A Holistic Approach to Attracting and Retaining a Contingent Workforce 

In recent years there has been an acceleration in the use of contingent workers. This trend was present before the pandemic, but Covid has given it a strong push, with more workers choosing to freelance their skills because they can work remotely. More than some stopgap measure, contingent workers are becoming a key part of talent acquisition. Consequently, employers need a holistic view of the talent picture in their organizations. 

A Lack of Transparency

For starters, TA and HR need transparency into expenditures Too often, freelancer management is done at the department level and not through central HR or TA, resulting in little organization oversight on 1099 management and spend. 

As of 2020, just 32% of best-in-class businesses had very high or high visibility into the performance of their non-employee workers. This means that many of these individuals are not accounted for in financial planning, forecasting, and budgeting processes. All of which, again, makes it difficult to ensure that talent acquisition and management is both efficient and effective.

A Lack of Relationships

Although work from freelancers may be temporary, your relationship with them doesn’t need to be skin deep.

Because they are such an important part of the workforce, gig workers, whether they’re 1099 (freelance) or temporary (employed by staffing agency), must be onboarded and managed like any W2 (full-time) employee. Too often these workers feel peripheral, out of the loop and invisible. The result is poor retention and perhaps poorer performance.

What if you were to treat contingent workers more like full-time employees? With a cohesive strategy that includes gig workers and with more efficient workflows, their place in the business can become more seamless. 

Getting the Most Out of Contingent Workers

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your contingent workforce:

Introduce the company culture. As part of the onboarding process, share what you value as a company and how contractors fit within those values. To reach all workers no matter their location, you can share your company culture through a digital portal with videos, stories, and other features to create a more cohesive, organized experience.

Clarify roles, responsibilities, and expectations. As with any employee, contingent workers need their roles clearly defined. Provide a clear scope of work and milestones for communication throughout the project. Introduce them to all team members and other significant employees. Explain the organization chart and key acronyms. Basically, be available to assist if they stumble, ready to explain a part of the culture or expected next steps.

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Create two-way communication. Just as you would with an employee, set up time to check in to see how things are going. Especially with on-premises workers, having a mobile app to communicate in real-time is very helpful. It enables them to easily communicate when they run into problems or have questions. It also invites feedback. 

It’s not just about getting the work done. To get the most from the relationship, help contingent workers feel valued for their contribution. If they can make recommendations and be heard, they’re more likely to connect with your company, your brand, and have a longer-term relationship.

Provide flexible work arrangements. Many gig workers have chosen to freelance because it allows them more flexibility in their work and personal life. Remember, too, that many freelancers have multiple clients. They appreciate a client who is flexible in how and when the work gets done, who gives clear direction and manageable deadlines.

Pay accurately and efficiently. A good way to make a contingent worker feel unappreciated is to take months to pay them. Look at the process you use to pay gig workers. Are you still using manual processes, like paper invoices and mailed checks? Where in your system do payments get stuck? Streamline and automate your systems and offer your freelancers flexible payment options like direct deposit (ACH). Contingent workers are depending on that income and favor clients who pay quickly and accurately. 

Choose the Right Technology

Fortunately, HCM technology is evolving to meet the needs of the blended workforce. Freelance management systems (FMS) are designed to meet the unique needs of managing a workforce comprised of freelancers, contingent workers, gig workers, and anyone who falls under the 1099 worker label. Such tech automation can help you identify qualified labor, conduct background checks, manage workers, pay for completed jobs, and rate performance. In addition, enhanced reporting capabilities, specific to your 1099 workforce, can provide visibility into utilization and spend for better decision-making and fiscal planning.

So take a step back and take a holistic view of your entire workforce — be they full-time, part-time, gig workers, or contractors. Contingent workers have become integral to getting business done. Smart businesses recognize this. They know that freelancers often bring expertise that the organization needs. Creating an end-to-end experience that efficiently recruits, onboards, trains, manages and pays these workers is crucial. Likewise, attracting and retaining contingent labor is about being flexible, paying quickly and accurately, providing good work, and building relationships.

Bridget Quinn Kirchner leads client experience for WorkMarket, ADP's freelance management system. She is responsible for enabling the organization to strengthen and expand strategic relationships with a focus on thought leadership, data/business insights, and technology to provide an effortless client and worker experience.

Bridget has spent her career in education and SaaS with specialties in sales, service, and operations. She is passionate about interesting people and technology products, and specializes in building dynamic teams to solve problems.

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