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What is the best talent acquisition strategy for my contingent workforce?

CXC Global9 min read
CXC GlobalNovember 27, 2023
CXC Global

Introduction to talent acquisition for contingent workforces

Contingent workers have become a vital part of today’s workforce. Offering skills to organisations on a tenure-limited basis, these workers fulfill talent needs in organisations for multiple reasons. Often, they’re highly trained specialists that bring expertise to a business to meet a crucial, technical function – a function that isn’t typically needed in the business on a permanent basis. Or they fill talent gaps due to absent permanent workers, or boost workforce resources during seasonal fluctuations.

Categories of contingent workers include consultants, contractors, freelancers, and other temporary workers. Mostly, these workers operate under a contract while they work in a business to complete a specific project or fill a role for a specific period.

But there are challenges. The most common challenges faced by organisations who engage contingent workers, include:

  • Compliance issues. Incorrect classification of workers or failing to meet the changing legislative landscape is a major challenge. And one that can be very costly in both fines and reputational damage.
  • Poor contingent workforce visibility. Without a centralised management strategy, your business can easily lose sight of its contingent workers. This leads to cost blow-outs and a greater risk of non-compliance.
  • Multiple talent providers. By engaging multiple agencies to help source contingent workers, you’re at risk of inconsistent pay rates, and greater difficulty of performance management (of both the worker AND the agency).
  • Access to quality talent. This is a big one. The strength of your contingent workforce program depends on the quality of talent you have access to. Without a streamlined supplier roster or direct sourcing strategy, you’ll struggle to reap the benefits of contingent workers.
  • Fragmented contractor management. The engagement of contingent workers involves plenty of moving parts. And if line managers undertake their own hiring and management of contractors, you’re in trouble. This leads to unnecessary increase in spend, poor contractor visibility and invariably, compliance issues.

Today, we’ve prepared a roadmap for creating and implementing an effective contingent worker talent acquisition strategy; one that will allow you to avoid these challenges, and help you meet your business and workforce goals. We’ve included links to a recent online event, ‘The Panel Van’ by Rubberband where a number of CXC’s clients spoke candidly about their experiences of engaging contingent workers and overcoming common challenges.

The contingent workforce landscape

Organisations have continually increased their use of contingent workers over the past 15+ years, to the point where today, their presence in the corporate world has reached staggering proportions. Prior to COVID, there was a global shift happening, as employers realised the significant benefits of engaging the right contingent workers, at the right time. From streamlining project work, to acquiring specialist skills for specific needs, the business case for contingent worker usage, has been solid for a long time.

Then after COVID, a further shift took place. Workers wanted something different: flexibility in how they work, work/life balance, hybrid work, new and varied professional experiences. So, the market moved even further to a mix of more contingent workers managed alongside their permanent counterparts as a ‘total talent’ solution.

Today, this growing trend of using contingent workers continues. The Ceridian 2023 Executive Survey, released in August this year, found that:

  • 80% of organisations are already using contingent talent.
  • 65% will increase their reliance on contingent workers over the next two years.

But they’re facing challenges. These include:

  • 70% of executives said they find integrating contingent talent into their workforce somewhat or strongly challenging.
  • 44% said finding contingent workers with specific skills is difficult.

Strategic approaches to talent acquisition

Sourcing strategies for high-quality contractors

We’re seeing more and more organisations taking on the task of direct sourcing of their contingent workers, so they have clear access to a trusted, reliable pool of workers. In today’s market, smart organisations are building direct sourcing into their talent acquisition strategy.

Innovative direct sourcing techniques continue to evolve. Using clever marketing solutions and digital technology, talent acquisition efforts must be timely and targeted, to maintain a competitive edge with quality contractors. Below, we have provided some of the leading solutions for your contingent talent acquisition strategy.

Employer branding

Organisations have typically focused their employer branding efforts on permanent workers. This was primarily because:

  • Contingent workers made up a smaller portion of the workforce so were deemed less important to the strategic effort of employer branding.
  • Organisations had less control over contingent talent, as they were usually sourced via staffing agencies.

But these reasons no longer stack up: your employer branding strategy must factor in the contingent component of your workforce. As these workers now take up critical, strategic roles, your investment in employer branding needs to appeal to all possible talent groups, including contingent. Only then, will you be able to devise a successful direct sourcing strategy.

To create a successful employer brand that appeals to contingent workers, consider the following:

  • Making sure contingent workers have a great candidate experience, from the first contact with your organisation, to the last.
  • Offer modern benefits, reflective of the needs of contingent talent in today’s market. Things like:
    • Flexible working practices
    • Hybrid working
    • Work-life balance
    • Professional development opportunities
    • Evidence of diversity and inclusion
    • Healthcare and wellness benefits
    • Contract renewal opportunities
    • Flexible pay schedules
  • Show evidence in your employer brand that you’re a trusted, respected, sought-after contingent worker employer (that is, if you are all those things).
  • Create worker advocacy. Worker and company values need to be aligned and reflected in your employer brand. Show evidence of other contingent workers who would advocate for you as an employer.
  • Provide opportunities for career growth. Outside of wages, career growth opportunities are a hugely appealing factor for contingent talent.
  • Include provisions for contingent workers to meet family needs.
  • Make sure you’re offering a pleasant, appealing working environment.

