Diversity and contingent labor are not new to each other, however, requesting staffing firms’ assistance in diversity efforts and the way in which contingent labor programs are being asked to track it are new.

In the past, the topics of diversity and contingent labor focused mainly on tracking the amount of diversity spend within the contingent labor program. The tracking and reporting was fairly simple, as all the program office was required to do was add up how much was paid to each certified diversity supplier. The diversity spend was based solely on the staffing supplier’s status and not any other factors. Diverse supplier equates to diverse spend.

That focus is beginning to change, with some organizations looking beyond the supplier’s diversity status and are now asking their CW program offices to take it a step further, to the candidate level.

Yes, some program offices are being asked by the internal leadership or HR to request and track the diversity of the actual candidates being submitted for job requisitions. This is happening because organizations are recognizing a diverse workforce can give a competitive advantage by blending different cultures and languages. Organizations are also finding that a diverse workforce is an important consideration for potential interested candidates. With social sites such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor providing a window into a company’s workforce, many millennial and Generation X applicants know how the company views diversity and take into account before they even consider applying.

The contingent workforce is gaining leadership’s attention because it is a perfect “feeding pool” to obtaining a more diverse workforce. When some buyers state that 30% or more of their CWs are converted to full-time status, what better way to increase your diversity than if those that you convert are already diverse applicants?

Although pursuing diversity in the contingent population sounds like a perfect solution, the practice, if not managed properly, could open a program and an organization up to some very real legal risks and negative brand recognition.

In most cases it is legal to seek a diverse candidate pool as long as the decision to engage/hire the candidate is NOT based on race or gender (or other protective characteristics). It is imperative that at no time the decision maker is able to see the diversity data and it is imperative that any decision to move forward must be based on the candidate’s skills, expertise, cost, etc. but in most cases, not on their diversity.

Even if your organization has an Affirmative Action Plan, this does not change what you can collect and track. The required data should be obtained, but through a separate diversity questionnaire that, again, is not accessible by any decision maker. This data must be secure, with no chance for anyone to access data that could possibly affect their decision based on what they saw.

Working with your internal HR and labor legal teams is a necessity before moving forward with any type of diversity recruitment. Ensuring that your company is implementing proper processes and procedures to limit any type of discrimination or unnecessary liability for not only your company but also your staffing suppliers is imperative.