great place to work

A great place to work includes contingent workforce employees

Our Managing Director, Rachel Bevans, discusses the relevance of including valuable contingent workforce employees in the employee value proposition (EVP) consultation process, in order to become a “great place to work”. This article was written for First 5000 where it was first published on 4th June 2021.

The contingent workforce: employees we rely upon

As more businesses take a lean approach to their organisation structure, they rely on contractors, freelancers and sub-contractors or their “contingent workforce” for fulfilling their human resource needs on an on-demand, short-term basis.

Organisations aiming to become a “great place to work” are constantly working to understand permanent employee values and needs in order to deliver a desirable employee value proposition, culture and experience that attracts, engages and retains the right long-term talent. However, less focus is placed on the contingent workforce.

In many cases, these people are not treated as employees and are subject to sub-optimal employment practices, working conditions and remuneration packages, without the support structures – colleagues, manager, human resources practitioner – to manage the situation. It can be discriminatory, with senior management, specialist skills and longer-term contract roles often receiving better treatment than freelancers and independent contractors providing on-demand service via a digital platform, defined as “gig economy” workers.

Ironically, contingent workers are the people who businesses count on to be there when they need skillsets that are not cost efficient to have on the books full-time or to fill their own employee gaps such as maternity leave, when they need to adapt quickly to changing market conditions or to customer and production ebbs and flows.  Often required post haste, with the ability to hit the road running, they are valuable people to find and hold onto for future human resource urgencies.

Furthermore, these people are potentially low-cost recruitment solutions for permanent employees and employee referrals, a source of new business and customers themselves.

From a legal perspective, the recent landmark case in which a gig economy driver was ruled as an employee sets precedent.

Treat them well, keep them keen

Speaking with mid-sized business leaders, one of the factors in business success is the way they treat their contractors, sub-contractors and freelancers. As one Managing Director says, “in our industry, maintaining relationships matters, if you have a good relationship, they give you priority or preference over other work, when you need them to come and work for you”.

Needs are inevitably different. Whereas permanent employees will look for some kind of cultural fit or value add, some contingent workers seek cultural alignment, but other don’t. Whilst contingent workers are unlikely to be seeking the career progression and training and development opportunities of permanent employees, they may still see the job as a learning experience and a way to expand their credentials. But the end of the day, what most employees have in common, permanent or contingent, is to be treated well.

Build the contingent workforce into your employer brand

Becoming a “great place to work” depends on the employment experience for all employees, not just the permanent ones. And the negative, anti-brand sentiment that treating permanent or contingent employees poorly hurts organisations’ ability to attract, retain and engage employees, customers and shareholders.

In developing your employer brand, it’s worthwhile talking to both permanent and contingent employees, and recruiters thereof. During the consultation phases, understand how they want to be treated, what kind of working experience they’re seeking and ultimately what you can do to attract, retain and engage people like them.

It is more than likely you will end up with separate value propositions for permanent and contingent workforces, that sit under the overall employer brand positioning.

By investing in consulting with contingent workers and defining a relevant, compelling and differentiated value proposition and experience, it will build stronger relationships that facilitate delivering the business strategy in the short and long term.

About Rachel Bevans

Rachel Bevans is strategist, researcher and business director, with over 28 years’ experience helping organisations become brand-driven, customer-centric and employee-engaged. Rachel founded The Healthy Brand Company in 2012 to unite her brand experience, passion for health and wellbeing and curiosity about what motivates people.

Contact [email protected]