Since 2020, the heightened focus on diversity, equity and inclusion has many organizations committed to investing in their contingent workforces. Two years on and the spotlight is still very much on DE&I. But the road to DE&I in the workplace is a one with many detours and obstacles. So how do contingent workforce program managers navigate it?

DE&I is an extensive endeavor and taking the first step could be overwhelming, but there is much research and evidence supporting the business case that organizations embracing a culture of DE&I thrive while those that do not are consistently disadvantaged. Furthermore, contingent workforce program managers should be looking to continuously improve their programs and DE&I plays a crucial role in the growth of any program. While buyers and suppliers may have different goals for DE&I, it is important that both know their roles throughout the journey.

Realistic goals. First and foremost, contingent workforce program managers should understand what they want out of their programs in relation to DE&I, and after committing to ensuring their programs include DE&I, CW programs should start with small steps.

“Keep the old saying of ‘You can’t boil the ocean’ in mind, and remember: You can’t do everything all at once,” advises Allen Chilson, talent acquisition leader at Danaher Corporation. “Prioritize your initiatives and build a roadmap to create a long-term plan.  Remember that everyone comes to the table with some type of bias from their past experiences and it is okay to have to unpack some topics so that everyone has a good understanding of why this particular initiative is important to the program/company at this time.”

Audra Jenkins, chief diversity and inclusion officer for global staffing provider Randstad nv, added that program managers should set realistic goals, work on the most critical ones first, and echoed Chilson’s advice of not to try to do it all at once.

Seek advice. During the start of their DE&I journey, CW program managers should share best practices with one another, reach out for advice, and bounce ideas for their programs off others, Jenkins suggests. “Diverse perspectives improve strategic planning and execution.”

Linda Perneau, president and CEO of Volt Information Sciences Inc., suggests that engaging ambassadors on the topic can help define DE&I program goals as a first step.

Training and awareness. Investing in training and awareness is a good place for CW program managers to start. Program managers attending a recent SIA workforce solutions webinar, “Cultivating a Culture of Inclusion Through Empathy and Innovation,” agreed that training and awareness are critical components to success.

“There has to be a training to be conscious to hire people who do not look like you,” one attendee noted. “It also takes a commitment from the hiring manager, i.e., invest more time to train and take more ‘risk’ when hiring a neurodiverse candidate.”

And just as achieving DE&I itself is not an overnight process, training and awareness, too, will be a continuous journey with mistakes made along the way.

Above all, CW program managers should be patient within their DE&I journey, aiming not for perfection, but for progress, and realize that each small step they take will help them eventually reach their goals.