May 24, 2022

Career Mapping for a Contingent Workforce

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines contingent workers as “people who do not expect their jobs to last or who reported that their jobs are temporary. They do not have an implicit or explicit contract for continuing employment.”

Businesses choose contingent workers for many reasons. Often, these workers have specialized skills that the organization needs in the moment. 

Initially contingent workers and the businesses that hire them may see the relationship not only as temporary, but as a one-time gig. Companies that treat contingent workers as temporary visitors, however, do so at their peril. Career mapping for contingent workers helps companies ensure they have access to skilled workers familiar with the organization’s needs at a moment’s notice.  

Why Your Contingent Workers Need Long-Term Guidance

“For most organizations, contingent workers equate to workforce agility,” says Chris Paden, director of contingent workforce strategies and research at Staffing Industry Analysis (SIA). In a rapidly-changing world, that flexibility is a must. 

Agility can be a great benefit for an organization. Companies that continue to treat contingent workers as a transient exception to regular employment miss a number of opportunities when it comes to engaging with the U.S. workforce.

Approximately 52 million people, or 35 percent of the U.S. workforce, did some kind of contingent work in 2020, according to an SIA report. Although this number dipped slightly due to the pandemic, it is rising once again. 

A study by Stephanie Bredbenner and fellow researchers at the New England Archivists Contingent Employment Study Task Force found that many archivists don’t take contingent employment as a temporary step. The survey found, for instance, that 18 percent of respondents had been contingently employed for five to seven years, and 17 percent had been contingently employed for over eight years. Even among those who found a permanent job, 40 percent landed back in contingent employment after that permanent position ended. 

Like workers in other industries, these archivists have specific and valuable skill sets. As they move from job to job, they develop new skills and a deepening perspective of the work and the industry. To unlock the value of the skills and perspective of contingent workers, organizations that work with them must invest time in career mapping and planning for these experts. 

Group of four hikers with backpacks walks in mountains at sunset; career mapping contingent workforce concept

Choosing the Right Tools for Career Mapping

The value of contingent workers continues to make them an attractive choice for companies. A Gartner survey found that 32 percent of businesses are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a way to cut costs, writes Mary Baker. Contingent workers appear to many companies to be a way to add needed skills to the workforce while also controlling costs.

Yet what happens when the gig ends? In most cases, the contingent worker walks out the door — taking their skill set, perspective on the industry, and insight into the company’s needs with them.

Career mapping has long been a way for companies to help their long-term employees grow within the organization, to reskill and upskill existing talent, and to promote retention. Career mapping for contingent workers can help meet these goals as well, in a slightly different way.

When the right tools are used for career mapping with contingent workers:

  • Contingent workers see that their skills are valued by the organization, encouraging them to take on additional work as it arises. 
  • Companies see how a contingent worker’s skills fit in with their existing team and overlap with various tasks, projects, and departments, making it easier to keep these workers engaged.
  • Both parties benefit from a sense of stability coupled with the agility to move, explore, and innovate.

When it comes to career mapping, a deep source of data combined with refined tools for data analysis can reveal opportunities that neither a contingent worker nor company may have foreseen. Companies and workers that think of contingent work as a one-time arrangement miss the chance to seize these opportunities. 

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