Why Culture Matters for the Contingent Workforce


It seems like a simple axiom. Hire people compatible with your company culture and the workplace will be more harmonious and productive.  We’ve seen this play out countless times in a full time workforce environment. Yet, the seemingly simple maxim isn’t often applied to the contingent workforce and, predictably, this failure to regard cultural fit in the hiring of contingent workers translates into higher levels of discord and lower productivity among the contingent workforce. Why do companies focus on cultural concerns with their full time workers but neglect to do the same for their contractors and what should they be doing differently?

Perhaps the most obvious and prevalent reason for the failure to consider cultural fit when hiring temporary labor is the fact that these workers are precisely that: temporary.  Hiring managers and HR leadership could be forgiven for opting against investing additional time and effort into finding better cultural matches among temp candidates because, after all, “they’ll be leaving us soon anyway”. However, with the ongoing advancements in the arts and sciences of workforce management, it is becoming a matter of professional malpractice to avoid coming to terms with the fact that more culturally well-aligned contractors make for more effective, efficient contingent workforces.

Ryan Mead, CEO of Vitru, an online application that provides tools to evaluate and build better teams, says contingent workforce managers have “collectively realized with our permanent workforce that hiring for cultural fit does matter, as do management styles, engagement, and communication practices.” His company provides psychometric testing to help hiring organizations assess personality profiles with a mind towards selecting contractors who match the cultural contours of the broader, full time workforce. 

This of course is nothing entirely new. The old Myers-Briggs-Keirsey assessments have been in use for years.  However, another barrier to the use of such assessments to hire contractors is the perception that the costs of doing so are too high to be justified for workers that, by design, won’t be around for very long. However,  according to the Dale Carnegie Training Institute, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%. Its likely that this 202% outperformance more than offsets the costs of better cultural screening. 

Moreover, in an environment where cultural concerns are among the factors comprising a hiring organization’s employment “brand” (something we’ve blogged about here), having a positive reputation among the burgeoning portion of the US workforce identifying as contractors can mean better access to talent.

For those who aren’t willing or able to engage a service provider like Vitru or license an assessment tool like the Briggs, there are some better questions their hiring managers can ask of contingent position candidates.  The following questions will be effective at ascertaining whether a candidate may represent a good cultural fit for your organization.

  • Tell me about the best boss you’ve ever had, or wished that you have had?  What made this boss so special to you?
  • Tell me the best things about your current job (or last job) and the positive aspects of the work environment there.
  • Please share four expectations you have of the leadership in a successful organization.
  • What role are you most likely to assume when you’re required to work on a team?
  • Share your experiences working alone and also working as part of a team. How did you accomplish your job in each situation? Which was easier? Why?

Questions such as these provide insight into how the candidate will interact with your organization and can go a long way to avoiding bringing in contractors that may well have the required skills but may still be ineffectual because they do not get along with the culture in your organization.  For more strategies on aligning cultural concerns within your contingent workforce, contact your nextSource representative.

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