Contingent workforce programs adapted as Covid-19 took hold worldwide, but their managers will continue to face additional challenges, and more opportunities, going forward. Competition for the right talent is fierce and is only going to intensify. Contingent workforce managers are in a unique position to influence a new world of work including how the talent is acquired and retained.

Dawn McCartney, VP of the CWS Council at SIA, urged attendees at SIA’s CWS Symposium Live event, held last week in Phoenix, to consider talent of the future. “What are they looking for?” She asked in her keynote to open the Symposium. “How are we going to attract them, how are we going to engage them, and what is it going to take to retain them?”

Future Talent

“Technology and automation are changing, and that’s what this future talent expects,” McCartney said. Younger generations have grown up with technology and are incredibly comfortable with it. They are also skilled at multitasking and embracing change.

Meanwhile, companies accelerated their customers’ and their supply chains’ digital transformation by three to four years during Covid, McCartney said, citing a survey of global leaders conducted last year. At the same time, they accelerated their internal digital transformation by seven years.

“Things have changed not only for us, but they have changed for our candidates, and they’ve changed in the way that we engage those candidates,” she said.

One example is staffing platforms— such as The Mom Project, Upwork and Toptal — which have taken that step to give the new generations of talent what they want on a self-serve-type basis via mobile or a website for both the candidate and the client. They provide a range of services including résumé hosting and job matching, while also minimizing the need for human interaction.

Another example is automation, which may replace some human workers in the future. Self-serve kiosks in fast food restaurants are common, as are self-serve checkout at grocery stores, retail automation, and robotics at warehouses and manufacturing facilities. And driverless vehicles, including in the trucking industry, are estimated to replace 5 million human jobs going forward.

Contingent workforce organizations need to be thinking now about how those changes will affect them down the road. “Future strategy: What are you thinking about?” McCartney asked. “What are you going to need to recruit for, and what are you no longer going to need to recruit for?”

Legal and Regulatory

Future strategies must take into account the legal and regulatory environment, McCartney said. But what makes things difficult for CW managers is that the environment is constantly changing.

“It’s not that things are constantly changing sometimes on a day-by-day basis, but we also seem to find ourselves in these ebbs and flows,” she said. In the last three presidential elections we have seen a change in administration and the resulting policy changes and reversals. And with the move toward remote work, staying abreast of local and regional regulations and changes makes the task even more difficult.

Despite the inevitable disruptions, McCartney suggested a few topics to keep aware of and informed on:

Employee rights and benefits. This is a targeted concern of the Biden administration, and in addition, contingent workers will be a focus.

Background checks. This process continues to get more confusing but keep aware of what you can and cannot include in your checks and consider when contemplating making an employment offer. And remember that the candidates themselves are increasingly knowledgeable about their rights and are oftentimes the ones bringing any issues to light.

Fairness, equality and discrimination. Consider whether there is any bias in your processes or procedures and whether they could possibly be discriminatory.

Data privacy. Despite the many benefits of DE&I initiatives gaining traction, it also brings challenges. What can you track, who tracks it, where is the information stored and — most important — who gets access to it are important elements to consider. In addition, be aware of any potential data privacy issues surrounding Covid vaccines, tests and health and wellness policies.

Unions. Sectors not typically associated with unions are seeing movement, and even contingent workers are forming unions. Know what you can and cannot do if you hear of employee action in this regard.

Non-compete and no-poach agreements. The candidates themselves are becoming well-versed in the topic, so make sure to exclude any illegal language in your contract agreements or those of your partners where applicable.

Pay equity, wage and hour. Many changes are taking place or being considered in this arena, including precluding employers from asking candidates for their desired salary and not allowing workers to discuss their pay rates.

Remote working. Be aware of where your remote workers are located and understand the rules, regulations and laws of those areas.

IC misclassification. Expect a lot of attention to be paid to this ongoing issue, especially as talent increasingly considers working for themselves. This was a top concern for the Obama administration and will likely be for the Biden administration as well.

Educate Stakeholders, Execs

Overall, it feels “pretty chaotic” right now, McCartney said to conclude her keynote. “We have no normal, yet we still have to focus on the future. We’ve got to be able to get work done; we’ve got to be able to get that talent in the door.

But we do this every day, she said, and what we need to do now is to take the time to educate our leadership, stakeholders and managers.

“We have to let them know, things are changing,” she said. “The future is changing. Our talent and the way in which they want to be managed and engaged is very different.” Work toward getting that buy-in and adoption that will drive your program successfully forward.

While CWS Symposium Live has concluded, CWS Symposium On-Line will take place Oct. 20 and 21; it is an online event delivering content from the CWS Symposium Live and more.

For information on CWS Council membership, click here.