Tips for Engaging Contingent Workers

Contingent workers are a fast-growing segment of the workforce, and keeping them engaged is integral to the success of most businesses today. They are projected to make up more than 50 percent of the workforce by 2027, according to a 2017 survey by Upwork and Freelancers Union.

Also called freelancers, contract workers, and project-based hires, companies are increasingly tapping the skills and expertise of contingent workers during expansion phases, busy seasons, and to help with complex projects.

In the past, companies would not fully integrate contingent workers into their office or worksite. Perhaps only their direct manager would get to know their name, their onboarding would be rushed, or their tenure would end without a farewell—or worse, all of these. While the value of contingent workers is linked, in part, to their ability to hit the ground running, today these temporary employees expect to be treated with the same level of attention and consideration afforded direct hires.

Because contingent workers are often hired during busy seasons or for high-stakes projects, a formal engagement process is important so it doesn’t fall through the cracks. Here are the most vital elements of effective engagement for your contingent workers:

Onboard Contingent Workers

Contingent workers are often hired during busy seasons, or for high-stakes projects—which means their skills and full participation are needed fast. While contract workers are usually experienced and able to get up to speed quickly, it is unrealistic to expect temporary workers to understand how your organization operates without support. Even if they’ve done very similar work elsewhere, communication methods, equipment, and even the layout of your office or facility will be different.

The truth is, you are setting contract workers up for failure without a proper introduction to your workplace and processes—which will have a negative impact on your business. Here’s what should always occur on the first day a new worker, or group of workers, arrives:

  • Meet and greet — Make sure key employees know a new worker is beginning that day, so they can welcome them properly. Introduce them to the team they will work closely with and don’t rush. Ask them about themselves and let them know you appreciate them taking on the role.
  • Give a tour — A walk through is always in order. That way contingent workers can put their lunch in the breakroom fridge, know where to grab a cup of coffee, and find the bathroom without having to ask. As you go, introduce them to people they will encounter but may not work with directly. A little friendliness goes a long way in creating a positive experience for short-term workers.
  • Provide training — Give contingent workers a brief introduction to any tools they will need to be productive. Whether that’s project management and communications software, or a manufacturing tool. Even if their resume includes these skills, a quick refresher course is always in order.
  • Safety first — Whether your business is an office, a logistics warehouse, or an industrial kitchen, there are always safety protocols. Make sure the new employee knows where the emergency exits are and how to access safety equipment and first aid supplies.

Communicate with Contingent Workers

Assign each contingent worker a point person they can go to when questions arise, or they are unclear about their assignment. This person may be their direct manager, or an employee designated to check in with contingent workers across departments.

Managers should make a habit of touching base with temporary workers frequently in their first days and weeks, and continue to communicate with them throughout their tenure. If the worker is a valuable addition from the start, let them know you noticed and appreciate their hard work. If they are struggling, address the issue with additional training and support before opting to let them go.

Put yourself in your contingent workers’ shoes and treat them how you would like to be treated. Include them in brainstorming sessions, and welcome them to offer suggestions when your team is troubleshooting. When taking a break, invite them to join you.

Foster Connection

Take the time for short conversations with contingent hires whenever you’re able. Talking with contingent workers for a few minutes here and there can reveal skills you didn’t know they had, and whether they are interested in future work or even full-time employment. Showing genuine interest in them as people, cultivates good will that they will share with others—whether they stick with your organization or not.

These conversations also give you an opportunity to let them know you recognize their good work, and would like to have them back for future projects.

Finally, if possible, involve them in any onsite opportunities to advance their skill set. The talent market is tight, and employees are choosing employers as much as the other way around. Supporting their career is a clear show of support for their advancement, within your organization or elsewhere.

Kindness. Direction. Career support. Purpose. Contingent workers crave these personal and professional connections as much as your full-time employees, whether they are with you for a few days or a few months. Offering them generously brings out the best in contingent workers—and brings about the best results for your company.

Need help hiring and engaging a contingent workforce? Contact LINK.