The role of the contingent workforce manager is vastly different from that of prior years, and still continues to change. Last week, CWS 3.0 discussed the strengthening relationship between talent acquisition and HR and the increased availability of data. This week’s article examines the sourcing strategies and legal challenges today’s program managers are tasked with.

Multisourcing strategies. Program managers are no longer tied to one strategy to attract talent. In fact, in the tight labor market where unemployment is low and job seekers have the upper hand, managers need to understand how to manage a multichannel strategy.

“We don’t want to be solely reliant on staffing agencies, so we want to engage different channels in order to get the work done,” explained Martin Thomas, head of workforce strategy at Philips, which began as a lighting firm but has since diversified into multiple areas. Thomas oversees a contingent labor program that includes 5,500 contingent workers across 24 different countries.

While staffing agencies will continue be one important channel, Philips also has direct engagement where people can apply to an assignment via its career site. In addition, the company builds “talent pools” of contingent workers and freelancers who are interested in working with Philips and can then reach out directly to them. It uses these pools in some markets already and is in the process of rolling them out in Germany, India and the US. Philips is also launching a direct-sourcing program where the company takes the initiative to approach potential talent.

Legal woes. Managers have also had to adapt their contingent programs to contend with complex and ever-changing employment laws while still meeting company needs and maintaining profitability. California, in particular, is a continuously changing landscape; other states will likely follow in the Golden State’s footsteps and examine their own laws.

Will Ulmer is concerned about the increasing impact of employment law changes. Last month, he took over as program manager, contingent labor, at Waste Management, where the contingent worker count fluctuates between about 4,000 and 6,000. “I truly think that in some places employment law has just gotten just out of hand. So many laws, so much complexity.”

He believes employment law complexity is likely one of the biggest things that will continue to change and continue to alter how contingent labor programs operate.

“I think we all have a vested interest to make sure our employees are treated right, but at what cost to the company’s ability to continue to be successful in the state that they are in is the question that I have,” Ulmer said. “What’s going to happen next, and what is it going to cost us?”

Thomas agrees that US legislation is not keeping pace with changes in the workforce but notes that the ability to influence that is “fairly limited.” “What we need is some industry-wide lobbying to support greater flexibility in the workforce, but also greater protection for individuals,” he said.

The workforce of the future will become much more flexible and more mobile, and will not want to be constrained by the type of contract that they are required to have. Workforce legislation needs to keep up with that, and markets that don’t keep up with that change are going to become less competitive and less attractive as work can increasingly be done remotely globally.

“For us, that poses a potential threat to our ability to get work done in certain markets,” Thomas said. “And it’s not just the US, of course. There are many other markets that have similar legislative challenges.”