Let’s face it, few things in life are critical. Yes, the air that we breathe and the water that we drink are all critical — and one might argue the occasional glass of wine.

But historically, not even renowned thought-leaders have been so vital they could not be replaced. Apple has continued without Steve Jobs. Microsoft goes on without Bill Gates. It even applies to the renowned Albert Einstein; many of his theories were found to be flawed when along came quantum mechanics and the realization that not all things behave the same way at the molecular level. Each of these thought leaders and many others made their mark, but despite them eventually falling by the wayside, the world has gone on.

For some reason, however, many organizations have specific contingent workers or groups of workers that their hiring managers consider to be absolutely business critical. For example, maybe they work at a customer site, doing “something” that they have done for years. The business argues that it would pose an unacceptable business risk or the project will fail if this particular person or group of contingent workers were to leave their posts. Really?

What if something does happen and these contingents are unable to or suddenly choose not to work for you tomorrow? What is your contingency plan then?

Having a contingency plan automatically reduces the criticality status of the worker and it is good business practice to ensure a contingency plan is in place for such individuals. Your company likely has a contingency plan in place for its highest-level positions; if a contingent worker is considered to be so critical to the business, there should be a plan in place for those individuals as well.

Making the Assessment

So how can you determine the criticality of your contingent workforce?

I recommend categorizing each worker on a scale of one to five, with one being the least critical and five as the most critical. However, this number has no meaning unless it has consequences, so each level needs its own set of actions and consequences.

An example of this type of categorization is shown in the table below, which has been used for assessing contingent worker costs and whether individuals are being billed (or paid), above market rate.


Council members interested in discussing this methodology in further detail, please contact the author.

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