How to Incorporate Diversity and Inclusion Practices Into Contingent Labor Programs

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The circular discussion around diversity and inclusion (D& I) centers on the ability to directly demonstrate an impact to the bottom line. D&I advocates would remind you that a more inclusive culture is more effective in advancing business goals; however, a growing handful of companies have really begun to invest in practices that create the kind impact an empowered and diverse workforce can have on an organization. With the expectation that there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the United States by 2050, the forward-thinking company must be proactive in creating a diverse and inclusive culture that is reflective of America’s population.

The growing contingent workforce population is another powerful dynamic in play in the American workforce that affects how organizations develop talent management strategies. More than 40% of US working adults belong to the contingent workforce population (freelancers, contractors, gig workers, independent consultants), according to the MBO Partners 2017 State of Independence in America report. Furthermore, contingent workers are being placed in increasingly strategic positions empowered to make meaningful contributions to organizations. So, it becomes critical to attract and retain the best talent available.

Many organizations struggle with how to incorporate D&I practices within their contingent workforce. In response to concerns regarding co-employment, buying organizations tend to keep non-employees at arm’s length. But given the increasing number of contingent workers in the workforce mix, as well as the central role they are playing in more organizations, one could argue that a different approach should be considered in acknowledgement of the changing dynamics.

D&I is consistently challenging to measure within contingent labor programs. Current metrics provide insight only into contingent spend associated with the staffing partner; however, these metrics do not offer insight into the value of the inclusion practice or the contribution of the diverse contingent worker.

An effort to create more robust metrics and translate an inclusive culture into business practices begins in the following ways:

  • Standardize the organization’s definition of diversity. Traditional definitions of diversity based on gender and ethnic background have evolved to include sexual orientation, parental status and socioeconomic background.
  • Welcome new relationships. It’s likely that many of the organization’s business partners will evolve and accommodate the changing climate. It’s also likely that some business partners may no longer be effective. Create a plan to optimize (exit) partnerships that no longer fit and to welcome new partners on a trial period.
  • Set performance targets. Define and measure performance against organizational goals, then tweak partnerships as needed.
  • Require diversity fill rates of staffing partners. Request that partners move beyond diversity classification of their organization to help the organization define true ROI on inclusion practices. Staffing partners should provide metrics demonstrating their commitment to creating a diverse contingent workforce in their recruitment and placement practices.
  • Provide 24-hour lead time on search to diversity staffing partners based on their diversity fill rate. Reward and incent the behaviors you are trying to attract.
  • Create diverse micro and macro communities that are inclusive of the contingent workforce population. Doing so creates a space that capture the contribution of diverse thought.
  • Evolve. Inclusion is not an “a+b=c” formula. It often feels more like “a+b+c-d/e”! In order to gain executive support, it needs to be clear that the path will be a long and windy road and that inclusion is a journey as well as a destination.

Kanita H. Brown is managing partner at K.H. Brown Solutions, a consultancy that provides procurement and contingent workforce program management advisory services. Leslie Marsh is a procurement strategist for Hire Talent, a provider of contingent talent supporting the diverse inclusion efforts of its clients.

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First Voice

  1. Andrew Karpie:

    Thank you for your contribution, Kanita. I’m pretty sure this is the best diversity and inclusion article I can recall ever reading!

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