How to Engage Your Contingent Workforce

It’s a natural inclination to focus your employee engagement efforts on permanent employees more than your contingent talent. After all, your full-timers are with your company for the long haul, while there’s an end date for your contingent workforce. But this common mistake actually damages morale and productivity for all of your employees. Here’s why engaging your contingent employees matters, and how to help them feel like members of the team:

The Rise of the Contingent Workforce

The traditional workplace is undergoing a dramatic shift as more companies use contingent and gig workers for highly specialized tasks, or to boost their workforce through the busy season. In Deloitte’s 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report, 50 percent of the surveyed companies said they employed a significant number of contract workers, and 37 percent said they would expand their contract workforce by 2020.

The truth is, it is outdated to consider your contingent workforce as separate (and often lesser than) your full-time talent. They are employees who bring unique talents and often highly specific capabilities to your organization—they simply do it for a shorter period of time.

It’s critical to treat these employees like the professionals they are. A 2017 Gallup study titled The State of the American Workplace found an engaged workforce—contingent or permanent—results in higher productivity, improved customer ratings, lower absenteeism, and even higher profits.

Overall, employee engagement strategies are similar for permanent and contingent talent, with a few key distinctions. The following are best practices for engaging your contingent employees:

Offer Onboarding for Contingent Talent Too

In a busy workplace, it’s tempting to rush through the onboarding of contingent workers, or skip the process altogether. This is a recipe for frustration and even failure for workers who will only be with your company for a limited time. When contingent employee onboarding is done well, it empowers new talent by giving them the resources they need to do the job well. This reduces the stress of the early weeks in a new position, and helps employees get up to speed faster. Onboarding will vary slightly depending on the role, but here are important touchpoints:

  • Introduce contingent employees to their team, ideally, during an informal meeting or lunch break where people have time to get to know each other.
  • Give new employees a tour so they know the layout of the workplace and where to grab a cup coffee.
  • Revisit the expectations for the position, so there is no confusion on day one.
  • Clarify how success on the job is determined.
  • Pair new employees with a buddy they can go to with any questions.
  • Train contingent employees on equipment and software programs they’ll be using.

Nurture a Welcoming Culture For All

If your organization leverages contingent talent frequently, fold welcoming and supporting temporary employees into your company culture. Communicate to your permanent staff how important contingent employees are to achieving business goals and meeting deadlines. Let your full-time employees know when new contingent employees are starting, so they aren’t caught off guard by having someone they don’t know in the workplace. Encourage full-timers to make contingent talent feel welcome by including them in meetings, email exchanges, and lunch outings. It’s just as important that contingent employees feel connected to their coworkers as it is for permanent employees.

Communicate and Thank

Sustain regular communication with contingent employees beyond onboarding. Urge them to ask questions, but remember it will take time for them to feel comfortable. Their work buddy should touch base multiple times per day in their first days and weeks, and their direct supervisor should check-in regularly as well. These visits should be supportive and positive, but also clear about expectations for productivity.

Additionally, when contingent workers meet or exceed expectations and achieve performance goals, share your appreciation. It can be difficult to remember, amid the stress and busyness of the workplace, to say ‘thank you’ or ‘well done.’ But take the time—it matters. Authentic appreciation helps foster a positive work environment, which results in a more productive workplace.

Don’t Forget to Offboard

Don’t let your contingent employees go through their last week or last day without acknowledging that their time with your company is ending, for the time being at least, and expressing your appreciation for their hard work. The offboarding process is also a good time to discuss, formally or informally, how contingent talent experienced your company culture. Did they feel supported and respected? Were they given the tools they needed to do the job well? Where would they suggest changes?

If they were a valuable addition to your team, this is also a good time to discuss next steps. Let them know you recognize their contributions, and would like to work with them in the future. Ask what their plans are and if they’d consider returning to your company if the opportunity arose. Authentic interest and appreciation improves the odds skilled contingent workers will return to your company for temporary roles, or even for permanent ones.

If you need help building an engaged contingent workforce, contact LINK Staffing.