The explosion of Covid-19 worldwide this year forced the workforce solutions ecosystem to rapidly adapt to unprecedented disruptions. In a keynote address that opened last week’s CWS Summit North America, SIA’s Jo Matkin addressed how workforce programs have responded to both the challenges and the opportunities — and how they can prepare for those that still lay ahead.

Describing the pandemic as “a catalyst for change,” Matkin, SIA’s global workforce solutions research director, presented her keynote, “2020 – The Dawn of a New Era?” at the virtual conference, the largest in the event’s 16-year history with more than 850 attendees from 22 countries representing more than 450 companies. In a continuation of last week’s CWS 3.0 article, this article provides a few more of her insights.

Direct sourcing. While interest in direct sourcing was already on the rise in 2019, it has increased this year as organizations look for possible cost savings and also seek to make a more direct connection to the talent — particularly if they want to bring them back post-Covid, Matkin explained.

Direct sourcing doesn’t necessarily mean ‘self-service’: It can mean several different things. “The key point here is, it’s about the curation, and the relationship-building, and the engagement with that talent,” Matkin said.

SIA research finds that 30% of CW programs are engaged in direct sourcing in some form today, and 49% intend to explore the concept within the next two years. In addition, 34% of temporary workers actually prefer working directly with the employer, according to an SIA survey, signaling interest from the talent side as well.

Is direct sourcing on your radar? Consider the role partnerships might play. Who is doing the talent-pool sourcing and curation? Options include partner-led sourcing — leveraging an existing MSP, RPO, staffing supplier or payroll supplier — or a client-led sourcing approach.

“But choose your partners wisely,” Matkin said. “This isn’t something that you can just try out for a couple of months and hope for the best. You need to be invested in it, but you need to bring partners along the journey with you and take the rough with the smooth.”

Also, leverage your brand to bolster your direct-sourcing effort. Only 20% of large organizations currently utilize their career site to attract contingent workers, according to SIA research. However, more than half, 57%, intend to do so within the next two years.

“Leveraging your brand to attract talent is not just about posting on a website and advertising your jobs,” Matkin said. It’s using your brand as a vehicle to engage with contingent talent,much in the same way it may be used to engage direct-hire workers and current employees.

And being a destination brand for contingent workers is more important now than ever before. It can lead to increased applications and a broader reach, a leg-up in competition for those with skills in short supply, and global credibility as a reputable employer for contingents.

Diversity and inclusion. There is an emerging call-to-action to include contingent workforces in diversity and inclusion best practices, bolstered in parted by the current social climate.

Research soon to be published finds just 26% of organizations today consider wrapping D&I practices into their contingent workforce as a priority. However, within two years, 54% will consider it a priority. The study was conducted by SIA in partnership with HireTalent, Consciously Unbiased, Talent Solutions, TAPFIN and Beeline.

“I would argue that two years is too long” to make it a priority, Matkin said, as it could take two years to move a plan forward — particularly given to date, many organizations have only focused on D&I in terms of a supplier diversity and not in terms of the contingent workforce itself.

Efforts must be placed on collaboration among an organizations’ entire supply chain for delivering contingent workers, which can be quite complex and involve MSPs, VMSs, different technologies, multiple staffing suppliers and more. However, the enterprise must start the efforts, then look to the suppliers to support the initiatives.

Total workforce management/total talent management. While total workforce management and/or total talent acquisition is often a program’s goal, a company’s organizational structure can present a roadblock. SIA research has found that the top barrier to implementing total workforce management is organizational siloes and complexity, cited by 75% of survey participants.

“Now that we have removed some of the physicality of organizations, perhaps we have an opportunity to break down some of those mental silos as well,” Matkin said.

Incorporating the contingent workforce as a part of strategic planning process is an important step forward toward total workforce management. However, a relatively low 35% of organizations SIA surveyed are currently doing that today. On the bright side, that is up 7% from 2019, and 54% are considering doing so within two years.

“We are starting to see a shift from intention to action, where organizations are actually starting to do this,” Matkin said.

The road ahead: Contingent workforce management is now in a state of ‘liminality,” in between where we used to be and where we want to be, Matkin said. “We are in somewhat of a holding pattern. While lots and lots of advances have been made that we should embrace and consider for the longer-term future, it will be mindset and things like that element of trust that will take us to a place where we can make systemic and long-term change.”

SIA will hold next year’s CWS Summit conference in Phoenix on Sept.20-21, 2022.

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