Now that we’ve made it through white Wednesday, grey Thursday, black Friday and cyber Monday, it’s time to take notice of some obvious economic realities. The basic economics of supply (lots of deals!) and demand (just before that special season of giving!) have set our expectations that if we just get up a little earlier, give up a little personal time or just shop from our desktop we will indeed get a heck of a deal found nowhere else on the planet. And lately there’s been a lot of attention paid to the numerous workers laboring round the clock to support that supply chain.
The retail world is perhaps the most visible of the contingent workforce users. And sometimes that visibility can be damaging. You may have heard about the recent protests and strikes over working conditions at Walmart and its warehouses, as was reported by Craig Johnson in this issue of Contingent Workforce Strategies 3.0. While this year’s events pale against the trampling death of a contingent worker at a Walmart store on Black Friday a few years ago, the negative publicity surrounding the contingent workers’ complaints shouldn’t be dismissed.
Companies need to carefully examine the way they use workers in the highly visible workplace we are in today. Bad publicity and physical danger are just a few of the risks. Avoid risk by being socio-economically responsible and treating workers well. Examine long-term temporary assignments and determine if they are indeed temporary and meet the IRS parameters for control, direction and other important questions.
Make sure your suppliers monitor contingents’ rest breaks and document that they do so. Encourage suppliers to recognize temporary workers in ways conducive to their company culture. This will create a more level playing field that encourages job satisfaction. The basic economics have reset worker supply and demand in today’s 24/7 environment and the workers on the floor may be utilized to drive cost, quality and efficiency in a variety of ways. Whatever your reality, make sure your company knows the risks when it comes to your most valuable asset — talent — and make socially and economically responsible decisions in the engagement process, especially with contingent workers.
Or you could end up paying in more ways than one.