Even though some workers are temporary, organizations shouldÂ strive to leave a permanent positive impression.
By Marta Chmielowicz
In a business world where 41.5 percent of the averageÂ enterpriseâs overall workforce is composed of non-employeeÂ labor, according to Ardent Partnersâ The StateÂ of Contingent Workforce Management 2018-2019 report,Â organizations are putting the role of contingent workersÂ front and center. In fact, the growth of the gig economyÂ is serving as the catalyst for a new world of workâoneÂ that is increasingly innovative, dynamic, and responsive toÂ transformative market pressures and global challenges.
But as business leaders compete to attract independentÂ professionals for their agile, project-based needs,Â developing a unified organizational culture is becomingÂ more critical than ever. âCulture is often perceived as anÂ intangible entity and with the abundance of contingentÂ workers and contracting opportunities, this talent canÂ often feel like a transient workforce just looking to theÂ next professional credential for their CV,â says TerriÂ Lewis, senior vice president and global head of HR forÂ Pontoon. âCulture is still a main driver for the contingentÂ workforce, though, and these workers will accept orÂ decline a job offer based on the culture they perceiveÂ the company to haveâmuch like a permanent employeeÂ does.â
Attracting and retaining this population of employeesÂ requires that organizations develop a strategy thatÂ blends gig workers into the very cultural fabric ofÂ the organization. According to Geno Cutolo, CEO ofÂ Staffmark Group, facilitating the right culture will inspireÂ teams, improve creativity, and promote collaborationâultimately strengthening the employee experience andÂ making the relationship between company and employeeÂ more personal.
In order to create a culture that welcomes contingentÂ workers, HR leaders should consider three majorÂ elements of their talent acquisition and talentÂ management strategies: branding, inclusion, andÂ development.
1. Branding. In the war for talent, Ardent PartnersÂ reports that 58 percent of businesses are reimaginingÂ their brands to appear more attractive to prospectiveÂ employeesâboth contingent and traditional. Ultimately,Â brand should be communicated in such a way thatÂ candidates are aware of and engaged with the cultureÂ before they even step in the door.
âTo attract contingent workers, your company cultureÂ should not be a best-kept secret,â says Dave Savarise,Â executive vice president of Broadleaf Results. âIdentifyÂ the most important parts of your culture and promoteÂ those aspects through your website, social media, andÂ marketing efforts. This will draw in contingent workersÂ who identify with what your organization does, andÂ more importantly, how you do it.â
According to Cutolo, social media platforms likeÂ Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be leveraged toÂ offer potential candidates a peek into company cultureÂ by highlighting current employees and showing off theÂ people behind the brand. Likewise, a website can serveÂ as a platform for helpful and relevant content thatÂ strategically conveys a desired tone.
But a strong online presence is not sufficient toÂ truly reinforce culture. Savarise recommends thatÂ organizations utilize consistent branding across theirÂ company locations to create a distinct atmosphere thatÂ unifies geographically dispersed teams. âEstablishing aÂ unified look and feel to all offices will establish a senseÂ of solidarity across locations, which is important forÂ promoting a cohesive culture,â he explains.
Leveraging partnerships with like-minded organizationsÂ can also propel brand and culture forward. For example,Â Brown Brothers Harriman, a Broadleaf Results client, works inÂ tandem with a university in Poland to stack its leadershipÂ pipeline with talent that is aligned to the organizationâsÂ values.
âTo communicate our culture during the recruitmentÂ process, we form strategic partnerships withÂ organizations that help us promote our story andÂ brand to key audiences,â says Laura Scherban, seniorÂ vice president and global head of talent acquisition atÂ the bank. âWe currently work with a local universityÂ in Poland to help them shape curriculum that educatesÂ students in financial services. Not only does this createÂ a pipeline of young talent, but it is also a powerful andÂ unique way to present our culture of collaboration andÂ inquiry on a global scale.â
2. Inclusion. In addition to leveraging branding toÂ highlight company culture, HR professionals can attractÂ and retain contingent workers by crafting an employeeÂ value proposition that demonstrates how they fit into theÂ greater business strategy.
