As skills gaps abound and the gig economy thrives, most large companies are outsourcing at least some of their operations. While outsourced workers may not have access to the same benefits as full-time, in-house employees — or even a desk to call home — they still contribute much to the success of the business and brand. While companies may not be able to give freelancers, contractors, or temps the same support and compensation they give employees, that doesn’t meant they should treat outsourced workers like second-class citizens, either.
It’s easy to assume that outsourced workers don’t want to be part of the team and consequently limit their involvement in the company culture. Whether these workers hold themselves at arm’s length or not doesn’t change that they do act as representatives of your organization.
“Regardless of whether an outsourced worker — or any worker for that matter — wants to be included in a company’s culture, a company should strive to include and engage all of its workers,” says Jeff Corbin, founder and CEO of mobile communications solution, APPrise Mobile. “It’s critical that those [workers] who are [in the] front line and customer-facing truly understand the company’s culture. This shouldn’t be optional, but rather a job requirement — and one in which a [worker's] performance is evaluated.”
Customer-facing workers — whether outsourced or not — are responsible for the customer experience. As a result, Corbin says, companies need to invest in these workers and “engage with them in such a way that they understand the importance of their role as ambassadors of the organization.”
Inclusion vs. Misclassification
A recent crackdown on worker misclassification cost Wisconsin businesses a total of $1.4 million, bringing more attention to an issue that has caused many companies to shy away from the inclusion of outsourced workers. Worker classification, however, primarily involves compensation measures rather than communication or culture.
“The challenge is that in many instances, benefits differ between those that an outsourced [worker] receives and [those of] their permanent counterparts,” says Corbin. “It is therefore critical that the outsourcing company be aware of the differences that may exist [at] the companies where they are placing workers and make every effort to communicate effectively with their workers to ensure they understand their role and the benefit of working as an outsourced worker.”
As Corbin points out, there’s more to a job than benefits. While companies utilizing outsourced workers cannot compensate them the same way they compensate employees, these organizations can make extra efforts to include outsourced workers in things like “internal communications, company activities, engagement, and career advancement.”
“It’s all about inclusivity and not differentiating between outsourced workers and their permanent counterparts when it comes to employee engagement and a company’s culture,” Corbin says.
Corbin recommends that organizations utilizing outsourced workers create teams dedicated to internal employee communications and engagement. These teams can then ensure that outsourced workers are communicated with and included in the company culture to whatever extent possible.
Tools to Succeed
As with most business activities these days, having the proper tools in one’s toolbox can be crucial to creating an inclusive environment for all workers. When it comes to engaging outsourced workers, the most important tool of all may be their mobile devices.
“To an extent, many outsourced workers are deskless and don’’ have easy or regular access to company computers,” Corbin says. “Mobile devices offer endless possibilities when it comes to engaging and communicating with them.”
Most workplace tools now have app versions that outsourced workers can easily access via iPhone or Android operating systems. Organizations expecting outsourced workers to use specific software solutions should ensure these app versions are available. Mobile devices also allow companies to leverage video technology in order to host training sessions or invite outsourced workers to participate in company meetings.
Some companies are even going so far as to create their own branded apps, Corbin says. These apps act as mobile hubs through which outsourced workers can access critical tools and information — such as pay and benefit materials, important company policies, and software platforms — no matter where they are.