Can you afford to ignore your contingent workforce strategy? (Spoiler: You can’t.)


Aaron Wawman

Business Development Director, EMEA, MSP & Flexible Workforce Solutions

Many organisations have seen their businesses’ growth accelerate over the last few years – with some seeing headcounts double or triple since the start of the pandemic. Faced with intense expansion, leaders have increasingly turned to contingent workers to fill skills gaps – transforming them from a small but important sector of the workforce to a sizable and vital resource.

But winter is coming. As rocket-powered pandemic recovery gives way to flatter economic conditions, many organisations are faced with yet more uncertainty. Do they batten down the hatches or keep pushing new growth? However they choose to face what comes next, it’s crucial that leaders continue to reflect on how they attract, retain, and manage their contingent workforce. If the past few years have taught us anything, it’s that flexible talent is a resource you can’t afford to ignore.

What’s more, the market for contingent talent is fierce – as dynamic scaleups and established blue-chips compete for the best flexible skills. Our KellyOCG Re:work report found that leaders ranked poor ability to hire contingent talent (34%) and lack of skills needed available in the market (34%) as their biggest headaches in 2022. If previously the focus has been getting roles filled as quickly as possible, there is now a growing need to develop robust contingent talent strategies that look beyond immediate need.

Simply, businesses can’t afford to ignore contingent talent strategy; here’s how they can put it front and centre, whatever the future holds.

Reassess contingent strategy – from the top down

Building out a successful contingent strategy takes collaboration across an organisation – from the C-Suite down. There are big questions to ask and answer: What are your goals and vision for your contingent programme? Will it be self-managed or a collaboration with an expert workforce partner? How will you leverage technology to meet your goals and support stakeholders, hiring managers, and workers? Setting a clear, strategic direction and making business-wide changes takes a significant investment of time and resources, but it's not something organisations can afford to overlook. Our 2022 Re:work report found that the most successful companies – Vanguards – are more likely to invest in contingent talent, and 40% told us they encourage the use of contingent talent in their business.

Assess visibility

Do you see your flexible workforce? It’s surprising how many businesses can’t answer key questions on their contingent workforce headcount or even location. But in a large organisation, it’s easy for these workers to become invisible, and shining a light on them is the first and most vital step for any successful contingent workforce strategy. This usually means implementing workforce technology – like a VMS (vendor management solution). It’s something leading businesses are already prioritising. 47% of Vanguards have implemented technology that provides visibility across their mix of contingent and perm talent. However, workforce technology isn’t a silver bullet – it needs to go hand in hand with a cohesive, strategic approach and (often) an experienced talent partner to provide maximum value to a business.

Rethink contingent experiences

Perceptions of the contingent workforce have changed. And fast-growing organisations are leading the way. 46% of Vanguards say that contingent talent is perceived as equally qualified as permanent talent – compared to 32% of all respondents in our 2022 Re:work survey. This is feeding an incredibly competitive contingent marketplace, and retention (as well as attraction) of sought-after talent is increasingly important. Of course, the permanent workforce is still crucial – it’s like oxygen to your organisation – but to cover critical skills gaps, businesses need to engage contingent workers more effectively. Leaders should treat contingent workers like customers, putting real care into how they can retain them for the length of a project and leave them wanting to come back time and time again. Creating a positive, thoughtful end-to-end contingent worker experience can make a business a first choice for great talent.

Attitudes to contingent strategy are shifting

Personally, I’m having more conversations with more fast-moving organisations about contingent workforce strategy than ever before, with businesses recognising the importance of flexible workers to their future growth. Many are tech-driven scale-ups who are used to moving quickly, and who are looking to technology to redefine their evolving workforce strategy.

These shifting business needs are part of the reason we developed KellyOCG Go MSP – a contingent talent solution that’s designed to work straight out of the box, with a deployment time of just 8 weeks. Powerful and flexible, with a user-friendly tech stack and great analytics, it represents a huge shift from traditional slow-moving MSPs, and is designed for those businesses that have grown up through constant innovation and change.

A next-gen workforce solution might be the answer to transforming your contingent talent strategy. It might not. But until you start looking – really looking – at the value that contingent workers bring to your business and how you’re managing them today, you won’t know. Now is the perfect time to press pause and reflect on how your contingent talent strategy could support your organisation through yet another wave of economic uncertainty.

Want to catch up to talk contingent workforce strategy or learn more about OCG Go? Drop me a line to share your biggest contingent talent challenges.


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