Six months into the global pandemic, many programs have seen dramatic shifts in their contingent workforce usage. That’s no surprise, given flexible workers typically are the first to go during a downturn. But they are also the first to come back when the economy improves, so programs need prepare for the impending upswing.

This fact is that when global uncertainty is the norm and there are such volatile swings between supply and demand, it’s tough to create a long-term contingent workforce strategy, regardless of how experienced a CW professional you are.

Here are three ideas to position your program and yourself for long-term success.

1. Know the numbers. Where are your key locations and what is the employment market projected to look like there?

Spend on staffing services is estimated to fall by double digits in nearly all of the world’s largest staffing markets, according to a report by SIA. The UK is projected to drop 27% under the “base-case” scenario and 45% under the “longer-outbreak” scenario. US staffing revenue this year is projected to fall by 17% under a base-case scenario and by 30% under a longer-outbreak scenario. Only Japan and China are expected to see increases in staffing revenue under a base-case scenario and fall much less under a longer-outbreak scenario.

Reduced staffing demand may open to you a greater pool of available talent, enabling you to prepare for the next peak in labor demand as the pendulum swings. Add to that a greater acceptance of remote work globally and you have a new and interesting model of labor arbitrage that could serve your company and your program well into the future. Make sure you use this information to initiate honest and open discussions with your executives.

2. Diversity and inclusion learning. Understand the current state, best practices and future direction of diversity and inclusion efforts in enterprise contingent workforce programs. Research has proven that having people with different and diverse points of view makes for a stronger team, program and company. Therefore, understand what others are doing in this arena, including how you can get started or improve upon what you already have in place. One way to access diversity of talent is by working with staffing firms that identify themselves as having diversity ownership. In a 2019 SIA survey, 60% of large companies that use staffing firms said they had a program for diversity suppliers in place, and 29% said they planned to explore putting one in place over the next two years. Check SIA’s current list of diversity staffing suppliers.

3. Processes. Before demand picks back up, examine your processes to ensure they are effective. Don’t lose candidates to lengthy or tedious actions. For example, be sure your onboarding is relatively painless and timely. Make sure your offboarding process is clean and kind and keeps your brand intact. Be aware that workforce solution providers are developing creative ways to keep benched talent engaged and trained on the latest tools. They are the experts, so make sure you are engaging your providers in honest and open communication that keeps you apprised of the latest developments in technology and be open to recommendations when new ideas seem viable for your program.

Prepare for what’s next by being laser-focused on market trends including what you are looking for when it comes to talent. Know the numbers, pursue diversity and examine your processes to ensure they are efficient. In addition, you can use SIA’s range of research, available to CWS Council members, and webinars that specifically address a number of topics including crisis workforce planning and program optimization.