2017 Summer Series: Diversity and Inclusion in the Contingent Workforce Summer {Part 1}

In this Summer Series, Leslie Marsh and Kanita Harris Brown explore a little explored subject: inclusiveness efforts within the contingent workforce population.

Inclusiveness and it's sister topic, diversity, have been popular business and social topics for the last decade however we are working in the era of a sizeable and growing contingent portion of the workforce. A discussion around how best to manage these important efforts within the flexible workforce is timely.

Leslie Marsh is the Procurement Strategist with HireTalent. Kanita Harris Brown is a Supply Chain Professional at K.H.Brown Solutions @ khbrownsolutions.com


The discussion around Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) tends to be a circular one that leaves you with more questions than answers. While most can clearly grasp to the moral value around the idea of hiring and engaging a diverse workforce, we struggle with how to demonstrate a direct the impact to the bottom line.  D&I advocates would remind you that a more inclusive culture is more effective in advancing business goals. Some studies suggest that companies with a more diverse workforce have stronger financial performance, but it’s safe to say only a handful of companies have really bought into the impact an empowered and diverse workforce can have on an organization.  However, with the expectation that there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the United States by 2050, the forward-thing company must be proactive in creating a diverse and inclusive culture that is reflective of America’s population.

As many talent management professionals can attest, there is another dynamic at play when you discuss the evolving American workforce. Statistic show that more than 40% of US working adults belong to the contingent workforce population (freelancers, contractors, gig workers, independent consultants) and that number is expected to grow. Furthermore, contingent workers are being placed in increasingly important positions that make meaningful contributions to organizations; which means it is more critical to attract and retain the best talent available.

While many organizations are still wrapping their minds around D&I for their full-time employees, very little thought (if any) has been given to how this should be managed with contingent workers. In response to concerns regarding co-employment, buying organizations tend to keep non-employees at arm’s length.  However, given the increasing number of contingents in the workforce as well as the central role they are playing in more organizations, one could argue that a different approach should be considered in acknowledgement of the changing dynamics:

 ·       What strategies can be deployed with diverse and niche suppliers in your Contingent Worker program to support company inclusion goals?

·       Should the buying company create a separate D&I program to address contingent workers? How should the traditional restrictions regarding how a contingent worker interacts with full time workers (e.g. affinity groups, training, community service) be reassessed for co-employment and legal risk?

·       Does the supplier community (MSP, agency, etc.) bear any responsibility in promoting D&I in the worker experience, or does it solely belong with the hiring organization? What is an appropriate investment of time and resources to ensure the contingent worker receives the support to feel comfortable making a meaningful contribution? 

In Part 2 of our series, we will discuss how to incorporate process and metrics that will advance diversity and inclusion efforts in contingent programs.