Despite having equalities legislation in place for decades, the global pandemic helped highlight the fact that employment outcomes are still not equal, especially among minority groups. This has led to a much greater focus on DE&I issues globally, with HR departments responding quickly and proactively to address these matters for their employed workforce. However, belonging should be a matter for your entire workforce, including the different types of contingent workers.

According to SIA’s “Workforce Solutions Buyer Survey” report, roughly 22% of the total workforce in the US is now contingent — and that number is only likely to increase. The tight labor market — combined with social, economic and geopolitical uncertainties and rapidly transforming ecosystems — is prompting organizations to rely more heavily on contingent workers.

The next generation of workers is closely watching companies’ behavior from both a social responsibility perspective and a DE&I perspective. As a result, there is a risk in limiting DE&I to just your employed workers. Your contingent workforce is a large part of your company culture, and those workers present an opportunity for you to take a giant, positive step forward when it comes to advancing inclusion and a sense of belonging.

A New Mindset 

Organizations need to change their mindsets and remove the notion that DE&I is an “initiative,” which implies it is temporary. They need to move toward “The Great Inclusion” and increase their focus over the next few years to align contingent workforce diversity goals with those implemented for their employed workforce. Organizations must act with a sense of urgency in the talent arena and weave DE&I into their organizational DNA in order to maximize the opportunity to infuse inclusion across the whole enterprise. They must move beyond diversity supplier spend and start to hire from diverse staffing suppliers, utilize DE&I data analytics to inform hiring decisions, include contingent workers in company culture and partner with providers who will further these efforts.

An organization’s contingent workforce, which has gone through tremendous change and growth over the last few years, plays a key role in its overall human capital strategy. Organizations have been forced to align their values with their actions, and there is sufficient evidence to suggest this re-focus is here to stay. As organizations lean in with a renewed focus on DE&I, they realize that inclusion goes beyond implementing a few training sessions or signing up a supplier with diversity ownership. It’s about doing the real work needed to bring more humanity to the contingent workforce, which will result in a truly inclusive company culture overall.