The benefits of having a diverse workforce remain top-of-mind for contingent workforce program managers. However, firms looking to increase their overall diversity spend often overlook contingent labor as a potential source.

Staffing Industry Analysts’ Dawn McCartney, VP, Contingent Workforce Strategies Council, is “amazed” at the amount of companies that don’t require a certain percentage of spend to process through diversity suppliers.

“It’s very rare that a diversity and inclusion group, or department within a company, will come to the group responsible for contingent labor and say, ‘I want ‘x’ percent of spend,’” McCartney said.

“It may be important to them, but sometimes they don’t even think about the contingent [workforce program] being part of where they could get additional diversity spend. They are thinking more about companies in their supply chain.”

That said, leaders in charge of contingent programs recognize the value in having a diverse workforce.

“Most people have the best intentions,” McCartney explained. “They want to do what is right. They feel good about it and it reflects well on their brand. So even if they are not getting a mandate from diversity inclusion, there is still an interest in learning how to diversify their labor pools because it’s the right thing to do.”

Diversify your program. A diversity-owned staffing supplier can help provide a first step for companies looking to increase diversity in their contingent programs. And staffing providers are increasingly promoting their diversity certification status, making them easier to find and source. Staffing Industry Analysts, which publishes this newsletter, this week published a list of staffing firms that have self-identified as diversity-owned. The list comprises 157 firms in the US and Canada.

“Even if you don’t have a lot of time or bandwidth, this is an easier thing to do,” McCartney said. “Program leaders can get some diversity suppliers on their list and will then be able to start tracking what they are able to do through them. It can be promoted internally that you have diversity suppliers, and suppliers can promote that they are partners with you.”

Case Study: Thomson Reuters Program

Wendy Stenger oversees Thomson Reuters Corp.’s global external workforce program, which includes about 12,000 external workers. Her program at the mass media and information firm is more established, with 70% diverse suppliers.

The success of Thomson Reuters’ direct-source program has enabled it to attract contingent labor talent directly, Stenger said. “We are utilizing our brand and our career site to attract contract talent directly,” she said. But that doesn’t mean Stenger doesn’t still use suppliers; she just uses them less and in slightly different ways than other companies do now.

Ninety percent of the suppliers utilized in Thomson Reuters’ US contingent labor program are small, niche and/or diverse-owned staffing companies.

“In my opinion, small, niche, diverse-owned suppliers have a deeper understanding and passion for inclusion,” she said. “There is a better opportunity to see the different types of labor, capturing everyone for the jobs that we have to get the most qualified candidate and then to create a diverse and inclusive environment.”

Stenger also noted that Thomson Reuters’ successful diversity program was one of the first to utilize its company brand to attract contingent labor talent directly.

“We are utilizing our brand, our career site, and our job postings,” she said. “We’ve been doing that for three years now and are the most successful at it.”

Suppliers & Diversity

But staffing firms still have their place in her program.

“For the suppliers I do need, I’m looking for suppliers that can help provide that unique and hard-to-find talent that my brand alone cannot attract,” she explained. “You need skills that may not be hard to find because of the skill set, but hard to find because of the labor market.”

Diversity in the workplace brings benefits to a company beyond checking boxes and looking good to potential talent. It helps capture the most qualified pool of candidates to create a diverse and inclusive workplace environment.

Stenger described a discussion at a Thomson Reuters diversity event, when a speaker was asked why diversity should be important to staffing buyers when the goal is really just to hire the most qualified person.  The response? “How do you know you have the most qualified person if you’re not looking everywhere?”

“It made absolute sense to me,” Stenger said.