Demand for contingent workers is growing, with freelance numbers rising to meet demand. Recent data from the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) showed that UK employers are increasingly turning to contractors to fill roles. In March 2022, contract vacancies shot up 24% compared to 2021, while in April, there was a 13% year-over-year increase. This is a truly global trend; according to Upwork’s 2021 Freelance Forward Survey, 36% of workers in the US are freelance, contributing a staggering $1.3 trillion to the economy.

This means you can’t afford to stand still on your flexible workforce strategy. In my last post, I explored the ways contingent workers are helping organizations meet the challenges of employee churn. This time, we’ll spotlight contingent worker engagement to demonstrate how you can win the most sought-after skills ahead of the competition and boost value from contingent engagements.

Build your contingent brand. Employee branding for contingent workers often gets overlooked. If you’re trying to increase your access to high-quality independent talent and take a step closer to total talent management, it’s vital that you don’t ignore this. This doesn’t mean simply putting your perm branding and employee value proposition in front of a contingent audience. How do contingent workers engage with your brand? What do they want from a flexible role? What do you offer that your competitors don’t? How can you attract more diverse workers?

“With the rise in the number of people who want to be a contingent worker, employers must consider this increasingly valuable talent pool as part of their strategic workforce plan,” said Kirsten Tolfree-Dart, contingent worker program manager for Kantar. “We are constantly evaluating our brand positioning through the lens of contingent workers to gauge if we are an attractive employment destination. Additionally, our contingent employees are a great resource to provide insight on what is working.”

Of course, this most all be done mindfully without muddying the waters of worker classification. But it’s no longer enough to cross your fingers and hope the best flexible workers look your way.

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Bring HR, talent acquisition and procurement to the table. In the recent KellyOCG Global Workforce Report, Re:work, 46% of Vanguards — the most successful organizations surveyed for profitability and customer satisfaction — said that contingent talent is perceived as equally important as permanent talent, while 51% said that their procurement team works with talent providers to improve workforce agility and employee experience. At CWS Europe this year, the number of HR and TA professionals on the attendee list was higher than ever. This cross-functional approach is vital to developing a strong and well-rounded model for contingent engagement. It takes a full spectrum of staffing, hiring and people skills to develop a successful contingent talent engagement strategy.

Educate hiring managers on contingent engagement. Some hiring managers are worried about overseeing contingent workers because of worker classification issues. But a completely hands-off approach can mean your business doesn’t get everything it needs from an engagement. It’s important to educate managers on local labor laws and internal guidelines to clearly explain the ways they can (and can’t) engage contingent workers to maximize access to skills and expertise while shaping positive outcomes for internal employees. This could include setting clear goals and project milestones to shape the work being done, monitoring progress effectively and providing a positive experience and access to appropriate benefits that might encourage a skilled contingent worker to put you at the top of their list for future assignments.

Contingent worker engagement can be a tricky balancing act, but the need for flexible talent is growing so fast that it’s a challenge you can’t ignore. How is your contingent strategy helping to support and accelerate your business objectives?

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