The 4 Keys to Managing Your Contingent Workforce

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BirdsA new study from Ardent Partners — sponsored in part by vendor management system provider Fieldglass, Inc. — has found that contingent workers account for 35 percent of the total workforce. Moreover, the “2015-2016 State of Contingent Workforce Management Report” asserts that, in the very near future, contingent workers will skyrocket to 50 percent of the total workforce.

What this means is that now would be a very good time for organizations to start solidifying their contingent workforce management strategies. Given that contingent workers already play an important role in the overall economy — and that the importance of their role will only grow along with their numbers — no organization can afford to dally while its competitors leverage this powerful talent source.

I spoke with Arun Srinivasan, vice president of strategy and customer operations at Fieldglass, about what Ardent’s report identifies as the four basic traits that all “best-in-class” companies share when it comes to contingent workforce management.

Trait No. 1: Best-in-Class Companies Leverage Data to Achieve Real-Time Visibility Into Their Workforces

Many of today’s organizations utilize both traditional, full-time employees and contingent, external employees to achieve business results. When it comes to managing such a hybrid workforce, organizations have to start at the highest levels — that is, they need to first understand how much of their workforce is contingent, and where contingent workers are most needed within the business.

“Once you realize that the non-employee workforce is a big part of your organization, then you benefit by gaining better insights into the composition of the workforce,” Srinivasan explains. “You can look at the mix [of contingent and full-time employees] in your workforce. What’s the mix you have today, and what will be the right mix going forward?”

Companies should also get a little more granular, too. Once you understand the overall composition of the workforce, you can start to drill down into more specific areas of the organization to see how which specific roles and departments might benefit the most (or least) from contingent workers.

“Look at each job title and position,” Srinivasan says. “What is the right mix there? Do you have [the right mix] today? How should you be complimenting your existing resources with additional resources in the future?”

Trait No. 2: Best-in-Class Companies Excel in Core Capabilities, Such as the Standardization of Day-to-Day Operations

WavesGiven the contingent workforce’s very nature, it is critical that organizations develop core structures which make the process of onboarding, leveraging, and offboarding contingent workers smooth and efficient. According to Ardent’s report, “standardized capabilities for managing day-to-day processes ensures repeatable, consistent measures are taken” to manage a company’s contingent workforce.

“If you go back historically and see how corporations started engaging contingent workers, initially, companies started bringing contingent workers in for more standardized functions,” Srinivasan says.

These were roles that did not require much functional expertise, like light industrial work and front-office positions. However, over time, contingent workers have become critical to more complex business functions, such as accounting, business analysis, and project management. When these sorts of contingent workers enter the picture, it is easy for companies to get caught up in more complicated management procedures. A formal process for all contingent worker management helps companies avoid that pitfall.

Trait No. 3: Best-in-Class Companies Use Technology to Adhere to Compliance Standards

Compliance is tricky when we’re talking about full-time employees, and it becomes even more confusing when contingent workers enter the picture.

“There are local laws, national guidelines, and company policies that need to be followed with contingent workers,” Srinivasan says. “It varies state to state — sometimes county to county — and country to country. And those rules are being constantly updated as the workforce evolves.”

Without the right tech tools, a company will have an incredibly hard time stay aware of all the compliance guidelines it needs to follow.

Trait No. 4: Best-in-Class Companies Display a Total Talent Vision

A “total talent vision” refers to a company’s ability to recognize the composition of its total talent pool, including both internal employees and external/contingent workers. Once a company has this total talent vision, it should use the vision to drive a holistic approach to talent management.

“It’s important to understand talent holistically, as it helps you with strategic business planning,” Srinivasan explains.

For example, when a company needs a given body of work done, it can use its total talent vision to look at all the options it has available and determine the best way to get the work done. Contingent workers? Full-time employees? A mix of both? With a holistic approach to talent that considers all the available resources, companies can make better calls about how to make sure things get done — and get done well.

TunnelA total talent vision and holistic talent management approach become increasingly important when one considers the existence of hybrid teams composed of both full-time employees and external or contingent workers.

“When you are looking at talent holistically, you can put together a better team, based on who is on the bench and what the pool of external workers is like,” Srinivasan says.

Contingent workers are no longer a special case — they are a critical part of the overall workforce. Over the next few years, contingent workers will become even more important to the success of every business. That’s why now is the time for organizations to start putting the proper contingent workforce management protocols in place.

Read more in Talent Management

Matthew Kosinski is the former managing editor of