In order for the contingent workforce to be truly relevant, the organization needs the sort of support and involvement that can only come from the executive level. While any program worth its salt has some form of executive sponsorship, how do we build a narrative that is relevant to the C-suite beyond cost savings and process efficiency?
It’s almost a catch 22-situation. Today, the concept of total talent management and leveraging a flexible workforce is not new, but for companies to take their program to the next level, these initiatives need to be driven at the senior-executive level. But to grab the executive ear so that their involvement is more than just lending their name, CW managers need to be able to demonstrate how leveraging the flexible workforce helps the company in its furtherance of its strategies and goals.
For starters, we need make sure we understand and can articulate how a company may leverage contingent labor as a strategic resource. CEOs often say that talent and the ongoing access to talent is a critical consideration and many say it’s their primary concern, but often this concern is linited to the full-time, traditional workforce. This can be short-sighted, because the average workforce is 13 percent to 15 percent contingent, with some exceeding 50 percent of the overall workforce. With a materially significant component of the workforce being contingent, then, you need to consider the role this workforce plays in a few key areas: clients, cash, creativity and consistency.
Clients. How does your contingent workforce affect the client experience? Do they answer the phones? Handle client transactions face-to-face? Fulfill client orders in a warehouse or back office? Understanding how contingent workers may affect either positively or negatively the client experience and how that relates to bottom line results is critical if you want to sell the value proposition to senior executive.
Cash. This area encompasses three elements that affect profitability: cost correction/cost savings, sales revenue and risk. The cost benefits of the contingent workforce and proper utilization of a cost-correct strategy have tremendous savings implications, but it’s also important to understand how your contingent resources may affect sales. Do your sales personnel understand what role your contingent workforce plays in the sales cycle? More than co-employment risk, contingent labor at its very essence is a form of shifting risk from one entity to another. This risk may be employment risk as well as fiscal risk.
Creativity. Considering by definition the contingent workforce is comprised of many levels of expertise and experience, how as a company can your access to this diverse talent pool provide you with a more creative work environment? To what extent can you leverage innovation in your lower-skilled workforce? Can you point to instances where an idea made it from the loading dock to the factory floor? If your program currently does not leverage contingent creativity you may want to change things.
Consistency. If we accept the fact that hiring people is expensive and hiring the wrong people is even more so, we can build the case that by leveraging the contingent workforce you not only protect the business from fluctuations in demand but also create a valuable pool of talent that you can use to “try before you buy.”
We are often challenged to explain what we do for a living and even more so challenged to continually evolve our role beyond focusing on tactical considerations. By understanding how contingent work can be brought to bear to solve strategic enterprise objectives we can set ourselves up to truly build the 21st-century workforce.