For more than a decade, people have argued themselves blue in the face, without being able to arrive at a conclusion on – who should own the contingent workforce? Perhaps the difficulty lies in the need for a common understanding of what ownership means in this context.
In using contingent workers, an enterprise has to manage intricate details of spend, management and compliance through the various stages of the workers’ life cycle, from sourcing and ongoing care to off-boarding. Historically, the two organizations claiming ownership of the Company’s contingent workforce program have been Procurement and Human Resources. Market conditions over the past few years have redefined contingent workers, expanding from agency contractors to also include independent contractors and SOW project teams. This expanded definition brings with it increased involvement from the organizations that have traditionally sourced these resources – the company’s line managers. In addition, increased government regulations have increased the involvement of Legal, and increased spend on contingent workers has made this a strategic agenda item for Finance. Should an enterprise choose one department to drive its objectives for its contingent workforce program and its management? Before attempting to answer the question, let us look at the specific strengths of each of these departments and how they can contribute towards the management of a contingent worker program resolving all the three major areas of focus and concern viz. spend, management and compliance:
Procurement: Procurement is responsible for establishing a dependable supply-base. Procurement personnel are experts at negotiating contracts and bringing a deep understanding of market-based rates as well as market supply and demand.
Finance: One of the major attractions of using contingent workforce is the potential for reduced costs. It is the responsibility of Finance to ensure that all purchases are properly budgeted, and that expenditures do not exceed established budgets.
Business Operations: Hiring managers are focused on completing a project or delivering a product or service. They know best the types and number of resources required to fulfill their specific needs on a given assignment.
Legal: Legal provides strong support at all times in setting commercial terms for contracts and is indispensable to any program’s success. Legal issues to be addresses in using contingent workers go beyond compliance with employment legislation (which is challenging in and of itself) to also address issues of worker safety, protection of intellectual property, and conforming to privacy regulations. Often, legal provides the needed direction to Human Resources and Procurement so that these organizations can enforce the policies established by Legal.
HR: Ultimately, it is the responsibility of Human Resources to deliver a workforce that can achieve the company’s business objectives. Human Resources specialists provide expertise in worker sourcing, vetting, compensation, training, and performance management.
The conclusion is obvious: In the ultimate analysis, the question of who owns the workforce is not a matter for discussion! To achieve effective contingent workforce solutions, we require the expertise or specialized skills offered by each function. This means that the petty power struggles can be set aside by the teams, as they focus on the needs of the program at each stage of its life and deliver their best efforts to meet the requirements.
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