2017 Summer Series: Diversity and Inclusion in the Contingent Workforce {Part 3}

As many owners of Contingent Workforce programs would confirm, traditional guidance has been to keep contingent workers at arm’s length: limit tenure, mark badges differently, sit contractors on a different side of the floor all with the primary goal to limit co-employment risk. However, an unintentional consequence of such actions is making these workers feel they are inferior to the full-time employee and disconnected from the organizations they are serving.

In years past, many contingent workers may have accepted that as status quo. However, as we’ve discussed in Parts 1 and 2 of our series, the landscape is changing. Contingent workers are now sitting more firmly in the driver seat of their careers and are being selective in where they share their talent. While pay is still a significant driver, the culture and work environment are becoming important factors (similar to those seeking full-time employment).

While the role of the contingent worker and their importance to the organization continues to evolve, many are asking themselves: “Will my opinions and differences be valued by the organizations that I service? If I’m going to contribute on a high level in critical areas, will my thoughts and expertise be both considered and incorporated with respect?”

It is likely that most contingent program sponsors have not considered that aspect of their program and ultimately the candidate’s allegiance to the organization.  Organizations develop Diversity & Inclusion programs designed to foster teamwork, acceptance and creativity within their full-time employee populations which raises an interesting question when discussing the contingent workforce: should contingent workers be considered when developing inclusion initiatives for the organization as a whole?

While there are not definitive answers that can be applied to each organization equally, below are 3 ideas to be explored as a part of this conversation:

1.       Review the long-term strategy for the Contingent Workforce program. From a total talent perspective, what role will contingent workers play in meeting organization goals? One could argue that the amount of effort an organization puts into inclusion with its contingent worker population should be reflective of the size and impact of those workers. If they represent 1% of the workforce and are mostly in administrative roles, it may not be worth the effort. However, when (a) contingent workers are in high contribution roles sitting on a team along with full-time employees (b) the organization is experiencing high worker attrition, or (c) contractor satisfaction feedback is below target, it may be worth the investment to ensure maximum ROI on contingent engagements.

2.       Examine your organization’s current Diversity & Inclusion culture – understand the spoken and unspoken drivers to how the company approaches inclusiveness among its worker population If inclusion is part of the organization’s core values and leadership openly supports it and creates strategies to support growth, everyone that works at that company should reap the benefits. Consider a policy that allows training and participation in company initiatives for contingent workers.

3.       Assess risk of any Contingent Worker policy changes with Legal/Risk & Compliance representatives.  Full disclaimer, we are not providing legal advice.  That being said, there are legal experts who contend that there is little legal reason to believe inclusion of the contingent workforce increase co-employment risk to the organization. Ultimately, co-employment risk is driven by the nature of the work, control of the work, and the architecture of the benefit plan.

In the 4th and final installment to the discussion, we will discuss some practical ways D&I can be incorporated into your Contingent Workforce program.


This series is co-authored by Leslie Marsh and Kanita Harris Brown.

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