Contingent workforce, freelance, gig economy, contract workers, the non-employee... it sounds like buzzword bingo!
Whichever buzzy term you choose, the employee/employer rules of engagement have changed. Instead of just full-time and part-time options, new types of employment agreements are proliferating. Where contract workers used to be an exception to the rule, some organizations are now designed with contract workers as the entire business model. In any case, recent research has shown 95% of organizations today perceive their contingent workforce as critical to not just day-to-day operations but to overall success and growth.
Benefits of a Contingent Workforce
There are many ways that these alternative employment agreements are attractive to job seekers. Workers may want a way to supplement income during their off-hours. Students might need income while completing their studies. Or maybe an employee simply needs an alternative schedule – in the gig economy, employees often work when it’s convenient for them and this flexibility to determine their own schedule may be the only way they can make the job work. And culturally, our viewpoint on employment has shifted; while it may once have seemed non-traditional, today there’s no stigma with a part-time or temporary job. Workers now have more freedom to find the type of employment agreement that works for them, particularly as these opportunities become more popular in organizational design.
These varied employment types also give organizations flexibility. An organization may need to size up and down with seasonality, instead of committing to long-term arrangements. Or the business model, like Uber, may require a large workforce of contract employees in order to be economically viable. There are often lower costs associated in these types of agreements because the employer is not obligated to provide benefits. Further, risk is reduced because the organization has different obligations to the contingent workforce than to its full-time employees.
An Employee Experience for All Employees
As organizations embrace these alternative employment categories, they face new challenges. These employees might be temporary by nature of the agreement, or could choose to leave at any time. But it is still critical to provide them with a positive employee experience. In fact, the effects of a bad employee experience on employer brand are amplified in the gig economy – as more people move in and out of your organization, news of a bad experience will spread much faster.
And yet, the needs of these employees might differ from your full-time workers. They may have different policies and paperwork. They may not have a workstation with a computer. So how do HR organizations provide the contingent workforce with the same level of service?
Organizations must provide all workers, regardless of the agreement type, with the HR services they need. HR teams need tools to provide a consistent experience across employee types, while allowing for differences in policies and paperwork. A contextual knowledgebase, for example, will only show employees the HR information and policies that are relevant to their role and agreement type. Tools must have the flexibility to create different automated workflows when an employment type requires a different process. Since these employees may not be on-site, they must be provided with a virtual way to interact with HR teams, which ultimately brings them closer to the organization despite physical distance.
The shifts in the makeup of the workforce go beyond the mere growth of the gig economy, making the HR landscape even more complex. Do you have the tools you need to meet the expectations of the digital workforce? Have you considered how you deliver services to employees that do not have a desk and are not in front of a computer all day? And are you able to reach your remote workers? The list goes on.
While most companies will not approach a 100% contingent organizational model, this component is expected to grow in the coming years. As the employment-type mix shifts, leading organizations will be prepared to support a broad range of employees – and whatever additional workforce trends may lie ahead.
Nicole Lindenbaum is the Director of Product Marketing at PeopleDoc by Ultimate Software. Nicole leads the global messaging strategy for PeopleDoc by translating technology into business benefits HR can actually understand. With significant experience in HR technology, Nicole writes and speaks about HR service delivery, employee experience, digital transformation, and the future of work. Nicole holds a BFA from Syracuse University and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.