A positive change during the past year is a renewed focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. SIA’s 2020 Workforce Solutions Buyer Survey asked contingent workforce program managers about their strategies to align CW and diversity goals. Only 24% of CW programs had such a program in place, though 57% were likely to explore doing so within two years.

The Future of Diversity and Inclusion in the Contingent Workforce report also backs that up, with nearly two-thirds of respondents saying they expect their organization’s contingent DE&I to become a higher priority moving forward. The report also looks at the components hindering companies from moving forward. The good news is these components — when done right — are critical factors to a successful DE&I program in your contingent workforce. They are:

  • Corporate mandate/internal support
  • Supplier diversity/talent pool diversity
  • Data capture/technology
  • Risk/co-employment

Internal support/corporate mandate. Every successful program started with a strong internal or executive sponsor and a thoughtful business case. Many DE&I programs are already in place on the FTE side and grow organically to their flexible workforce as an organization becomes more in tune with what DE&I looks like and its culture of inclusivity grows. There are many examples of CW program managers who have driven initiatives, some of whom are mentioned and profiled in SIA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Influencers list.

Supplier diversity/talent pool diversity. There are many choices when it comes to suppliers that are focused on bringing diverse talent to your CW program. Most companies already have a program to ensure a certain percentage of their spend goes to diversity-owned staffing suppliers. According to our Workforce Solutions Buyer Survey, 71% have a diversity supplier program for professional staffing and 62% have a diversity supplier program for commercial staffing.

Ensuring diversity-owned staffing suppliers receive your business is a great start, but programs really need diversity within their talent pools to push DE&I successfully. There are additional ways to focus more on talent pool diversity and discover additional suppliers who have been focused on DE&I with strengths in different areas.

Data/technology. One of the biggest concerns program managers have is around capturing data for non-employees related to DE&I. Look at engaging suppliers who track sensitive individual information related to contingent workers that can report metrics across your program accurately, confidentially and in a holistic way. When you are tracking data, test technology for biases and implement alternative complaint systems to ensure managers and workers can raise concerns.

“CW managers need to ask their staffing suppliers for the data on candidate diversity going through the system,” says Dawn McCartney, SIA’s VP, contingent workforce strategies council, in a recent article that looked at next steps for diversity initiatives. “Data on diversity relies on candidates self-reporting, and some may be hesitant to do so out of concern the information could be used against them. With more and more CEOs discussing the importance of diversity, though, this concern may be waning.”

CW managers will also have to decide what to do with the data once they have it. Be prepared to involve other stakeholders — such as HR, legal and DE&I groups — for discussions on making hiring more diverse including eliminating bias.

Risk/co-employment. When it comes to capturing data for non-employees related to DE&I, many companies are concerned about what the data will show and whether it could lead to legal risk of a discrimination or reverse-discrimination lawsuit. One way to avert this may be to ask suppliers to send data only at certain times, such as after a candidate has already been brought on board, according to McCartney. This gives information on diversity but helps prevent discrimination because the information only came to light after the hire.

If, on the other hand, you want information as soon as possible before onboarding to ensure your suppliers are providing a diverse set of candidates or you are concerned about co-employment, enlist subject-matter experts from HR, legal and DE&I groups to help mitigate risk and keep you and stakeholders in the know. It is also important to examine whether your contingent workforce reflects the available workforce. Find out more in this recent article, “Fair Crafting.”

Spotlighting and prioritizing DE&I within your contingent workforce is the right thing to do. Start with a thoughtful business case, work to find that strong internal or executive sponsor and bring in and engage your peers in HR, legal and DE&I groups, who can help drive your DE&I program initiatives forward while addressing any questions other stakeholders and external groups may have.

Additional SIA Resources