The Importance of Feedback for Contingent Workers

Contingent workers usually arrive at your company during “all hands on deck” moments. When the busy season is around the corner. To prepare for a territory expansion. Or before a product launch. During these hectic times, it’s difficult to give feedback to permanent employees, while feedback for contingent workers and contractors falls completely off the to-do list—which is costly to both the workers and your business. Here’s why structured feedback for your contingent workers matters, and how to make sure they receive constructive guidance:

The Contingent Workforce is Growing

The contingent workforce refers to skilled employees hired to help a company manage increased business, or to work on a specific project. They usually work with a recruitment agency or as freelancers and are not considered employees of the business.

Companies across the globe are increasingly using contingent workers throughout all levels of their organization. In the US alone, the number of employees freelancing on a part-time or full-time basis is expected to exceed 50 percent by 2020. And whereas the contingent workforce was once comprised of mostly seasonal and blue collar employees, nowadays it is comprised of workers at every skill and experience level. If your company engages a contingent workforce, they are more likely than ever to have a lasting impact on your business today and into the future.

Contingent workers now help manage large-scale logistics systems, upgrade IT networks, and build digital platforms, among other mission-critical projects. Yet, too often, they are still an afterthought in day-to-day talent management. It’s important that company leaders shift their mindset towards contingent workers so they are treated as valued employees from day one.

Contingent Workers Crave Attention

These workers don’t want constant attention, but they do appreciate regular interactions with managers and peers during the time they are with your organization. Millennials, who are a large part of the contingent workforce, want more feedback than previous generations. According to a 2016 study by Gallup, only 19 percent of millennial respondents said they got regular feedback on the job, and only 17 percent said they received meaningful feedback.

Without feedback and attention, workers “check out,” and engagement and productivity soon suffer. According to Gallup’s most recent ‘State of the Global Workplace’ report, only 15 percent of employees are “fully engaged” at work, while 67 percent are “not engaged.” When workers are not fully engaged, they don’t put their best effort into the job. Low overall engagement costs companies across the globe an estimated $7 trillion in lost productivity annually.

Tailored Feedback for Contingent Workers

Feedback approaches for all employees—contingent and permanent—are undergoing a major shift. Few companies are relying on an annual review process alone today because employees want more regular interaction, and because it’s a missed opportunity for improvement and growth. Now managers are having more frequent sit downs and even on-the-fly conversations about what employees are working on, the challenges they are facing, and their plans for achieving goals. This model is a good fit for contingent talent who enter and leave the workplace at different points during the year, and remain for different lengths. The key is stressing among managers the importance of folding contingent workers into this process, whether they are contracted for two weeks or two months.

Important things to keep in mind when offering feedback to contingent workers:

Set the Stage with Onboarding – To give constructive feedback and communicate well with contingent workers, they must clearly understand the expectations and timeline for their job from the outset. This way you are speaking the same language when giving feedback, and not using these discussions to fill them in on parameters they didn’t know or understand.

Communicate on Day Two – Spend at least a few minutes with a new contingent worker on the second day they are with your business. This ensures they won’t feel forgotten after getting set up to do the job on the first day. Ask how they are settling in, and clarify any tasks or expectations they still seem confused about.

Take a Coaching Approach – Increasingly, workers prefer feedback that looks to the future of their career and their role with your company. Discuss areas where they can expand their skill set by performing the role well. If they demonstrate high performance, be clear that you would likely engage them in the future or consider shifting them to a permanent role. (Note: Only discuss full-time positions with promising contingent workers if they are definitely available.)

Be Flexible – Not all contingent workers need the same amount of feedback, or frequent communication. Because contingent workers come and go, it’s helpful to ask during the onboarding process whether they do their best work when they have more autonomy, or when they receive daily or weekly feedback. Be careful, however, not to let communication slip entirely during their tenure.

Don’t Delay Negative Feedback – Getting the most out of contingent employees means letting them know immediately when they are not meeting expectations. This should be done with kindness and clarity. Lay out exactly what needs to improve and how long they have to show results. Ask them what they feel would help them accomplish their tasks and reach productivity goals, and give them the support they are asking for if it’s reasonable. If they still don’t meet expectations after this, it’s probably time to part ways.

Don’t Delay Praise, Either – Contingent workers want kudos for a job well done as much as your permanent employees. Letting these workers know they are making a positive contribution to the business gives them confidence and helps them feel more connected with the workplace. This increases the likelihood strong contingent employees will return for another temporary engagement, or consider your company for full time work.

Finally, don’t just give feedback—ask for it as well. Consider asking, whether the job description was clear, whether communication was helpful, and whether they felt valued during their time with your company. This highlights the strengths and weaknesses in your contingent employee management so you can make improvements. Like your full time employees, contingent workers want a welcoming, challenging, and rewarding workplace.

Need help hiring and engaging contingent workers? Contact LINK.