Most agree that proper onboarding of new staff, including contingent workers, is necessary to get them acclimated and productive as quickly and effectively as possible; it can also set the framework for worker engagement and company loyalty down the road. Much has been written on the topic of onboarding for contingents. However, the other end of the cycle — offboarding — can be just as important, but is often overlooked, especially when it comes to contingents.
An offboarding process makes employees feel valued and can boost staff retention efforts, with research suggesting that investing in offboarding increases retention by 71%, according to job board Resume-Library. However, only 29% of companies in the US have a formal offboarding process. And even fewer have a defined process in place for contingents.
Contingent workers are also affected by the onboarding/offboarding process. Staffing Industry Analysts’ Temporary Worker Survey 2018  queried temp workers for any anonymous feedback or advice they would like to give client companies.
“When a temporary employee leaves, at least take the time to say goodbye or thank you,” one respondent said.
It used to be that when it came to hiring, the employer had the upper hand. However, with unemployment at a record low, there are now more job openings than candidates to fill them , leading to companies turning to contingent workers to take on short-term projects. And if things go well, companies are using the temp-to-perm method to get these workers on board. Employers feel pressure in the time allotted to offer a combination of compensation and company culture to attract the right temp. As a result, the candidate experience is more important than ever.
What is the candidate experience? Defined most simply, it is how job seekers perceive your brand throughout the engagement process and during their tenure at the company. From job description through offboarding, the candidate experience influences how prospective contingents feel about your brand. Their experience will not only inform whether or not they take the assignment, but also how they portray the company to other prospective workers. And that’s why it’s important that the contingent worker leaves on a good note.
“Offboarding is now a crucial part of organizations’ employer branding efforts,” said Resume-Library CEO Lee Biggins. “Designed to leave a fond lasting impression of your business, and also improve engagement amongst your existing team members, having a clear strategy in place to smoothly transition employees out of your organization is key.”
Bringing a contingent worker back for subsequent assignments would yield many of the same benefits for companies; a contingent who is already familiar with your systems and processes would get up to speed and be more productive faster. But a worker who has a bad offboarding experience might be less likely to accept a repeat assignment and may even tell his or her friends to stay away. So contingent workforce programs should make sure their own processes account for the contingent experience — and talk to their supplier about their side of the equation as well.
Effective offboarding may include having your MPS or staffing supplier conduct an exit interview. Your office might also consider setting up alumni groups and reminding those leaving of the potential for future assignments.
“You never know, they might come away from your business realizing that the grass isn’t greener on the other side,” Biggins said. “Better still, they may not leave altogether. But if they do, they’re likely to return with more experience and a refined skill set that can benefit your organization.”
That was the case for David Sturt, who left a job at O.C. Tanner, a Salt Lake City-based rewards company, to launch a tech startup in Portland, Oregon. In a Harvard Business Review  article, Sturt credits the offboarding process for helping with his decision to return to O.C. Tanner when it offered him the position held by his former boss. While Sturt was an employee, his story shows that done right, there is no reason that you can’t re-hire contingent workers.
“As important as onboarding and building loyalty is, we need to devote similar energy to what we do when employees leave,” Sturt wrote. “It can be easy to write off people who are departing, but there are many reasons to instead appreciate and support them.”
While it’s usually clear why a contingent is leaving — the assignment has concluded — it is not always clear what the worker’s impression of your organization is, and whether that person would want to return or advise others to work for you.
Companies that bring back former workers save on training expenses and benefit from their familiarity with culture and processes. The rehire also returns with new experience, and contacts they have gained while away.
And even if they don’t return, a positive offboarding can help the firm in other ways, including brand reputation.
“Those who remain will see that the company cares about its workers as people, not just as cogs in a machine that are easily ignored or discarded when they cease to be useful,” Sturt wrote. “And employees who have been sent out on a supportive note might just recommend your organization to talented workers they meet in the future, creating a new network of talent from which to draw.”
It’s important to recognize that the brand is not just a logo or an advertising campaign. The brand is the promise that a company makes to its stakeholders. It is what the company stands for, what it’s going to deliver. If you have contingent workers who don’t know, don’t understand, and don’t live up to that promise, they can damage your brand, experts say.
When you have contingent workers, you need to decide how you want to treat them. Essentially, they’re your employees, though on a contingent basis. And as such, they represent you in every interaction with important stakeholders. Therefore, they need not only to know what your brand is, but they have to believe in it. Proper offboarding enables you to get a sense of what these contingent workers are looking for and how they were treated — and it is the key to whether they want to return or not.
Finally, these workers may very well be your customers as well. “Depending on their core product or service, the contingent worker can be a customer too,” notes Dawn McCartney, VP of Contingent Workforce Strategies Council at SIA. “A positive experience as a contingent worker can help keep them as a customer. But if their experience is not positive, you may not only lose them as a contingent worker, you could lose them as a customer/client.”