Your future depends on flexible talent


Tammy Browning

President, KellyOCG

Right now, there are not enough skilled people to fill available roles. In the U.S., the number of open jobs exceeded 10 million in June (the highest number ever recorded). As organizations scramble to fill key roles, many are turning to contingent workers. Our Global Workforce Agility Report found that 62% of companies that are successfully bridging skills gaps in their organizations have increased their contingent workforce over the past year.

However, when it comes to contingent workers, the value they bring to a workforce is often met with a reception that is lukewarm at best. Disposable workers. That’s how many temporary workers have been viewed and treated for years. A way to fill an urgent need, but not people to invest in, develop, or spend much effort on. In our Workforce Agility Report, we found just 19% of organizations have a DEI strategy for contingent labor, and this lack of focus is often seen in every part of temporary employee engagement.

We must engage and champion this growing and valuable workforce – not because it’s the right thing to do, but because they’re essential to future economic growth.

Historically, when it comes to hiring behaviors, what we’re experiencing right now is nothing new. We often see organizations turn to temporary workers during and after tough economic or social times because of uncertainty. Contingent models allow for flexibility and scalability more quickly than hiring full-time workers, but with a rise in the hiring of contingent workers comes familiar questions. Are we treating them fairly? Are we at risk of co-employment if we develop or support them? How can we overcome inequities in pay and treatment of contingent workers?

We are stuck in a cycle; one we urgently need to break by challenging perceptions of contingent workers for good.

During the 2008 financial crash, it was widely known contingent workers cost more than full-time workers because of a huge demand for talent and because they didn’t enjoy the same benefits as full-time employees – their value was clear. Today, our understanding of the value of temporary work is often muddied by perceptions of contingent workers as somehow less than permanent talent. The truth is that contingent workers are a hugely valuable asset to the future of your business.

In the past, temp-to-hire was a well-trodden route to bring in new workers. It was a ‘try before you buy’ process for employers and workers, helping to establish if the relationship was a good fit. Focused investment, education, and upskilling by an employer would enable temporary workers to evolve and become an important part of the workforce gaining qualifications along the way. As a hiring community, this pathway has almost disappeared over the last 10 to 15 years driven by worries of co-employment, a greater focus on college degrees as baseline qualifications, and an expectation of employees who can jump right in. In a talent-scarce market, this type of hiring is overly optimistic and leads to self-sabotage. Engaging temporary workers who don’t have all the skills, but who have great potential and good cultural fit, is a sustainable way to ready your workforce for the future.

In a world where more and more people are actively choosing contingent or freelance work, being a destination of choice for flexible talent will help you to attract the best skills and reach your goals faster. 59% of executives in our Workforce Agility Report told us their businesses will adopt a hybrid working model; yet, one in four believe their leaders lack the skills to manage the workforce they want to build. There’s no better way to embrace flexible ways of working than to grow employee engagement across your contingent talent communities. Contingent workers have the potential to be your next permanent hires and they’re a portion of the talent market you don’t want to miss out on.

It’s impossible to ignore the co-employment topic when it comes to temporary talent. Many organizations have been told that any attempt to engage or develop temporary talent will have serious legal implications, and a hands-off approach is the norm. The reality of it is that companies can, with the right employment strategies and the right partner, engage and invest in their contingent community in many of the same ways they do with their full-time community. In fact, by failing to do so, they are missing out on big benefits – access to diverse talent, becoming an employer of choice, and better retention rates, to name a few.

Trying to hire the same way you did two years ago isn’t going to work.

Labeling and siloing workers must stop if employers want to create agile workforces that are ready to face a challenging future. It’s time to start seeing and valuing all workers. It’s time to embrace responding flexibly to constantly shifting obstacles. Not able to change fast? You might find it impossible to engage the skilled people you need to meet and exceed your goals.


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Keeping up with the new world of work means adopting creative business strategies, and connecting with the talent who will make a real difference in your field. Lucky for you, it’s what we specialize in.

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