What’s the Right Workforce Mix?

workforce questionLewis Carroll famously wrote: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” This is true in life and in business.

My business is helping large, multi-national companies establish or clarify their vision, mission, goals and objectives for their contingent workforces. In many cases, companies have done this important work for their direct-hire workforces but have failed to account for a significant and growing portion of their workforces: non-employees.

The question am I consistently asked, with ever greater frequency, is: “What is the right mix of employees and non-employees for my company?” It is an incredibly difficult question to answer but one that I love being asked because it gives me an opportunity to ask four seemingly simple questions about the company’s existing contingent work force program:

  1. What is the company’s vision of its contingent work force program?
  2. What is the mission of your company’s contingent workforce program?
  3. What are the goals of your company’s contingent work force program?
  4. What are the objectives of your company’s contingent work force program?

The answers to these questions are always very telling and help inform where to start in helping answer their question about the right workforce mix.

A common starting point is a two- to three-day workshop with executive sponsors, cross functional stakeholders, and representatives from managed service providers and vendor management system companies and other key suppliers. These workshops are a great way to establish an understanding of the existing state of a company’s contingent work force program across a wide range of perspectives. From there the team can begin to align the business strategy of the company and confirm a common understanding of the vision, mission, goals and objectives of the contingent work force program. I find it is helpful to remind workshop participants on the differences between vision and mission and goals and objectives. These words are often confused with each other. As a reminder, a mission statement describes what the company wants now (within 12-18 months), the vision statement describes what the company wants to be in the future (three to five years). Goals are broader than objectives in the sense that goals are general intentions and may not be specific enough to be measured. Objectives are specific targets within the general goal. Objectives are time-related to achieve a certain task.

Without a clear sense of the company’s vision, mission, goals and objectives for its contingent work force program, it is impossible to design the right work force mix. Start there and the answers to your company’s strategic questions and the resulting road to success become clearer.

Post first appeared in Contingent Workforce Strategies 3.0, January 30, 2013.

Christopher Minnick
Christopher Minnick is executive vice president of Brightfield Strategies. He can be reached at cminnick (at) brightfieldstrategies (dot) com.

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