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Onboarding for CWM Success in the Era of the Worker

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Even the best managers of contingent workforce management (CWM) programs are affected by the growing importance of the independent workforce. Many organizations are struggling to attract and retain talented workers.

When it comes to managing contract talent, sourcing professionals are looking for every advantage they can find. Yet some are neglecting perhaps the most important aspect of contingent workforce management: the workforce itself.

Beware: Employers who ignore the growing power of independent workers will suffer the consequences. But do not lose hope. Once you understand the challenges you face, it is easy to get your CWM program back on track.

You Can't Manage What You Can't See

So what's the problem? The short answer: spend visibility. As the world of CWM grows in stature, size and strategic corporate importance, visibility into the workforce becomes more critical. If you want the highest quality talent, you need to have systems in place to track contingent labor. Again, visibility into your workforce is critical, especially when it comes to performance.

Think about it: Having more information allows you to make more informed business decisions. Once you understand the makeup of your workforce — how many workers you have, where they work, what their job roles are, what projects they're working on, how much they cost and how they're performing — you can start to turn your insights into action.

Why Spend Visibility is More Important Than Ever

In the business environment, talent drives success for today’s leading organizations.


  • An Oxford Economics and SAP global study found that the highest-performing organizations are those that leverage talent to drive profits and business growth.
  • According to the report, the best performing companies with the highest profit margins concentrate on attracting the highest quality talent — not the cheapest available workers.
  • A Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey found that nearly half of all respondents who outsourced their recruiting to staffing providers cited a pressing need to hire quickly.

Talent is more important to business success than ever before. That is why you need to make sure to get the best people in the market. Moving forward, companies will source many of the most talented workers through the contingent workforce.

  • Spend Matters research suggests that in the U.S. alone, there are approximately 30 million independent workers.
  • Independent workers earning $100,000 or more annually represent the fastest growing segment of the population (45% over the last five years) — one that is composed of highly skilled workers that are vital to enterprise performance.
  • Randstad's research indicates that about one-third of temporary workers are currently holding supervisory or managerial positions. The research also shows that 40% of companies source their top talent through the contingent labor force.

In other words, this growing group of critical, often scarce talent — with much-needed skills and expertise — is necessary for enterprises that wish to stay competitive. Perhaps that is what led sourcing professional Mark Morrissey to observe, “The people in the contingent labor force are some of your top 1% performers because they're the type of people who look for new challenges. The type of people that are attracted to the contingent labor force are the people that organizations should be looking to for their leadership and strategic thinking.”

Yet many organizations do not have the right systems in place to get the most out of their contingent workforce. Without those systems in place, companies open the door to a host of problems. Unnoticed cost leakage and the presence of lurking compliance risks is almost certain in CWM programs with little or no visibility into spend.

How to Get the Most From Your Contingent Workforce

So how do you enable your organization to maximize success with contingent workers?

Research suggests that four key failures cause the most human capital problems:

  1. A role failure (people are unclear about their new role)
  2. A personal failure (lack of ability or fit by the new person)
  3. A relationship failure (early missteps with critical colleagues)
  4. An engagement failure (missed opportunities in the early days)

"There is an unmined, growing opportunity around contingent workforce spend to increase spend visibility and spend analysis to drive higher levels of savings and reduce presently invisible compliance and other risks. To get there, a few things need to happen: Beginning to pay attention to the growing importance of independent workforce and how related, inherently data-centric work intermediation platforms or WIPs (online marketplaces, FMS, etc.) can support spend visibility and enable spend analysis in way not previously anticipated in contingent workforce management." – Jason Busch and Andrew Karpie, A New Vein: The Untapped Opportunity of Spend Visibility and Analysis in Services and Labor Procurement

Although solving all of these problems is outside the scope of this blog post, we would like to share a few tips for leveraging contingent workers that will benefit the workers and the organization.

Have an effective onboarding process: The onboarding process should start before the worker is hired. Additionally, contingent workers require access to hardware, software and physical locations. Effective onboarding means workers understand what their goals are, when they need to reach those goals and how to achieve them. Contract workers should understand agreed-upon key milestones and delivery dates of their project.

Have an effective off-boarding process: Off-boarding and onboarding go hand-in-hand. Contingent workers increasingly work in key roles within the organization. It is critical that when the agreement or term ends, companies restrict access to company networks, facilities, laptops, etc. Get feedback on the engagement. For instance, how was the worker's performance? What can your organization learn from the worker? How does your company handle exit interviews?

Get buy-in at executive or board levels: According to Sunil Bagai, CEO at Zenith Talent Corporation, "In high-growth, high-performing businesses, researchers found that workforce decisions became the focal points for strategic business drivers, and they were made at executive or board levels. Underperformers, on the other hand, brushed aside workforce initiatives as an afterthought in the context of near-term business plans."

Develop your talent: Do not skimp on talent development just because contingent workers will not have a long tenure within your organization. Offer your workers access to mentoring, formal training and on-the-job learning. Provide talent with new experiences, skills, development opportunities and incentives that enhance their quality of life and productivity.

Draw on every available resource: Remember, on your quest for increased spend visibility and a better candidate experience, you don't have to go it alone. You can turn to a number of partners for help. For example, MSPs bring a wealth of wisdom and experience to the table including access to advanced analytics and business intelligence.

What are you doing to attract top-tier talent? Join the conversation by tweeting @BeelineVMS

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