Keeping your contingent workforce engaged and motivated

The rise of the contingent workforce is unstoppable. Its rapid growth is something that I have witnessed on my journey as director of talent solutions and delivery here at Gibbs Hybrid Workforce Solutions over the past decade. In April, I chaired three roundtables at the Contingent Workforce Summit in Berlin, looking at how a variety of companies keep their contingent workers engaged and motivated, whilst taking into account the wide and varied rules and legislation that surrounds the governance of this vital talent pool – something that is becoming increasingly complex in light of various changes in legislation surrounding IR35 here in the UK, for example.

Companies should, now more than ever, look at building new strategies or evaluating what is already in place to keep these workers motivated and engaged. If they don’t, they risk losing this highly skilled talent to their competition. What I discovered during the discussion with large global and FTSE 100 corporates is that companies realize engaging with and retaining their contingent workforce needs to be high on their agenda, as failure to do so could be costly.

Many organizations tend to ‘segregate’ their contingent workers from their permanent employees because they are mindful of the raft of legislation that’s come into effect across Europe and the UK that governs how they are engaged. But, this ‘segregation’ is not good for overall morale and can have a damaging effect on the culture and the ability to get everyone’s buy-in to best working practices and company values.

There was agreement that the best way to motivate a contingent workforce was to make them feel included and part of the team — but many organisations feel bound by regulations or rules, especially that inclusion could then mean “co-employment”, something we all want to avoid for our contingent workforce.

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Large corporates with smaller satellite offices said they’re struggling to retain their contingent workers, despite having great retention rates at their headquarters. Orientating workers at the start of contracts was something participants felt worked in keeping motivation high. Some companies had a proper program, while others didn’t because they were worried about co-employment rules. One solution discussed was to have two separate programs of orientation — one for permanent employees and one for contingent workers, tailored to their needs,without any legal risks.

Having a separate program for contingent workers enables you to give them an insight into your company, its values and ways of working, as well as the expectations you have of them, without overstepping the fine line between contingent and permanent employees.

How to keep internal customers happy was another issue discussed. In some cases, line managers felt compelled to treat their contingent workers as employees. However, on the HR or procurement side of the business, they are strongly against this, but also recognize the importance of engaging those individuals.

At Gibbs, we pride ourselves in our strong post-care program for our contingent workforce. We partner with our customers and add value to their program. Collectively, the participants thought satisfaction surveys were a good tool for finding out how their contingent workforce feel about the company and the role they’re fulfilling, but also use the survey to find out how the contingent workforce sees the company, values and brand and then use those results to their advantage.

Another factor that motivates contingent workers will always be paying the going market rates for the role or responsibilities expected of them.

Professional development was another topic that sparked debate. Sending contractors to an external training day could be in breach of IR35 rules, but some ideas shared included ‘train the trainer’ days, whereby knowledge is shared internally, allowing those contingent workers to update their skills without breaking any rules. Indeed, those that do this have seen higher rates f engagement, motivation and retention.

By not casting your contingent workforce out as being simply contractors, you will build a more solid team that understands the important contribution they make. Lead by example. A little effort goes such a long way.

MORE: 5 Best Practices for Maximizing Engagement of Your Contingent Workforce

Ameera Francis

Ameera Francis
Ameera Francis is director of talent sourcing and delivery at Gibbs Hybrid Workforce Solutions.

Ameera Francis
Ameera Francis is director of talent sourcing and delivery at Gibbs Hybrid Workforce Solutions.

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