Cool Thoughts on Retaining Contingent Workers


The demand for contractors of all stripes continues to be very high in the US. As a result, contingent workers are fairly easily recruited away from their current jobs, lured by better compensation offers from other courters. However, as any satisfied employee will tell you, there is more baked into job satisfaction than simple monetary compensation. What are some of the other things an organization can do to retain contingent workers and minimize attrition?

The answer is to remain cool. That is, think of cold things like “ICE” and “AC.”

ICE = Inclusion, Communication and Experience

Inclusion is a very powerful tool to keep your contingent workers engaged on the job. One of the reasons most frequently reported for dissatisfaction among contingent workers is the feeling that they are “second-class citizens” in the workplace. While there are regulations that must be observed with respect to how certain classes of non-employee workers must be managed, there is still much that can be done by an employer to create an environment where all workers, including contractors, feel engaged and part of the team.

Communication, as with so many other things in business and life, is essential to success. Part of fostering the inclusive workplace environment is making sure your contractors are clear on the benefit their role drives for the organization at large. People want to feel productive and useful. It’s easy to neglect contractors and consider them an expendable, external resource. However, a simple memo or communication regarding these workers’ role and contribution can go a long way toward driving the emotional buy-in that keeps workers productive and positive.

Experience is an area where an employer can tie in both inclusion and communication. Provide contingents some information about the practical benefits of what they’ll learn while on the job and take away from the experience. This aids in the recruitment process as many contract workers gravitate toward contingent work as a means of learning valuable skills they can use to land full time work down the road. Communicating to these workers during the course of their engagement keeps them interested and motivated. The longer they feel there’s something to be gained from an experiential standpoint, the longer they may stay on the job.

AC = Alignment and Clear Path to Full Time Roles

Alignment: Organizational culture expert, George Dickson says, “Organizational alignment is just as important for contractors as it is for full-time employees. Although a contractor may not legally be considered an employee of your organization, they’re still operating in a similar capacity, and their work can benefit equally from a solid understanding of organizational goals and culture, and where their work fits in.” So how do you support organizational alignment among freelancers?

Clear path to full time roles is rather self-explanatory. Of course, most contingent positions will not lead to full time opportunities within the organization. After all, contingents are engaged generally to address non-core tasks, seasonal needs or other non-permanent positions. That said, all smart workforce managers regard their contractor pools as talent pools for possible conversion should vacancies arise through normal attrition among full time staff. Keep contractors interested by conveying any potential for conversion to full time positions.

Follow these “cool rules” and you should have no problem keeping your contingent workforce fully engaged and satisfied.

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