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SIG Summit discusses why diversity and inclusion matter in the contingent workforce

10/22/2020 By

Now more than ever, the social landscape and COVID-19 pandemic are at the forefront of important discussions. Companies are looking to increase cost-saving procurement functions but are also taking a deep look at personnel — including the contingent workforce.

Attendees at the 59th Global Executive SIG Summit learned the important influence of diversity and inclusion during a session titled “Workplace Diversity and the Contingent Workforce: What You Can Do Now with Beeline.” Workforce diversity is of growing importance for businesses across industries and the world.

Beeline’s Jameel Mayers, a senior project manager, and Brian Hoffmeyer, SVP of market strategies, joined SIG CEO Dawn Tiura in a discussion on diversity and inclusion in the contingent workforce.

An industry that is complete with gig or contract workers, diversity and inclusion is an interesting look into the contingent workforce services market. COVID-19 has only exacerbated the need for gig workers.

With more people working from home, diverse teams matter even more because it’s imperative that companies have a full communicative experience, Tiura said. And as companies have laid off traditional full-time employees, they may turn to the gig economy to fulfill project needs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated in 2017 that 55 million people in the U.S. are gig workers, compromising about 34% of the workforce. That number is expected to become 43% in 2020, and probably higher with COVID-19 placing pressure on traditional work environments.

These numbers show the need to take a critical examination of the contingent workforce and its diversity/inclusion practices. The SIG Summit discussion aimed to provide procurement professionals with tangible information and tips for increasing diversity and inclusion within the contingent workforce.

Defining diversity and inclusion

But how do you really define diversity? Mayers identified two kinds, including inherent diversity — traits you are born with like gender and ethnicity — and acquired diversity — traits you gain from experience, such as appreciating cultural differences after working in another country.

Inclusion is the opportunity to create a workplace where the cultures of many individuals have the opportunity to have a seat at the table. A culture where an organization celebrates and promotes respect for the variety of talents, beliefs, backgrounds and ways of living of its workforce.

“To be included in that particular roundtable is key to diversity,” Mayers said. “If you only have one perspective because everyone comes from a certain area, you’re fairly limited in being able to innovate and move forward.”

Hoffmeyer pointed out that historically the contingent workforce has been left out of many company considerations across functions — from fun company team-bonding to diversity initiatives. But, it is critical that companies begin to consider the contingent workforce in diversity efforts because they hold such a big role today. 

Benefits of diversity and inclusion in the contingent workforce

Diversity is not just the right thing to do. It’s a critical factor in the decisions, innovation and bottom line of organizations.

“Diverse teams perform better,” Hoffmeyer said. “They create better company performance, innovation, better financial performance. All those things. So, it is absolutely imperative on all of us to work together to drive diversity. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’ll drive better performance and elevate our programs.”

Hoffmeyer shared research from McKinsey & Co. that found companies with diverse teams see 35% better performance, 87% better decision making and 40% higher revenue than non-diverse companies.

Diversity allows different perspectives, increased creativity and reduced turnover. Not only can diverse organizations see higher profits, but the atmosphere and culture of allowing individuals to be their true selves can lead to higher employee engagement and a better company reputation.

How do we get there?

Mayers said the start of promoting more diversity in the workplace is holding conversations. 

But it’s not a one-size-fits-all fix. Hoffmeyer pointed out that supplier diversity is not that same as talent or workforce diversity.

Although both are equally important, holding a diverse supplier base does not automatically mean they are supplying diverse talent. Hoffmeyer said companies must look at and measure diversity across their chains — suppliers, contingent employees and executives.

“Consider your brand as an employer,” Hoffmeyer said. “Your brand as an employer of both full-time and contingent workers. Everyone cares about it. They want to be associated with companies that match their values. This journey that we’re going to go on with more diversity in the contingent workforce will help increase the desirability of your brand.”

Mayers shared specific tips for organizations to keep in mind when exploring diversity and inclusion within their contingent workforce:

  • Make the business case for contingent diversity and inclusion
  • Create contingent diversity/inclusion infrastructure
  • Track and manage spend/supplier diversity
  • Think of unique ways to increase supplier diversity: mentor suppliers, use ones of different sizes, ownership structures
  • Share constant communication: Make people feel comfortable to share information with you

Hoffmeyer said “it’s never too late to get started on this.” While many might think they’re behind the curve, he encouraged professionals to continue making new efforts toward more diversity and inclusion.

A well-managed contingent workforce program can make a quick and positive impact on a company’s diversity goals, even faster than you can through full-time workers given the nature of contingent workforce assignments. Using contingent labor to attain talent agility, with talent that’s not part of the core employee structure, may in fact be the outside resources needed to drive innovation in an organization today.

More coverage: Spend Matters attended last week’s online SIG Summit, learning and sharing key insights into the world of procurement.