Managing a Contingent Workforce and How to Make It More Effective

Managing a Contingent Workforce

Sometimes, to address a specific but short-term need, a company does not hire a full-time employee. They hire a contingent worker.

A contingent worker is a contractor, a freelancer, or any non-permanent worker. They are part of a wider gig economy that, for the past decade, has been growing steadily.

It involves a flexible and temporary arrangement where the individual is not hired on a permanent basis. Instead, their position lasts for as long as their services are needed by the company.

It is estimated that, in the United States, contingent workers make up 30 percent of the entire workforce. Singapore also has a growing number of contingent workers, with non-permanent workers comprising 38 percent of the entire workforce.

Technology has completely revolutionized work, and it has enabled more people to have more options. They can work on a project for a certain amount of time, and they do not even have to be at the office for that duration. For people who choose this type of career, a non-permanent position is preferred.

Companies benefit from it, too. They can have access to a skilled workforce who helps them grow. 

However, it can be a challenge to manage contingent workers, especially if they work from outside the office. Here are a few tips that can make the arrangement seamless and productive.

Keep an Open Communication Line

Maintaining communication with the entire workforce, including contingent workers, is key to the success of a project. However, because the non-permanent members of the team may not work within the same office building, communication is not always possible.

SMRT, a major multi-modal public transport operator in Singapore, is making it work. The bosses manage to maintain communication with staff working in different parts of the city and ensure seamless operations. SMRT CEO, Neo Kian Hong visits each station under the control of the public transport operator.

Managing a Contingent Workforce

Nowadays, communication should not be a problem. Technology makes it easier to keep contingent workers on the loop regardless of whether they are stationed on-site or performing their roles from home. Companies can use email and messaging apps to relay information to staff, including contingent workers. Meetings can also be done via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

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Maintaining communication with the contingent workers enables everyone to work as a team, not as individuals. The company is more likely to achieve the outcome they hope for when all parts of the team are communicating and collaborating.

Integrate Temporary Workers Into Permanent Company Processes

Adding a freelancer into a department without a plan or warning will achieve nothing but chaos. Throwing the temporary workers immediately to work will only create confusion for everyone involved. The department they were assigned to will be forced to create their own rules and procedures to manage the newcomer which will make administration more challenging. The payment, compliance, analysis, and review of output will be a nightmare if the company has multiple contingent workers in its midst.

Before the company brings in its first contingent worker, it must reorganize internal processes. It should take into account the role that the contingent worker will play when they join the team and the time they will spend working with the company.

Moreover, the onboarding and offboarding into the process. Assign which tools and information temporary workers will be permitted to access early on. Doing so will allow the contingent worker to get to work immediately.

A centralized process that all departments will have to follow will minimize contrasting management techniques and eliminate dysfunction within the team.

Know Your Limits

The temporary worker deserves to be treated with respect. Even if their time in the company is short, you and your team should still learn their name. It would not be polite to refer to them as “temp” or “temporary worker.”

The company is allowed to provide feedback to the contingent worker, but do not discipline them. If they have an agency, it would be better to report any behavioral issue. Do not force them to undergo seminars or a performance improvement plan. They are not employees and you are not their boss. Temporary workers answer to their agency. Contractors and freelancers, on the other hand, are their own bosses. They are merely lending their expertise and skills to the company.

So, while it is okay to express disappointment over the quality of output, the company should not coach their behavior or performance.

It is not just a passing trend. The year-per-year growth of the contingent workforce proves that it is here to stay and companies should be prepared to adopt a more flexible working arrangement with professionals who would rather have better control of their careers.

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