And most importantly, your employer brand needs to be truly representative of who you are and what you offer as an employer. With two communications streams – one for permanent talent, and one for contingent talent – the investment you make in your employer brand will reap valuable return by talking to candidates according to their employment status, not as a whole.

Candidate sourcing techniques and building talent pools

There are a host of proven yet sometimes complex means for directly building your talent pool of contingent workers. These include:

  • Create talent pipelines using past interactions with candidates via relationship building with your HRIS. This can involve engaging with candidates using email marketing strategies, online and offline events, and maintaining a regular schedule of contact with candidates. Use your ATS to snooze candidates or set reminders.
  • Join and host recruitment or industry events (provide quality snacks and drinks, and you’re sure to get prospective contractors to attend!).
  • Social and digital marketing. LinkedIn isn’t the only platform for your talent acquisition strategy. TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Boolean search on Google, are all high ROI options for finding contingent candidates.
  • Source via resume databases and portfolio sites. Job boards provide organisations with candidate profiles (for a fee). Also, there are various platforms which are known for successful sourcing of key skills. For example, Behance for designers, Medium for writers and Github for developers.
  • Establish a contractor referral program. If you’re a great place to work, your contractors will happily spread the work with their contractor networks. Why not incentivise this with a reward?

Each of these talent acquisition strategies are valuable solutions for nurturing a trusted candidate pool and pipeline for forthcoming contract job openings.

Keep in mind, a directly sourced selection of contingent candidates, coupled with a centralised management program – what we provide here at CXC – is a proven solution to the many challenges organisations face when engaging contingent workers (as we discussed at the start of this article).

One final point to note here. Don’t forget, to keep coming back to the basics regarding both your contingent talent acquisition strategy, and your contingent workforce management strategy. Things like:

  • Having the foundations of your talent acquisition and management in place, so when you go to market to source contractors, your business will be ready, and the new contingent hire will experience efficient onboarding and speedy time-to-productivity.
  • Having your foundations in place will also make you better informed about the actual type of talent you need to hire (less time wasting, less uncertainty in your hiring processes).
  • With a centralised contractor management program in place, you will be able to determine if you already have the right contractor in the business, that could do the job. The transparency afforded by the program will eliminate unnecessary hiring efforts. And an internal contingent hire will also mean you have someone familiar with the business, processes, IP and operations. It’s a potential win-win.
  • Making sure that if you do need to go to market for a new hire, you have the funding to do so. Without it, your business reputation will be damaged, and the contingent candidate will undoubtedly undergo a disappointing hiring experience.

Hear directly from our client, AIA, on how they went about discovering the best talent acquisition solution for their contingent workforce and how it has proven to be key to their success…

On-demand talent sourcing

On-demand talent sourcing is a specialised recruitment solution designed to help organisations fill talent gaps, quickly. By partnering with an on-demand talent sourcing provider, you can ‘lease’ a team of external recruiters to supplement your existing internal team. Essentially, it’s a short-term version of Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO). The benefits of on-demand talent sourcing are many, including:

  • Access to top talent at speeds beyond that of typical market hiring. With experience and industry knowledge at their fingertips, organisations quickly hire quality contractors with on-demand talent sourcing.
  • On-demand sourcing is scalable and flexible. This is particularly valuable for organisations with seasonal talent needs.
  • As we heard from our client, Transurabn, with a strategic contingent workforce program in place their talent acquisition strategy is streamlined and efficient, with access to quality talent when they need it.

On-demand talent sourcing also provides for a faster, more efficient mapping of contingent workforce planning. Our client, AIA, were able to cut down on agency spending by reducing the number of agencies on their supplier panel, while being able to access contingent talent as and when they need them.

Access to talent acquisition tech to optimise the candidate experience and speed up the hiring process.

Conclusion: Synthesising a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy

These are just some of the considerations your business needs to make when it comes to the talent acquisition strategy for your contingent workforce. Other factors you’ll want to consider include:

  • How to effectively scale your workforce with contingent talent
  • Workforce planning of contingent workers
  • Talent acquisition metrics
  • Interview processes and onboarding practices

… amongst others.

Keep in mind, the solutions we’ve outlined here are to be tailored to your business and your specific workforce needs. And no matter how you go about finding contingent talent, their experience in your business is the ultimate litmus test of you as an employer, from first contact during the hiring process to their last day onsite.

A holistic approach to contingent talent acquisition will ensure you’ve got your bases covered across the business, so you can fill talent gaps now and into the future. Nothing is perfect in hiring and people management, but as the HR lead in your business, being able to seamlessly provide contingent talent, with minimal stress or business interruption, will be hugely valued at all levels of the organisation.

Ensure you’re continuously reassessing your approach to talent acquisition, and stay across market trends and new technologies, so your business maintains a competitive edge when it comes to contingent workers.

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About CXC

At CXC, we want to help you grow your business with flexible, contingent talent. But we also understand that managing a contingent workforce can be complicated, costly and time-consuming. Through our MSP solution, we can help you to fulfil all of your contingent hiring needs, including temp employees, independent contractors and SOW workers. And if your needs change? No problem. Our flexible solution is designed to scale up and down to match our clients’ requirements.

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