January 21, 2021

How to Grow and Nurture Your Company’s Contingent Talent Network

Building a talent pipeline is one of the most important functions of human resources.

Due to the evolving nature of work, that pipeline must include contingent workers who are ready to be hired on an on-demand basis. To stay competitive in the fight for workers in an increasingly gig-based environment, HR leaders must be proactive in staying connected with those who could potentially meet their staffing needs.

High-quality contingent workers can help quickly satisfy a company’s labor requirements, usually at significantly less cost than a permanent hire, writes Jason Wingard, Dean Emeritus and professor of Human Capital Management at the School of Professional Studies at Columbia University. Therefore, they have become an integral part of the talent pipeline, helping businesses offset skills gaps and labor shortages when finding permanent talent is not the ideal option.

Contingent workers provide businesses with an expanded pool of experienced candidates who are already equipped with the skills required to execute a project efficiently. Growing that network and nurturing those workers needs to be a priority for human resource departments at companies of all sizes in all industries.

Predict Gaps to Guide Contingent Talent Pipeline Development

The future of work, especially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, demands that organizations be prepared to increase their use of flexible labor, write McKinsey partners Bryan Hancock and Bill Schaninger. To grow that contingent talent network, HR managers and company leaders need to know what skill gaps they will likely have to fill in the future.

That’s where predictive analytics and organizational forecasting come into play in HR. Talent-acquisition analytics are especially useful for contingent workforce development because it helps companies “identify skill gaps and short-term requirements for staff augmentation,” writes the team at Deloitte Consulting.

Predictive analytics give companies in-depth insights into likely future hiring needs so they can more quickly identify contingent network candidates to fill those gaps. In fact, expanding the talent pool is one of the main reasons companies implement talent-acquisition technologies that have predictive analytics capabilities. Using data, the tools will make predictions about candidates which the HR team can then use to determine whom to target for personalized communication within the contingent network.

Organizational change also impacts contingent talent pipeline development. HR managers must be tuned in to organizational changes that may signal a potential need for contingent workers to fill skills gaps. HR can forecast needs based on those changes and grow the network so it aligns with those potential needs.

For example, if an organization is planning to expand, it would need to conduct an informal needs assessment to decide what new and/or different skills are needed to support that expansion, notes Kathleen Yazbak, founder of Viewcrest Advisors. In that way, it is being intentional about growing its talent network, which is crucial to filling impending talent gaps before they become a problem.

overheard view of a crowd of people standing in the shape of two puzzle pieces; concept: contingent talent tips

Create a Specific Recruiting Strategy for Contingent Workers

Part of being intentional in developing a contingent talent network is creating a formal recruiting strategy specifically for that workforce. Once you have used predictive and forecast data to determine what skills you need in candidates, the recruiting strategy will dictate how to find those candidates. This strategy will answer the question “How do we recruit from a highly diverse set of talent pools, including expert networks and specialists?” asked by Lisa Disselkamp and David Parent at Deloitte.

The strategy should include alternative talent streams, such as social media sites and freelance work boards, as sources for locating qualified contingent workers. HR writer Riia O’Donnell reports that 65 percent of contingent workers find work through professional and social networks, especially those that are built specifically for gig workers.

She says to capitalize on recommendations from your own employees who likely know contingent workers who possess the skills you need. The network is a constantly-evolving entity, so a recruiting strategy that incorporates multiple approaches to finding candidates will ensure you are able to keep the pipeline full.

Treat Contingent Workers as Part of the Workplace Family

According to a survey conducted by MBO Partners, 74 percent of contingent workers say their satisfaction with a job and company depends on them being treated as a valuable member of the team. Although they are hired on a part-time or project basis, these workers are integral parts of your organization and should be treated with the respect they deserve and made to feel like they are part of the company’s culture.

It’s easy to treat contract workers as outsiders; however, this can lead to alienation and abandonment by these workers who are valuable assets. That’s why “it’s important that the entire workforce, both alternative and traditional, be treated with respect with regard to culture, inclusion, and work assignments—and that perceptions on all sides reflect these values,” writes the Deloitte team headed by the company’s Global Human Capital Leader Erica Volini.

To help them feel welcome and integrated, include freelancers in team-building and networking activities so they are exposed to the corporate brand and can establish relationships with other workers. No matter how long a contingent worker is contracted to work, they must be made to feel like they belong and are playing an integral role in the company’s success.

office workers in a conference room watch an onscreen presentation; concept: contingent talent tips

Regularly Communicate with Contingent Workers to Keep Them Engaged

That sense of connection is fostered through consistent communication throughout the worker’s tenure on a particular project, as well as between jobs. Communication is one of the essential elements in building a culture of satisfaction that keeps contingent workers engaged with a company and available for work.

“Staying connected with our talent communities, regardless of whether there’s an immediate need for their expertise or not, helps to ensure our talent-acquisition team has a pulse on the market and is tapping into our already-existing network before going back to the drawing board for each search,” says Amy Sparling, senior manager of talent acquisition at consulting firm West Monroe.

There are a number of different topics HR leaders should address with contingent workers in these communications to keep them engaged, including performance feedback. It’s imperative, writes Lauren Dixon at Talent Economy, to communicate the company’s mission to contingent workers so they have an understanding of the big picture and where they fit in.

Encouraging open, transparent, and consistent communication with contingent workers helps establish long-term relationships with these workers. When the contingent workforce is engaged beyond a one-off project, it is easier for organizations to bring them back on board for other projects in the future.

Reset Expectations about Contingent Talent

Most conversations around a contingent workforce focus on these workers as on-demand hires for specific jobs. But that’s not the only way organizations should be using contingent labor. Because of the skills specialization, they are also viable candidates for long-term contract work.

Don’t be afraid to invest more time into bringing these skilled workers into the organization’s labor fabric. While they may not be permanent employees, their purpose to the company may be better served with a longer contract. As you integrate them into the culture and focus on increasing communication with them, keep in mind that they possess a wealth of knowledge that can be useful beyond single projects from time to time.

Images by: Filippo Colizza/©123RF.com, Scott Betts/©123RF.com, Jovan Mandic/©123RF.com