During the lifespan of any contingent workforce program, it will be necessary at times to assess the criticality of your contingent workforce.

For example, you may need to assess whether you can offload part of your contingent workforce due to pending economic uncertainty, to meet company financial targets or as part of a general downsizing strategy. You may be changing your MSP or supply base and need to move the billing of your contingent workforce from one provider to another. Or perhaps you want to perform an audit on your organization’s reliance on its contingent workforce.

In order to prepare for any such scenario, the program office will need to know whether the loss of any specific contingent worker will put their projects at risk and the level of that risk.

My tried-and-true way of doing this is to require engagement managers to set a criticality rating for each of their staff augmentation workers on a scale of one to five, with five being the most critical:

  1. The worker’s end date is on or after a fixed date — say within the next two to three months — and they will definitely not be extended or replaced after this date.
  2. The worker has skills/experience that the engagement manager believes are readily available in the market and that the worker could be replaced relatively easily.
  3. The engagement manager believes this worker has niche technical skills that may make an immediate replacement difficult.
  4. The engagement manager believes this worker has niche business skills that may make an immediate replacement difficult.
  5. The engagement manager believes this worker has rare/critical skills or business knowledge and that their removal would result in either failure/significant impact to a project or present an unacceptable business risk.

Typically, most hiring managers would rate their workers, especially those they wish to retain, between three and five, with a high percentage being rated at five — project critical! Therefore, you must attach a consequence to each of these criticality ratings, and the consequence I want to focus on in this article is for criticality five.

Should an engagement manager wish to rate a contingent worker as project critical, it must be accompanied by a contingency plan for that worker. Let’s face it, this critical worker could choose to leave the business tomorrow, either of their own accord or due to any manner of unforeseen circumstances beyond their control. Therefore, it goes without saying that if this worker is so critical to the business, then the business must have a contingency plan in place to avoid or mitigate any possible risk should they leave.

The magical thing about this is that during the process of putting a contingency plan together for a criticality five worker, the hiring/engagement manager quickly realizes that the very presence of this contingency plan means that the worker is no longer a criticality five because there is now a documented contingency plan in place. The worker is then (by default) downgraded to a criticality three or four, which is now manageable, and they can be included in your downsizing or transition strategy. In my 30 years’ experience with numerous organizations applying this one-to-five rating across countless contingent workers — mainly when looking to transition workers from one MSP provider to another — I have never seen a contingent worker rated as criticality five; 100% of them have always been rated one to four.

I would be delighted to have a more in-depth conversation with CWS Council members about these ratings, the communication process required across the organization (especially with the hiring/engagement managers) and the governance needed to ensure your strategic objectives during any downsizing or transition process are achieved with minimum impact to the business.