The workplace of old is gone.
Today workers are increasingly unattached to any one company. They are completely mobile and largely self-directed. And modern companies, for their part, are proactively seeking out a blended workforce of both full-time and contingent workers as a means of achieving maximum business agility, lowering risk and delivering solutions at the most favourable cost.
But what happens when these two worlds collide? Does management need to shift in order to take advantage of the opportunities? Is it possible to inspire a feeling of true partnership among your core staff and your contingent workers?
First, a look at the data:
By the numbers
By nearly all accounts, the percentage of workers considered “contingent” in Australia is growing at a rapid pace.
According to recent studies:
- 30% of the Australian labour market is contingent workers, or around 2.5 million people
- 40% of the labour market is expected to be contingent workers by 2020
This means it’s highly likely you’ve already begun to experience the pros – and the pains – of outsourcing your project or program needs, or will very soon.
Focus on the people
There is no one perfect path to engaging a successful contingent workforce, but experts agree it’s critical to have a culture around clarity and expectations that transcends work classification.
The Sydney Morning Herald tackled this issue in August of last year under the heading, “The hidden high costs of a contingent workforce.”
The news site warned that workplace issues are now a major cause of stress for two in five Australians. And part of that stress, the Herald said, is an “ever-rotating change of staff around them.”
Go it alone?
It’s tempting to believe a flexible workforce is available at the snap of your fingertips, but managing a contingent team can pose unique demands.
That was the motivation behind building up a dedicated managed services team at PM-Partners – to meet this need. All the usual challenges of setting up, expanding or running project environments can take precious time away from what matters most: thinking strategically. Our experienced teams can offer solutions to almost any issue or project and successfully deliver outputs.
Three rules to remember
Rather than a long list of do’s and don’ts, we’ve distilled all our research down into three essential truths:
- Rule #1: The more places you draw contractors from the greater the potential for complexity. Managing so many inputs isn’t impossible, but it needs to be specifically managed in order to be effective. Save the spinning plates for the circus!
- Rule #2: Contingent workers are human and must be treated as such. It’s seems silly to have to spell this out, but so often workplaces leave contingent workers by the wayside in terms of support, goals and fostering a feeling of teamwork. Human Capital magazine, an HR publication, encourages managers of contingent workers to formalise their onboarding in the same way you would a traditional employee, among other best practices.
- Rule #3: Understand that contingent workers are still different in some key aspects. The same magazine piece notes some research that “shows that at 7 weeks out from contract completion contingent workers will start looking for their next assignment.” If you want to retain the best of this bunch, you can’t wait until week five or six to broach the subject of sticking around.
And double clicking into the project or programme management space, there are, again, unique considerations. One academic study by Chui-Ha Ng and featured by the Project Management Institute found the rise of contingent workers is leading to more projectisation and structure:
“… [A]n organisation will be more projectised in structure and invest more on project governance and support structures, project management methodologies, and tools as it employs more contingent workers on IT projects while enhancing its project management capability.”
According to last year’s Contingent Workforce Conference in Sydney there are many important choices that follow selecting contingent workers, from how you will communicate effectiveness upwards to executives to how to best develop “simple” business rules around contingent use.
Tell us: What’s been your biggest source of frustration with contingent work spaces and teams?
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