In my frequent conversations with program managers at Fortune 500 companies, they express concern over legal risks associated with some of their program policies and procedures. Yet when SIA conducts a program maturity assessment, we find it’s a rare program team in which legal plays a key role. Legal typically becomes engaged only when actual issues arise — making these organizations reactive to challenges that should have a proactive solution capability.

In today’s litigious environment — and with regulatory changes and court cases and resulting precedents altering the landscape at a dizzying pace — that is a precarious position for a program to be in.

To better manage this challenge, establish a risk mitigation capability that includes an annually reviewed CW risk management strategy with an internal partnership with the organization’s legal office/resources. Such a strategy should be a key part of your program capabilities, but also should empower your legal team to deliver measured advice that enhances the performance competitiveness of your CW program.

Key recommendations for moving your CW Program to a more capable proactive risk management strategy are:

Education. Encourage your internal legal team to take a CW program management class (such as the Certified Contingent Workforce Professional certification class). The key here is creating a knowledge base for your legal team to understand the differences between full-time workers and contingent workers. This understanding is critical when they execute their legal advice and governance to not only mitigate engagements with diverse talent classifications but also optimize the use of these talent engagements.

An uninformed legal team might be overly aggressive making decisions that squeeze the “workforce classification” balloon toward rogue behavior — meaning staff augmentation engagements being pushed to SOW classification/projects. For example, reducing CW engagement tenure. Engagement managers are very clever and will find ways to keep productive contingent workers on assignment because at the end of the day they are just trying to get their business requirements executed.

Formal process review. Because regulatory and legal changes can make contractual language obsolete in a very short period of time, the program should have a formal process for your legal team to review policies and procedures annually — not just the CW risk management strategy. Contractual reviews of background, drug screen, VMS, staffing and MSP contracts should be included.

Consider third-party counsel. You may need to retain external legal expertise. A number of firms specialize in the contingent workforce industry who can provide credible, current and outlook guidance.

Program mission. Anyone involved in the CW program governance should also have a core understanding of the the program’s mission and goals.In legal’s case, lacking such an understanding on the part of counsel would make the program uncompetitive. Contemporary policies and procedures are so strict and stringent, your program cannot operate effectively in the marketplace and meet the CW goals and objectives of your organization.

As CW program leaders, you need to lead the charge of engaging your organization’s legal resources and have the confidence to keep them on track to help reduce CW program management risk but equally avoid overcorrection and the creation of bad/uncompetitive CW program management policies and procedures.