âSuccessful retention of contingent workers is a productÂ of cultivating and sustaining genuine relationships. MakeÂ contingent workers feel like they are integral to yourÂ companyâs goals. When you can, include them in regularÂ company activities and communications. EstablishingÂ these real, meaningful relationships is crucial to keepingÂ contract employees around for as long as you needÂ them,â Savarise says.
According to Cutolo, this relationship-buildingÂ process should begin at the very first interaction thatÂ an applicant has with a company. Throughout theÂ onboarding process, contingent workers should receiveÂ frequent, honest, open communication that reassuresÂ them that they are being considered. This type of warmÂ welcome immediately improves employee satisfaction,Â morale, and productivity, and integrates new employeesÂ with the company culture.
Some of Staffmark Groupâs best practices aroundÂ onboarding non-employee workersÂ include:
- facilitating teamÂ introductions;
- assigning mentors toÂ help employees get toÂ know the companyÂ and their coworkers;Â and
- establishing aÂ dialogue with newÂ employees with dailyÂ check-ins for the firstÂ week and weeklyÂ check-ins for the firstÂ 90 days.
âAt the start of anÂ assignment, managersÂ should celebrate new hires andÂ gig workers,â Cutolo says. âPartÂ of making everyone feel a part of theÂ team is tapping into our human desire to belong.Â Regardless of the position length, employees shouldÂ feel connected. A good first day should include formalÂ introductions to the team along with an explanationÂ of the roles of key team members, how the team worksÂ together, and the companyâs processes and procedures.â
Cutolo also emphasizes the importance of clearlyÂ communicating expectations in the beginning of aÂ temporary assignment. By immediately helping newÂ contingent employees understand their job dutiesÂ and assigning tasks that help them contribute to theÂ organizationâs goals, managers encourage new workersÂ to feel like valued members of the team.
âWeâre always certain to set clear expectations at theÂ start of a temporary workerâs employment and we doÂ our best to welcome them fully,â says Scherban. âAtÂ times, we utilize our contingent workforce as a pipelineÂ for permanent employees. If there is a possibility that aÂ contract worker could join us permanently, weâre sureÂ to communicate that at the outset. This helps us formÂ genuine, honest connections with workers who areÂ integral to our broader team.â
3. Development. Although contingent workers areÂ typically hired to fill talent gaps on aÂ temporary or project basis, theseÂ employees still value skillsÂ development and growthÂ opportunities. âA company thatÂ values output over input,Â values skills over tenureÂ in the organization, andÂ gives opportunities forÂ all talent to reskill andÂ upskill in order to driveÂ the organization forwardÂ will see itself driving aÂ culture that attracts andÂ retains all talent typesÂ for the betterment of theÂ organization,â explainsÂ Lewis of Pontoon.
By informing contingentÂ workers about futureÂ opportunities and communicatingÂ their impact on organizationalÂ progress, Broadleaf Resultsâ Savarise saysÂ that companies can keep this population ofÂ workers engaged and prevent them from becomingÂ siloed from the rest of the company.
Brown Brothers Harriman is one organization thatÂ embraces the importance of professional developmentÂ as part of its contingent workforce managementÂ strategy. According to Scherban, the company has aÂ strong culture that emphasizes independent thought,Â collaboration, and ingenuity. âWe provide contingentÂ staff opportunities for professional development and weÂ facilitate engagement with both our full-time staff andÂ our management team. From the start, we are clear withÂ our contingent employees about their responsibilities andÂ expectations for the future.â
Staffmark Group also gives its employees opportunities to takeÂ on new projects and contribute to broader organizationalÂ goals. Cutolo says that one recent initiative meantÂ to engage staff members and promote employeeÂ development and idea-sharing was a virtual âSharkÂ Tankâ competition where both contingent and full-timeÂ employees could present their ideas for new initiativesÂ that deliver business value.
âAt the end of the day, an organization is nothingÂ more than the collective horsepower and ability of itsÂ people to create value. So, we constantly encourageÂ our team to share their ideas with us,â he explains. âWeÂ narrowed the submissions down to a group of finalistsÂ who presented their ideas to our leadership team, andÂ we selected a winning idea that is in the process of beingÂ implemented now. The team loved the idea and gettingÂ the opportunity to share their vision, and we love thatÂ we were able to celebrate our teamâs success.â