Consider the benefits of contingent workforce diversity in your business

Have you thought about the concept of diversity in your organisation’s contingent workforce?

There’s no question as to whether workforce diversity provides substantial benefits for organisations. The consensus is in: a workforce environment with greater representation leads to improved productivity, employee engagement and better decision making.

The added bonus?

It improves the company’s bottom line.

And just to get everyone on the same page, when we refer to workforce diversity, we’re looking at the unique attributes of all people. This includes race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, cultural background and neuro-diversity.

Employers are starting to catch on.

Many of Australia’s largest organisations have implemented policies aimed at increasing inclusion across the staff. Although steadily gaining traction in the workplace, diversity initiatives still have a long way to go when it comes to contractors.

In our experience, the focus and support for diversity of the permanent workforce have not been mirrored for contractors.

Given the dramatic rise of the contingent workforce, this represents a significant missed opportunity in terms of contributing to business-wide diversity outcomes.

Part of this might be attributed to concern around co-employment risk; however, with the growing role contractors are playing in the workforce, it’s essential that organisations find avenues to meet their diversity goals.

Here are three main methods to improve the diversity mix of your contingent workforce:

1 Reporting and visibility

Understanding your current level of diversity is an essential first step in improving equality outcomes for your business. A large part of this is reviewing the long-term strategy for your contingent workforce program. And more importantly, examining how well your current diversity strategy is working.

In our experience, diversity data is often not captured for contingent workers, and hence not included in overall reporting. CXC routinely measures and reports on these aspects in our workforce management and MSP solutions.

When we implement our program for a client, we first undertake a detailed analysis of their contingent workforce composition. This provides a clear picture of their contractors, by job family, seniority and diversity category – data that’s often previously unseen.

Using a combination of industry benchmarks and partnerships, we are able to provide a comparison of our clients’ workforces against accepted industry standards. This is a process that brings to light any gaps or diversity shortcomings. In addition, as a result of this process, we are able to support them in undertaking effective workforce planning and change management, if required.

2 Building an environment that encourages WORKFORCE diversity

Once you understand the current makeup of your contingent workforce and can track progress against goals, companies need to make sure their workforce environment doesn’t actively set up barriers and push away diverse talent. Organisations that have a cultural bias often repel qualified talent, forcing contingent workers to seek out companies that accommodate their needs.

Business leaders should first assess whether their corporate culture is the reason behind a skills shortage.

Does your company allow contingent workers flexibility to work from home?

Do they have the technological resources to accommodate their different needs?

And importantly, do they have the ability to accept, embrace and include people from all walks of life?

An inclusive and diverse workplace relies upon respect and clear communication. Your contingent workers should feel safe from prejudice, abuse and unfair criticism. This is a cultural issue best implemented when fostered from the top.

3 Building diversity into your supply chain

A diverse workforce is not only dependent on the types of workers you’re sourcing, but who’s doing the sourcing.

Supplier diversity is about opening up the supply chain and using a greater variety of suppliers. Consider indigenous-owned, women-owned and disability-focused businesses. These businesses are usually put at a disadvantage when competing against bigger suppliers even though they can provide companies with suitable, qualified contingent workers.

Supplier diversity is becoming increasingly important to large organisations.

With the potential to introduce savings and innovation into the supply chain, a considered review of your suppliers is a worthy first step.

Consider this: Microsoft spent over $2 billion in 2014 on diversifying its global supply chain.

Recently, CXC partnered with Medibank to deploy an Indigenous-owned recruitment panel focused on improving the diversity of contingent workers.

CXC achieved this goal through:

  • Reviewing Medibank’s RAP to identify the areas we could make a positive effect and agreeing with Medibank on the best ways we could deliver these outcomes
  • Identifying suitable suppliers in the marketplace by researching current Indigenous sourcing panels across various industries, reaching out to suppliers and ascertaining their ability to deliver into corporate roles
  • Conducting interviews and deploying an Indigenous-sourcing-specific RFI designed to identify suppliers with true capability in this space
  • Appointing a suitably-vetted specialist recruitment panel with a focus on majority-owned Indigenous businesses
  • CXC implemented the suppliers into the recruitment panel, and provided reporting to Medibank to track status, accessibility and adjustment to working environments

CXC was successful in screening and ultimately engaging with a number of partners for Indigenous recruitment, leading to a significant number of new contractors being sourced through the panel.

Medibank is now looking to roll out a similar program for accessibility, as well as implementing some of these practices into their wider permanent employment arrangements.

You can look at the full Medibank case study here as an insight into how you can increase the diversity of your supply chain.

Stop and have a think about the approach your organisation takes to diversity hiring. If your strategy for permanent talent is well established, it’s probably time to apply a similar strategy for your contingent workforce – your bottom line will be healthier for it. If you’d like to have a discussion about the diversity of your contingent workforce, you can reach me here.