Is The Contingent Workforce Your X Factor For Organizational And Business Agility?
Since the start of the pandemic, businesses have experienced a series of challenges: supply chain disruption, labor market shifts, geo-political instability, inflation and now recession. Even before high inflation and the recession set in, C-level executives began to see the wisdom of increasing the agility of their businesses.
As 2023 begins, if there was a time for organizations to become more agile, this is it. Workforce agility is an essential ingredient of business agility. And while organizations have begun investing in making their employee workforces more agile (e.g., skills-based organization, learning and development, internal mobility marketplaces, etc.), perhaps somewhat ironically, the contingent workforce has been almost left out of the solution.
Why? Old habits die hard. For decades, organizations have used contingent labor to reactively fill in temporary gaps (e.g., employee absences) or augment the permanent workforce during peak periods. Many executives may not be aware of how new contingent workforce processes, technology, data and advanced analytics can contribute to overall workforce and business agility.
Let’s explore how the contingent workforce, powered by new technology and talent intelligence, can drive agility and identify some steps you can take to get started.
What Contingent Workforce Agility Now Means
Today, in new and unprecedented ways, a contingent workforce can contribute to an organization’s agility enabled by:
- Faster and more precise sourcing and engagement of critical talent, leveraging real-time market and rate data.
- Engaging new digitally enabled channels and talent sources, “intelligent” skills taxonomies and inference engines.
- Proactive selection and deployment of contingent talent and capabilities across a range of business scenarios that optimize for skills, costs and, perhaps most important of all, availability and timing (when and how long talent is needed).
- Total talent planning and optimization for both the permanent employee and contingent workforce based on deep, integrated talent intelligence spanning both populations.
Using these new capabilities, today organizations can become more agile by leveraging their flexible workforces. At the same time, C-suite executives must understand what that means and be willing to lead.
Leading the Contingent Workforce Agility Journey
Critical skills of contingent workers can – and should – support and contribute to important initiatives, starting with proactively including them in workforce planning and execution processes. And senior executives must lead and encourage new thinking and practices among their C-suite peers and other business managers across the organization.
Here’s how to start:
1. Approach the contingent workforce as a strategic capability.
Today, the use of a flexible workforce can and must go beyond individual managers’ requisitions to meet their isolated needs. The contingent workforce should be included in workforce planning and optimization for mission-critical initiatives as a unique a source of valuable skills and expertise.
Action: Get proactive in initiating discussions about the contingent workforce with fellow executive stakeholders, look for new alliances between teams to set and reach new program goals, and incorporate the topic into board meeting discussions about human capital and winning the battle for talent.
Related Reading: “What Is Contingent Workforce Management?”
2. Assess your current technology and data analytics solutions.
Such an assessment may prove shocking. In many cases, contingent workforce technology and data analytics may consist of only a legacy VMS and the operational program extracted with BI and reporting tools. As a priority, leaders need to radically expand contingent workforce visibility capabilities, enabling the organization to drill deeply into such areas as time to fill, market cost and diversity.
Action: Form a team to identify what is limiting workforce visibility and optimization and ask what can be done to move ahead using new capabilities.
Related Reading: “The New Role for the MSP in Human Capital Management”
3. Carry out a contingent talent optimization proof-of-concept.
Think big, but start small. Look for an initiative or other specific use case where some new contingent workforce technology and talent intelligence capabilities can be put to the test and demonstrate what they are capable of. These capabilities have come a long way in just several years, so waste no time in getting to know them.
Action: Select a capable solution provider and arrange a proof-of-concept exercise. Based on what you learn from that, look into what more is possible.
Related Reading: “The Emerging Backbone of Contingent Workforce Management Success: Talent Intelligence as a Strategic Advantage”
Today, the flexible workforce can play a much more significant – and strategic – role at organizations in mitigating talent and skills deficits and increasing business agility. The best practices and enabling capabilities needed to take the contingent workforce to the next level are available today, and organizations can absorb them at a self-gated pace thanks to new platform-based approaches.
This isn’t something that will happen from the bottom up. It’s up to senior executive teams to bring the opportunity into focus and provide the leadership and support to start and drive the contingent workforce agile transformation.
Given the dynamic environment, this is a great time to start leveraging contingent workers in new ways to contribute to organizational agility.