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4 Ways to Create a Flexible Workforce with Diversity in Mind

Companies that commit to recruit, engage, and train contingent workers will reap the rewards of increased performance and profitability.

Flexibility is today’s workplace watchword with 32% of global companies leveraging contingent workers to fill the labor shortage gap and save on costs. In fact, 73% of organizations expect to increase their hiring of contingent workers within the next 12 to 18 months.1 This is especially good news for companies in markets with aging populations, as more Gen Zers and Millennials are choosing these types of flexible work arrangements.2

Organizations that want to create a more agile and flexible workforce should focus on strengthening their DEIB programs to be more competitive. That’s especially important with younger talent who want to work for organizations with similar values to their own.3 Here are four ways to create a diverse and inclusive flexible work environment.

Analyze data to set benchmarks

“What matters is measured, and what is prioritized and communicated gets done,” says Jonas Prising, Chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup. That’s certainly true when it comes to workplace diversity. It is vital for organizations to review both qualitative and quantitative data to evaluate their contingent workforce diversity metrics as well as to identify potential gaps and opportunities. Human resources and finance departments can share real-time numbers on diversity representation but talking to people face-to-face can unveil actual experiences—both good and bad—and identify processes that need to be improved.

For example, through these conversations, companies may learn that human resources must update onboarding materials to ensure key contingent worker data is captured accurately. To do this properly, it’s important that organizations design all of their processes with belonging in mind from the beginning, according to Syneathia LaGrant, VP, Global Learning & Development at ManpowerGroup. For example, don’t limit people to a single checkbox when self-identifying information like their gender, race, and ethnicity. Qualitative input, such as career goals, interests, and experiences can also communicate to leaders why people apply for roles—and why others don’t—as well as why contingent workers’ tenures tend to be shorter than other positions.4

Engage diverse recruiting and onboarding

One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has provided a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reimagine the workplace. And the hiring process is a key place to start. Recruitment, retention, engagement, and performance are all closely linked – so improving diversity in any of these areas will naturally improve performance in all of them. Combining diversity with flexibility makes an organization even more competitive as it creates an attractive employer brand that appeals to today’s top talent.5

Qualified contingent workers should be carefully considered during the hiring process as they offer unique, diverse talent pools. For example, many moms who are returning to the workforce after a hiatus to raise children or care for loved ones are choosing remote and contingent work because of the flexibility these options offer. Recruiting contingent workers can help improve gender, age, and racial diversity within a company. It also brings a high level of experience, maturity, and commitment to organizations.6

Global firm Dow Chemical has discovered that retirees are another source of contingent talent, according to Mark Bachman, global director of Dow’s HR Center of Expertise. The company recently launched Dow Network, a social networking site on which all employees, including retirees, can post their profiles and communicate with each other. Retirees who are interested in short-term work are funneled through the company’s temporary employment vendor to find opportunities that best suit their skill sets and needs.7

Organizations that work with diversity-focused staffing partners can build a more DEIB-friendly recruiting and onboarding process to reduce decision-making biases, provide training with increased awareness around potential language and cultural barriers, and support coaching that strengthens inclusive leadership.

Ensure access to career development

It may seem counterintuitive to provide career development opportunities for workers who are not part of an organization’s full-time team, but in fact, it’s a smart move. Competition for contingent talent is intensifying, and organizations need to look at providing resources for these contract workers to stand out in the marketplace, according to Lori Chowanec, Managing Director of Client Engagement at Talent Solutions TAPFIN. This is especially true with a growing segment of contingent Gen Z workers who are using freelance opportunities to expand their experiences and strengthen their skillsets in a variety of areas.

By 2030, workers under 35 will make up 75% of the global workforce and will drive the gig boom across generational lines.8 Understanding their motivations will be key and one of the top workplace desires of Gen Z workers, in addition to a fair work-life balance, Chowanec notes, is for companies to care about their well-being including career development. By providing coaching and technologies that enable people to confidently accomplish their jobs, organizations will positively stand out in contingent workers’ minds and even convert some to full-time employees over time.

Give contingent workers a voice

Tapping into the ideas and experiences of the contingent workforce doesn’t just enhance corporate culture, but it can also positively impact business performance. Contractors value two-way communication just like their full-time counterparts, so it is important to provide them with a sense of ownership by engaging them in feedback and decision-making within the organization.9  Organizations can accomplish this by leveraging managed service providers, which, in addition to recruiting and hiring contingent team members, also help companies train and communicate with them during their time at the firm.

There are several major benefits of a flexible and diverse workforce. With a strong commitment to recruit, engage, and train contingent workers, organizations can reap long-term rewards of increased performance and profitability. To learn more about how to create an agile contingent workforce, read the Future of Work Report II: Who Will Do the Work?