CWS 3.0: July 10, 2013


Connecting With Your Contingent Workforce

By Kristen Harris

The trend of companies using contingent workers as a strategic portion of their workforce is continuing, with no end in sight. In addition to their full-time staff, many businesses are utilizing independent contractors, staffing firm employees, statement-of-work (SOW) contract workers and other types of contingents to gain flexibility and access to specific skill sets.

Mainly concerned with legal compliance, companies often put rules in place to maintain a clear definition between their full-time employees and any other types of workers, many of whom may be working alongside their full-time employees. These guidelines are important, and all companies using contingent workers should have them in place for their legal protection.

However, these rules can also make contingent workers feel like second-class citizens. When people are key to accomplishing critical tasks for your business, they need to feel like important members of the team. Add in the fact that many contingent workers are from the millennial generation, tending to crave a lot of feedback on their work, and this can become an even larger issue.

But there are ways to make contingents feel more included and appreciated without running afoul of any rules your company may have put in place.

  • Acknowledge their work. Everyone wants feedback and acknowledgement for the work they are doing, regardless of their employment status. Be sure to give frequent input on projects, provide updates on status or schedules, and make suggestions for improvement. While you shouldn’t do formal reviews in the same way you would for your full-time employees, if you work with someone for an extended period of time consider having a more informal conversation periodically. This allows the person to get input and ideas on how they may grow in their career, and possibly even contribute more to your team.
  • Share the big picture. Explain what your company does, your department’s responsibilities, and how their role fits into the big picture. This helps the person understand what is expected of them, and what success looks like for their role or project.
  • Invite to social events. Especially when there are company-sponsored events that contingent workers are not invited to, be sure to invite them to social events — even if it’s just an informal happy hour with your team where everyone pays their own tab. It’s not about getting something paid for by the company, it’s about being included as part of the group. Social settings give co-workers the opportunity to get to know each other better, and can help a team connect regardless of who their official employer is.
  • Talk to them about what they do. This sounds obvious, and you probably think you did this when they originally started working with you, but many contingents say that the people they work for have no idea what they can do. They are often hired for one task or project, but have other skills that may be a benefit to your team or company. You won’t know everything they do unless you ask (maybe at that informal happy hour).
  • Say thank you. It’s a simple thing, just two little words. But contingent workers often don’t feel welcome or appreciated. A little “thank you” here and there goes a long way toward making them feel like a part of your team.

Kristen Harris is co-founder and owner of Portfolio Creative.


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