4 critical factors for contingent labour and COVID-19

Have you stopped to think about how your business is utilising contingent labour during COVID-19?

No? Well… picture this:  your business is planning a major product roll-out in Q2 of 2020.

Your workforce is ready and primed, both permanent and contingent.

And your business is set to take a leap forward both financially, and as a major player in your industry.

Then COVID-19 happens.

contingent labour covid-19

Lockdowns are in place.

Workers, organisations, governments, consumers – all seem to be panicking.

Everything changes. Right? It’s a very real scenario.

Maybe it’s not a product launch for your business.

Maybe it’s a new service.

Or a geographic market expansion.

Maybe it’s an acquisition.

Or a major event you’re hosting.

No matter ‘what’ your business had planned for 2020, everything suddenly changed. And no-one was handed a survival roadmap.

The level of agility that’s needed to manage the effects of this disruption is another ‘unprecedented’ issue of this time. The key issue here is this: what happens to the workforce?

This week, we take a look at how businesses across the globe have needed to rethink how work is going to get done in 2020. And where contingent labour fits into this workforce and delivery scenario.

I’ve taken insights from a number of well-respected industry thought leaders on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, on contingent labour. One of these leaders, includes CXC’s friend and industry partner, Vice President of Research for Ardent Partners, Christopher Dwyer. One of Chris’ recent podcast episodes from the Contingent Workforce Weekly podcast, covered the impacts of this crisis on workforce planning and contingent labour.

And importantly, on how work is going to get done this year.

A Seismic Shift in the way we Work

Never (in my lifetime) have we seen a global situation where most of today’s workers, are being mandated to work remotely.

The reliance on technology, collaborative tools, virtual meetings, video conferencing and online communications are allowing the work to get done. It’s quite incredible how adaptable most organisations have been – from my perspective at CXC, we’re seeing a tremendous ability for our clients, peers, partners and supply chain to successfully modify the way they work, in this new dynamic.

The ramifications for the actual workers is an interesting issue to consider here.

Permanent workers, most of whom are used to socialising, personal interactions and face-to-face engagement with colleagues, are required to strip out the ‘personal’ interactivity of work. Some will struggle with this. Some won’t.

Contingent labour on the other hand, tend to be capable of adapting more easily. Often project and delivery focused, the very nature of the work undertaken by contingent labour is finite, and changeable.

As we sit right in the thick of this pandemic, it’s worth thinking about the how in respect of the work getting done in your organisation.

Not only in terms of remote working and the like, but under what workforce strategy. Are you leveraging the best from contingent labour during COVID-19? It’s worth considering.

Don’t forget; no matter how bad this ends up being, it’s always going to disrupt work. Perhaps in the long-term. And every industry is impacted.

Digitising Your Effort

We’re seeing a rise in the digitisation of the way organisations are achieving their business goals, during COVID-19. The unprecedented shift to how we’re working, is pulling CEO’s and HR business leaders towards accepting delivery of business goals via the web and other online services.

Simplistic? Maybe.

But according to CEO of technology company Catalant, the rise of traffic to their website in what is being dubbed the ‘corona economy’, has been staggering. Working with organisations to achieve business strategy via SaaS and digital solutions, means Catalant is at the forefront of helping organisations with today’s change.

Other business leaders seeking to achieve business adaptation in the form of strategic projects being delivered online, are calling on the freelance and contingent workforce to help their business be set-up for long-term success.

Keeping the economic wheels of business operating is critical. Outside of economic stimulus from governments – which undoubtedly will assist in this time – it’s the organisations that can capitalise on the opportunity this period can offer.

That means, amongst other things:

  • The right business leadership mindset
  • The right skills – short-term, contingent labour skills are critical for many organisations in shifting to an increasingly digitised operation
  • Utilising the technology, software and related services to help your business make the change
  • Keeping your organisation abreast of the adaptations being made: giving your people confidence that the business is able to make it through

Managing A Changing Customer Demand

As these changes to the working world continue, one thing we’re seeing signs of in the industries to which CXC has exposure – consulting, energy, professional services, insurance amongst others – is the expectation of continuing to engage contingent workers.

Yes, permanent employees are taking a hit. Most often via a salary cut, or a shortened working week.

But as forecasting, customer demand, sales and bottom-line projections become increasingly difficult to ascertain with any scientific measure, the appeal of the non-employee worker holds up.

Flexibility in being able to adapt to a change in customer demand is important for organisations now, and as 2020 continues. Navigating uncertain demand is more easily achieved with a flexible, adaptable workforce.

The other issue with customer demand is this: where the offer of an organisation is shifting to a different format (eg via digital means), the specific short-term skills that can greatly enhance the ability to maintain BAU, are key. And, may play a role in improving customer demand. It’s a two-pronged capacity for contingent workers to be a critical component of output during COVID-19.

And one additional point to think about…

Keeping Workers Safe

Safety is paramount, right? Safety of all workers. Safety of all people.

No matter what categories of workers in your organisation, the major priority right now is worker safety.

Some white-collar workers in Australia, are still going into the office. Some business travel is still happening, albeit in very lean formats.

Whilst the goal of maintaining productivity and output under this extraordinary era is key, the way that’s achieved is a reprioritising in thinking by our business leaders, to a mindset of safety. This includes, of course, the safety of your contingent workers.


The role of contingent labour in the modern workforce – and particularly during COVID-19 – remains essential. Helping business to better adapt to this new world, a world which will unlikely go back to ‘how things were before’, is crucial in 2020. Is your business making the most of contingent workers at this time?

As one of the world’s leading providers of contingent worker management solutions, CXC is well positioned to optimise all elements of your contingent workforce strategy. With operations in more than 50 countries across five continents and decades of experience, we can assist with every aspect of your program.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help please contact us here.