As companies evolve and contingent workforce management matures, the fundamental nature of the contingent workforce is changing as well — not just in terms of the workforce itself, which is becoming ever more diverse, but the ways in which the workforce is managed. Put simply, if we compare the programs of yesterday to those of today, one change is clear: contingent workforce management has transitioned from operational to strategic.
What does that mean? An operational concern is one that deals with issues more of a tactical nature, such as a short-term need: Getting people to show up on time, or needing to save 5 percent on a requisition. Meanwhile, a strategic consideration may be something along lines of how to optimize our workforce to address an expected increase in demand. In other words, an operational concern usually is 12 months or less and aligns with an operational plan with line managers, while the strategic concern is usually three years or more and matches the organization’s strategic plan in conjunction with senior executives. Operational planning boldly uses discrete variables to explore different models of a given situation. Strategic planning involves techniques that consider alternate paradigms or alternatives to existing solutions and are not necessarily based on the latest and greatest current approaches.
The best word to describe this shift from operational to strategic in any program or industry is wrenching. Where many industries gradually change over time, it seems there’s been a rapid acceleration to new solutions and paradigms on contingent workforce management. Developments like online staffing, hybrid MSPs, talent banks and so are fundamentally altering the landscape of today’s contingent workforce management. And with any change in industry, there will be casualties. Just who those casualties are and who will be left standing remains to be seen, but it is those companies who can best manage that shift been operational engines of supports to forward-looking strategic resources that will prove to be successful. This means as a contingent workforce manager, you need to become more long-term in your focus and providers need to be able to define strategic solutions to clients’ tactical and longer-term problems.