For years, CW programs’ primary efforts in terms of diversity, equity and inclusion have centered on the supplier side of the equation — ensuring a certain portion of their spend or job requisitions went to suppliers with diverse ownership. But companies are now realizing the value programs offer to their overall DE&I goals. From exploring those goals to casting a wider net, last week we discussed how programs are exploring their next steps in achieving DE&I. This article discusses methods for keeping diverse contingents engaged as well as challenges managers might face in collecting data on their workforce.


To keep diverse talent engaged, companies might consider embedding coaching and mentorship into their operations. Assign diverse new-hires a mentor or coach who can provide advice, answer questions and help them navigate company culture. However, training mentors, coaches and hiring managers is important — including training in unconscious bias (those biases people may not recognize they have).

Dealing with unconscious bias is a critical concern in hiring as well as keeping diverse workers engaged.

“I think unconscious bias training is a critical part of helping the staffing industry increase their throughput of diverse candidates,” says Cecil Plummer, president of the Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council.

NMSDC certifies suppliers, including staffing firms, as minority-owned. CW managers may be able to increase their throughput by using diverse suppliers. And don’t forget that minority-owned suppliers can play an important role in recruiting diverse candidates.

“Diverse entrepreneurs have an understanding of diverse communities, including the different paths that people take and the reasons they took those paths — and, most importantly, they know where to find diverse talent. It’s about the diversity of thought that such entrepreneurs can bring to the table,” Plummer says.

Disparity in Treatment

Sometimes, contingent workers can be treated very differently from directly employed workers — almost to the point of a class system, says Jennifer Coyne, co-founder of The PEAK Fleet, a consulting firm that works to create engaged workplaces. It’s headquartered in Chandler, Arizona, and Portland, Oregon.

The firm adds “justice” to the mix when it discusses DE&I, making it JEDI, or justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

Coyne, who has a background in tech, says it is important to work to include contingents in events and make them feel part of the company.

Contingents may not be able to take part in everything at a large company as directly hired employed workers can for legal reasons, but there should be some activities that can include contingent workers. For example, companies should consider inviting — though not requiring — contingent workers to participate in training and development opportunities that are provided to the employee workforce.

Day-to-day activity is important as well. “How do you make those folks feel like they are included in the right way and really being thoughtful about that?” Coyne asked.

Meetings are an example; often people may feel left out. Make sure you have a process to invite everyone’s input during meetings. Contingent workers may also not feel comfortable speaking up, or they might have more quiet, thoughtful personalities; it’s important to follow up with them during the meeting to make sure their opinions are recognized.


One challenge contingent workforce programs may have in establishing and maintaining a DE&I initiative is data, as workers may be wary of providing such information and how the data is used can open up the company to compliance issues.

Candidate self-reporting. CW managers would need to ask their staffing suppliers for the data on candidate diversity going through the system, says Dawn McCartney, VP, contingent workforce strategies council, at SIA.

But data on diversity relies on candidates’ self-reporting, and some may be hesitant to do so out of concern the information could be used against them. With more and more CEOs discussing the importance of diversity, though, this concern may be waning, she says.

Another concern is about what the data will show and whether it could lead to legal risk of a discrimination or reverse-discrimination lawsuit.

In response, some CW managers are asking suppliers to send data only at particular times — such as after a candidate has already been brought on board, McCartney says. This gives information on diversity but helps prevent discrimination because the information only came to light after the hire.

On the other hand, some CW managers want the information as soon as possible before onboarding to ensure suppliers are providing a diverse set of candidates.

CW managers will also have to decide what to do with the data once they have it. If a hiring manager is found not to be hiring diverse candidates, the question becomes whether that has happened out of bias. It may also lead to uncomfortable conversations.

Looking at what to do with the data would also likely require bringing in other stakeholders such as HR, legal and DE&I groups.

Increasing diversity is not an easy path, but the task is of high importance to business and will remain so.