Studies say keeping workers engaged can drive improved performance. On the other hand, research by Gallup in 2012 indicated disengaged workers cost the US economy up to $550 billion per year.
But is engaging contingent workers important? Several managers in large and mid-sized corporations say yes, and there are different ways to do it.
Contingent workers need to feel engaged and part of the organization, said Erika Duncan during a speech at the Human Capital Institute’s 2014 Talent Acquisition Innovation Forum last month in San Francisco.
Duncan is human resources VP of MetroHealth, a hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., and she likened the potential difference between the contingent workforce and traditionally hired workforce as similar to the difference between renters and homeowners. The two can have different levels of engagement.
However, “we want people who feel like Metro is their home,” Duncan told the audience. The hospital includes contingents in engagement surveys, education offerings and other activities at the hospital.
Trey Austin, director of global contingent staffing, corporate human resources, at UPS, says workers who are engaged will put more effort forward and take extra steps to do a good job.
“All resources whether they are your employees or any other human capital resources are going to do a lot better if they are engaged,” Austin says.
It is important to avoid miscommunication and not discuss things such as benefits, pay and promotions, he says. However, don’t go too far and avoid engaging with nonemployees altogether.
“You have to manage the interaction with them, there are some differences,” Austin says. “But you shouldn’t go to the extreme and isolate the person.”
Contingent workers should be included in cordial conversation the same as other workers. “If you normally go by and speak to your team daily, then you should include them in that conversation,” he says. If there’s a meeting on a specific topic contingents are working on, they can and should attend. If it’s a more general meeting regarding the company as a whole, it may not be appropriate to include contingents.
A 2014 Staffing Industry Analysts survey asked contingent workforce managers what was the “single best strategic or tactical decision your organization ever made with respect to contingent labor, and why?” Three responses cited “good treatment of workers” as the best decision. While lower than the top answer “implementing an MSP,” which was cited in 44 responses, good treatment of workers could become more key as the labor market continues to improve and shifts more in favor of workers.
Staffing firm MRINetwork polled 333 of its recruiters from 40 countries in November and found 83 percent defined the talent market for executive, managerial and professional sector as “candidate-driven,” up from 29 percent in a similar survey in the second half of 2011.
The temp penetration rate in the US — temporary workers as a percent of the total US workforce — has also been steadily rising, reaching a new high of 2.12 percent in November, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As Staffing Industry Analysts’ Subadhra Sriram, editor and publisher, media products, recently wrote in The Contingent Blog, temps are now in the driver’s seat. So how you treat them matters.