Diversity & Inclusion in the Contingent Workforce

In June 2020, people from all walks of life took part in one of the largest global demonstrations supporting Black Lives Matter. According to Reuters, protests took place across the world. People took to the streets in Tokyo, Seoul, Bangkok, Sydney, Paris and Berlin to not only protest in solidarity with their American friends but to send a message about exclusion within their own nations.

It was a sobering message.

In the workplace, it is continuously acknowledged that we still have a long way to go when it comes to the challenges of diversity and inclusion. However, the good news is we are gathering pace as D&I is increasingly recognised as a crucial part of talent management. That being said, it is regularly overlooked when it comes to contingent workers. As the world of work moves towards more contingent workers on the payroll, I’d like to highlight why it’s essential for organisations to have a D&I programme for their workers, beyond just permanent employees.

Why is D&I important in the workplace?

That might seem like a silly question as we’d all agree everyone should feel valued where they do their job. However, a lack of inclusivity in the workplace, where individuals feel they are not supported or cannot achieve their full potential, can have damaging effects on their wellbeing and the organisation.

In their report, “Waiter, is that inclusion in my soup?” Deloitte and The Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission found that when employees think their organisation is highly committed to diversity and they feel highly included, they are 80% more likely to agree they are in a high-performing organisation. It makes sense. When people of different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives come together to solve a problem, the result is more potent than if a single type of person addressed that same problem.

To take it further, our strategic partner, the Allegis Group have highlighted the following emphatic figures regarding increasing diversity in organisations.

Allegis Diversity & Inclusion Stats

Diversity initially focused primarily on gender, race and religion but has expanded to:

  • Colour
  • Ethnicity
  • Language
  • Nationality
  • Sexual orientation
  • Socio-economic status
  • Age
  • Physical ability
  • Mental ability
  • Cognitive and personality type

How is D&I relative for a contingent workforce?

Some people may view their contract workers as stopgaps: the receptionist covering sick leave, the night-time security guard or the project IT consultant; so, it’s easy to think they’re not part of the company. However, many contingent workers have long-term relationships with a role, a team and the organisation. They fill critical business objectives and contribute to organisational strategy. Those individuals should be considered important workers. But how short must your contract be that you’re not considered a vital worker at the company? I would argue that everyone is. Essentially, every individual associated with the organisation should be considered, no matter where a company is with its D&I focus. In fact, you could argue that if an inclusion programme covers the range of diversity listed above, it would be hypocritical to exclude people purely based on their contractual arrangements.

HireTalent and Consciously Unbiased, in association with Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), released “The Future of Diversity & Inclusion in the Contingent Workforce.” It reported that nearly two-thirds (64%) of HR, procurement and other workforce professionals surveyed believe D&I efforts for their employed workforce are prioritised. However, only a quarter (26%) believe the same for contingent workers.

One of the most significant barriers to adoption, according to respondents, was that they didn’t have a proven business case for D&I in the contingent workforce. However, leaders in D&I among contingent workers have stated that they reap bottom-line benefits, such as:

  • being 27% more likely to attract talent
  • 24% more likely to achieve a high return on investment (ROI) for contingent work
  • having 19% greater access to highly skilled talent.

Deloitte has observed an increased number of organisations with contingent workers representing a larger workforce percentage than” regular” employees.  While McKinsey surveyed 800 executives worldwide in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. 70% of the executives surveyed expect to use more temporary workers and contractors on-site at their companies in 2022 than they did before the crisis.

Surely, it’s now time to take diversity and inclusion more seriously for your contingent workforce?

What steps can be taken to ensure a D&I contingent workforce?


Nowadays, many workers enter an organisation as contractors or contingent workers and end up as permanent employees. That means a solid diversity recruitment strategy should consider holding suppliers accountable for attracting and submitting diverse talent for consideration. It should be a part of your total talent strategy.

One of the most significant issues is that procurement teams typically lead contingent workforce programmes. They do not have the functional expertise to incorporate diversity & inclusion initiatives into their programmes.

Actions for diverse recruitment

  • Include HR, the executive team, line managers and policymakers in addressing a supplier diversity programme
  • In the short term, communicate with your current resource partners about your organisation’s D&I values and initiatives and ask them to implement them in their recruiting and interview processes
  • Review your partners from the perspective of diversity and aim to use talent solution providers who specialise in diversity
  • Set goals to hit a certain percentage of diverse workers
  • Consistently review the data for improvement in diversity recruitment
  • Consider implementing D&I technology in your direct sourcing initiatives

Recently, CXC partnered with the Australian health insurance company Medibank to utilise an indigenous-owned recruitment panel to improve their contingent workers’ diversity. We were successful in engaging with several partners for indigenous recruitment. This led to a significant number of new contractors being sourced through the panel.

How do you make contingent workers feel more included?

Verna Myers, an author and cultural innovator, said, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” It’s a great metaphor.

I’ve had friends who have contracted for some of the big IT firms; they had to wear a different badge, they weren’t allowed to get any of the company swag, i.e. free t-shirts, and they weren’t invited to the company town hall. They said this made them feel like second-class citizens.

Everyone who works at your company should feel like they are part of the organisation. When the entire workforce feels seen, heard, safe, and cared for as people, their desire to perform at their best, will only increase.

Actions for a more inclusive contingent workforce

  • If you have D&I as part of your onboarding programme, ensure it is rolled out for contingent workers
  • Implement a policy that allows training and participation in company events
  • Do away with any form of visual identification that highlights a contingent worker
  • Have contingent workers part of the inclusion initiatives
  • Initiate more open lines of communication between contingent workers and company managers

The BLM protests have reminded us there is still much to be done in recognising diversity in society as a whole. The workplace reflects society. Yet, many studies show that D&I initiatives increase productivity and wellbeing for workers and profitability for organisations. We also know that the contingent workforce is rising. If you haven’t included your contingent workers as part of your diversity and inclusion programme, now is the time to start. Think about a total talent D&I programme.

CXC are experts in all aspects of total management strategy; I’d be delighted to talk to you about how to implement D&I initiatives for your contingent workforce.

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