Fueled by a tight labor market, competition for talent — especially in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) sectors — has pushed organizations to examine their standing as employers of choice in addition to their general corporate brand reputations. And for firms seeking to launch contingent worker programs, or advance the ones they have, this “employee value proposition” — also known as “employer branding” — must extend to contingent workers.

As the gig economy flourishes and more top talent chooses to work on a contract, gig or temporary basis, it is imperative that buyer organizations make a concerted effort to create a compelling contingent worker value proposition. How can firms bolster their reputation as a top employer of contingent workers? Here are some strategies to consider that can help attract and retain contingent workers.

Proper representation. Arm your staffing partners with the right information to be successful and to represent your organization properly. “So often, we see that the relationship between the buyer and the staffing partner is with an account manager, and yet the relationship between the candidate and the staffing partner is with the recruiter,” said Dawn McCartney, VP of SIA’s Contingent Workforce Strategies Council.  Since they will be the ones presenting your job opportunity to the candidate, be sure your recruiters know about your company, culture, environment and more. Make sure they are excited and educated and share that enthusiasm with the candidate.

Avoid the “black hole.” Keep recruiters and candidates informed about where they are in the submittal/interview process. Hold your internal stakeholders accountable for providing timely and informative feedback. Candidates have options, and they won’t wait to find out if a manager is interested in interviewing them. Worse yet, the manager may need to be informed that the desired candidate is no longer available because the process took too long, and they secured a position with a competitor instead.

Efficient engagement: Contingent workers will apply directly to multiple organizations, and they don’t want to be completing laborious and long-winded application forms each time. MRINetwork’s 2019 Recruitment Trends Study found 71% of applicants are frustrated with online applications that don’t parse enough information from an uploaded résumé, requiring additional manual entries. In addition, 48% of job seekers object to applications that take too long to complete. The study also found that 76% of candidates expect to be able to apply for jobs and receive feedback via mobile devices, but only 30% of employers offer a mobile-friendly application process.

Company values. Workers with sought-after skills can choose where they want to work, so keep in mind that company values, ethics and purpose are just as important to them as they are to full-time employees. All other things being equal, they will likely want to work with and be associated with companies that share their values.

Updating skills. Contingent workers and independent contractors seek engaging work that will bolster their portfolios and résumés. When possible, offer a variety of  leading-edge projects and ones that will help them learn new skills and refresh existing ones.

Temp to perm potential. Some workers may be looking for an option to become an employee in future. Be clear on what it will take to land a permanent position and the necessary steps on that path. SIA’s North America Temporary Worker Survey 2019 found temporary workers overwhelmingly plan to focus more on full-time work over the next decade. The expectation to do more traditional full-time work and less contingent work is very robust, holding true across almost every temp wage and age category.

Remote capabilities. Remote work arrangements can be a top priority for contingent workers. Typically offered only to employees, providing the opportunity to work remotely can set you apart from other firms vying for the same contingent candidate.

Create “raving fans.” Changing company culture and your contingent worker value proposition is a mid- to long-term strategy — and a strategy that organizations need to start addressing as a matter of urgency if they are going to be competitive in the future, according to Peter Reagan, senior director of contingent workforce strategies and Research for SIA. “I believe the contingent workforce is going to grow, and organizations are going to spend more time working on their contingent worker value proposition than their employee value proposition,” he said.

Reagan advocates for creating what he calls “raving fans.” You want employees and contingent workers leaving your organization to be extolling the brand and “spreading the news,” he said. “It is through those raving fans, over time, that makes people want to work for you.”