March 10, 2021

The War for Contingent Talent Is On — Here’s How to Win It

We’re in the midst of a workplace evolution. When it comes to the rapidly changing employee-employer relationship, the stakes are getting higher as we all try to envision what the future holds. One thing we know for sure: Contingent work is growing more appealing to both employers and employees. As a result, competition for the best contingent talent will be more intense than we have ever experienced.

The War for Contingent Talent

For more than a decade, organizations have been moving toward more agile workforce models that rely on contingent resources. A recent report from Intuit notes that 80 percent of large organizations plan to substantially increase their use of flexible workers. Executives anticipate the continued use of freelance consultants to either supplement or replace full-time employees. The pandemic has only accelerated this trend by highlighting the feasibility of remote teams and alternative staffing models.

Staffing models built around contingent workers instead of full-time employees make good sense to employers. The models offer flexibility, low risk, and scaling solutions to accommodate ever-changing business needs. Alternative staffing models also provide access to highly skilled talent when it’s needed, without having to spend on healthcare, paid time off, or other resources often associated with full-time employees.

Contingent employment is also a boon to the growing number of workers who want more flexibility, choice, and control when it comes to how they spend their time and talents both in and outside of their work lives.

As more of the talent pool turns to gig work and more employers rely on it, attracting and retaining the best contingent talent will become more competitive than ever. Flexibility alone will not be enough to attract and retain the best talent, contingent or otherwise. Stability, fit, and the ability to thrive and make an impact are going to become increasingly important to contingent workers.

How Do You Give Stability to Inherently Flexible Workers?

Stability is commonly equated with reliable income and benefits. The absence of benefits like healthcare and retirement plans is one of the main reasons people don’t leave their traditional jobs. While stability may seem like the antithesis of flexible work, it is increasingly necessary when working with contingent talent. There are a few ways employers can provide a sense of stability to contingent workers:

1. Offer Benefits

The clearest path to offering stability is by providing benefits even to contingent workers. That said, direct benefits may come with some level of risk. If you decide to extend benefits to contingent workers, be sure to do your research into rules and regulations about employee classification.

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2. Work With Staffing Firms That Offer Benefits

If giving benefits to contingent workers isn’t feasible for your company, note that some professional staffing and talent firms provide benefits to the contingent talent they work with. By partnering with a staffing firm, a company can access top contingent talent without the complexities and costs of offering direct benefits to contingent workers.

3. Recognize and Reward Contingent Talent

Businesses can incorporate performance-based incentives and bonuses directly into the contracts of their contingent workers. It’s a win-win situation, as businesses get the best results while workers receive some extra income. The prospect of extra income can provide a little peace of mind to contingent professionals who may be working with irregular or less predictable cash flows.

Contingent Workers Are People, Too

As more employers seek contingent workers, these professionals will have many more choices when it comes to the organizations with which they work. Contingent workers are aware of their desirability in the market, which means their expectations for employers are incredibly high. They’re not just looking for payment and prestige — they also want values alignment, culture fit, and meaningful work.

Organizations may not be able to offer benefits like health insurance or retirement contributions to their contingent workers, but they can consider ways to improve the more human side of employee satisfaction by focusing on connection, career growth, and purpose.

Remember: Contingent workers are not just sets of hard skills you need to complete a task. They are humans. They want to enjoy where they work, build connections, grow professionally, and feel a sense of purpose. Employers that can articulate their purposes — and clearly connect contingent workers to those purposes — are in the best position to attract and maintain connections with the best contingent talent now and into the future.

Today, we have an opportunity to create a world where employees and organizations alike are healthier, more productive, and more successful than ever before. Flexibility, stability, and the opportunity to thrive will be foundational to the long-term success of businesses that rely on contingent talent. Let’s get to work.

Nick Gust is COO of Salo.

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Nick Gust is Salo's chief operating officer at Salo, a firm that connects client organizations with interim and permanent talent in finance, accounting, and human resources. Since joining Salo in 2010, Nick has had the privilege of helping countless professionals find renewed career satisfaction through consulting while simultaneously ensuring client organizations get the expert consulting help they need. Today, as chief operating officer, Nick is responsible for national business development and operations. Before joining Salo, Nick was a manager at Deloitte, leading several of their largest audit and advisory engagements. He is a CPA (inactive certificate).