They’re Hot. Learn to Love them.


Every day thousands of contingent workers wander in the doors of various organisations to complete specialist assignments and projects. One such case in point is a financial institution head office that has in excess of 250 contingent workers swelling their ranks daily. In they walk day after day with many holding vital customer relationships in their hands as part of their assignments; yet by the organisations own admission, no relationship planning or contingent workforce management is in place, at all.

The take up of flexible staffing as a workforce strategy globally, has been significant. Propelled by the GFC, the rise of the contingent worker was predicted by Charles Handy in 2008 when he outlined this in the Shamrock Organization and in his book Age of Unreason. Back then it seemed far-fetched but as the years have rolled by, his predictions have become reality.

With this new reality, new challenges have appeared for organisations to master. Top of the challenge list is the need to embrace contingent workers in order to create prized relationships and results.  

The notion of the contingent worker being the ‘hired help’ is over. In its place is a heightened level of sophistication surrounding the management of the contingent workforce, so as to maximise an organisations ability to have highly sort after, performance driven contingent workers in their ranks.

A recent example which demonstrates the lack of importance placed on relationship management with contingent workers occurred in a discussion with a Procurement Manager of a national company. In his mind, their relationships with contingent workers was a ‘hands off’ affair; far more important was the fact there appeared to be a certain number of contingent workers based in the local market. With this ‘body-in-the-job’ mentality, no measures existed to assess quality outcomes that result in enhanced relationships, cultural alignment was not a factor, no methodology was in place to develop a bond with high performer’s, and value-for-money metrics did not feature.

Call it short-sighted, or consider it an opportunity to create competitive advantage, there is no doubt that this style is antiquated in our complex modern working world.

To demonstrate the benefits of relationship management with contingent workers, we undertook a two year research project. The goal was to assess ‘value’ by looking at the number of project-based assignments that were completed in advance of the estimated timeframe. A relationship management methodology was put in place and quality ratings were measured.

The results were highly successful: 83 percent of assignments were completed ahead of anticipated schedule, satisfaction levels were above average or excellent for all, organisations were able to measure the cost savings achieved as a result of early completion and contingent workers noted their keen interest to work for the organisations again.

In short, great people are hard to find; full stop. The savvy-minded organisation who realises that relationship management should extend past the traditional area of permanent employees and embrace the contingent workforce as a key group to bond with, is an organisation set to achieve a new source of competitive advantage.


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