Over the last two decades, the rise of contingent workers – contractors, consultants, freelancers, SOW workers, etc. – has reshaped the workforce landscape across the globe. These workers offer flexibility, specialized skills, and cost-effectiveness, making them invaluable assets and a key to long-term agility and growth. But using contingent labor adds a new wrinkle: the challenge of keeping these non-traditional resources motivated and engaged.
So how do we ensure that our contingent workforce remains as driven and committed as their full-time counterparts? Here are some strategies to help you achieve just that.
Understanding the Contingent Worker
Before we move forward, it’s important to understand who these contingent workers are and what drives them. Unlike full-time employees, these individuals often juggle multiple projects with multiple clients. Not surprisingly, they value flexibility and autonomy. Their motivations might therefore differ significantly from those of traditional employees, focusing more on skill development, networking opportunities, or the freedom to choose projects that align with their interests.
Effective Communication is Key
Communication is the cornerstone of any successful partnership, and this certainly holds true for contingent workers. If you recognize that your contingent workers are valued team members instead of plug-and-play commodities, it makes it easier to establish clear, open channels of communication. This doesn’t mean bombarding them with emails; it’s about creating a safe space. Listen to their needs, provide feedback on their work, and make them feel heard. Remember, just because they’re not in the office doesn’t mean they should be out of the loop.
Inclusion in Company Culture
Don’t exclude contingent workers from your company culture just because they aren’t full-time. Invite them to team meetings (where appropriate), include them in company updates, and involve them in team-building activities. This inclusion not only makes them feel valued but also fosters a sense of belonging, which can significantly boost motivation and engagement. If they see themselves as important parts of a uniformly directed team, they’ll be more likely to bend over backward to get their job done right.
Recognition and Rewards
Everyone likes to be appreciated for their hard work, and contingent workers are no exception. Such recognition not only boosts their morale but also encourages a culture of excellence. You can recognize their contributions through a simple thank-you message, public acknowledgment, or performance-based incentives. (If you opt for this last suggestion, be careful to implement it in such a way as to create undue competition among your workers, as this can cause discouragement just as it improves morale.)
Provide Growth and Learning Opportunities
Many contingent workers are on the lookout for opportunities to learn and grow. Offering access to training sessions, workshops, or even online courses can be a great way to keep them engaged. It’s a win-win – they develop new skills, and you get a more skilled workforce.
Is it possible that they’ll take their new-found skills to another client? Of course – that’s one of the realities of working with any independent worker, and that reality exists whether you offer training or not. But if you provide opportunities for growth, these skilled workers will be more likely to come back to you when it’s time for a new gig. (Remember, this is true for full-time workers as well.)
Flexibility and Autonomy
One of the key reasons many choose contingent work is the desire for flexibility. Respect this choice by offering them autonomy in how they manage their work. Trust them to deliver without micromanaging every aspect of their job. This trust can go a long way in building a committed and motivated contingent workforce. Conversely, if you feel like you have to keep a close eye on every aspect of a worker’s performance, you probably shouldn’t be bringing on contingent labor in the first place.
Fair Compensation and Benefits
While it’s understood that contingent workers don’t get the same benefits as full-time employees, ensuring fair compensation for their work is critical to maintaining a motivated workforce. Consider offering feasible perks – like access to wellness programs or performance bonuses – to show that you value their contribution. Just be careful not to “cross the line” into treating them too much like full-timers, as this can cause employee classification concerns and run you afoul of taxation and labor oversight authorities.
Building a Supportive Community
Creating a sense of community among your contingent workforce can foster a supportive environment. This can be through online forums, regular meetups, or peer mentoring programs. When workers feel supported by their peers, they’re more likely to be engaged and motivated.
Integrating the contingent workforce into your workforce effectively is a key to your organization’s ability to create successful outcomes in the months and years ahead.. By focusing on effective communication, inclusion, recognition, growth opportunities, and fair compensation, you can ensure that these workers remain motivated and engaged. Remember, a motivated contingent workforce not only brings in fresh perspectives and skills but also plays a crucial role in the overall success of your organization.
So, take the time to invest in these strategies, and watch as your contingent workforce transforms into a powerful asset for your business.