranked No. 30 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.

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