Strategies to Engage a Contingent Worker at Work | DCR Workforce Blog

Strategies to Engage a Contingent Worker at Work


Hiring in the U.S. job market is definitely on the rise. The 12 month average of jobs added has grown from 221,000 at the end of June 2014 to 245,000 a year later. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate declined to 5.3 percent. Hiring for temporary help services in June went up by nearly 20,000 compared to May.

Contingent workers today are not unskilled, unemployed people who engage in temporary work only because they are unable to find a permanent position or happen to have a few spare hours in a day. Today, high caliber professionals also pursue temporary positions and earn premium pay rates which may take their income far above what a permanent job would offer.

Recent studies have shown that, when using contingent workers, companies are as motivated by a desire for quality as they are by a need to reduce costs. In other words, hiring temporary workers is a permanent strategy which holds critical importance and requires a hands-on approach.

So, it is time to ask the question: what can an employer do to make contingent workers feel engaged? Take a look at what Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg offered the contractors and vendors of Facebook. They include a $15 minimum wage, minimum 15 paid days off for holidays, sick time and vacation, and a $4,000 new child benefit for new parents who don’t receive paid parental leave. Both women and men are given the flexibility to take paid parental leave, an important step for stronger families and healthier children. She also cites research which shows that providing adequate benefits contributes to a happier and ultimately more productive workforce.

Financial Compensation: As the fight for a $15 minimum wage is raging across more than 35 countries, we want to look at the efficacy of pay in keeping contingent workers engaged, especially as base pay may be the only benefit a contingent worker gets. Cost control is an ever-present concern of every company. However, observation, research and common sense all indicate that pay may not be everything when it comes to employee engagement and job satisfaction; whether for permanent employees or contingent workers. There are many other factors like the job content or the worker’s bond with the supervisor. Permanent employees may stay in a position for want of a better opportunity or to avoid rocking the boat. Contingent workers, on the other hand, could opt for a change of assignment or finish their assignment and leave – to never look back.

For many companies, a short assignment at a higher cost is preferable to offering a permanent employee a package comprising of base salary (or regular pay rate with overtime pay), year-end bonus, commission, annual cost of living increase, paid vacation, 401 (K) contributions, stock options, health plan, travel and meal allowances and other benefits. When evaluating the potential use of a contingent worker, companies should go beyond the pay and bill rates, considering the total cost of utilizing a worker for the duration of the needed skill or role.

Temp-to-Perm: An offer might include the option to convert them to full-time workers, should the need arise later on. Negotiate this option in advance with the staffing agencies providing the temporary personnel. Establish a schedule of conversion fees. If there is a high likelihood that the position will be converted to a permanent one, determine in advance whether the candidate would consider the possibility of a permanent position at a future point in time.

Engagement: We find that whenever someone says that they lover their job, they immediately follow the comment with a statement about the great people they work with or for. We also find that the opposite is true. The leading cause of dissatisfaction is conflict with other workers or supervisors. It is the joint responsibility of the client supervisor and the staffing agency that employs the contingent worker to ensure worker satisfaction and engagement. This involves up-front efforts to ensure inclusion in the work environment, role clarity, regular check-ins, an effective feedback mechanism in which concerns are promptly acted upon, and coaching by the supplier. Recognition programs go a long way to increase engagement, but – as we have cautioned in previous blogs – client supervisors must be careful to avoid allowing temporary workers to participate in ways that can lead to claims of co-employment.

Retention: The issue of retention with contingent workers may appear to be completely off the table, as they only have limited tenures. But, this is not true. These workers are typically engaged to complete a specific project and/or fill a critical role. During the screening process, determine if there is any reason why the candidate’s availability does not match the anticipated assignment length. Verify when the position is offered that the worker understands and agrees to the anticipated end date. Be clear as to whether there is a possibility that the assignment would be extended. Also, have the supplier explain to the worker the consequences of leaving prior to completing the assignment. Pay attention to the engagement points made above. In every case – whether the worker leaves on the scheduled date or the assignment is terminated prematurely by either party, solicit detailed feedback from the worker. Share the feedback with appropriate company and supplier personnel as a means to continuous improvement.

So, it is important to ensure that the contingent workers are rewarded through the staffing agency for the productive work done by them for the company. Many companies require the staffing agencies to offer a benefits package that is equivalent to what is offered to the permanent employees. Engaging non-employees can accelerate success for companies that effectively engage them. Highly engaged contingent workers will see further assignments with these companies, be a source of referrals, and help to build the company’s overall brand. Evaluate ways in which you can enhance the value your company derives from using temps – making them part of your permanent strategy.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.