By examining the varying policies from organization to organization, you will find that the methods of managing a contingent workforce hardly bare resemblance. Because each company’s composition tends to have a unique mix of traditional and non-traditional employees, the best way to manage today’s blended workforce often must be determined independently through strategic trial and error. However, with a greater insight into this workforce group and with a few best practices, we are able to eliminate some of the guesswork and offer ways to tackle this workplace shift.

We recently spoke with two organizational HR leaders on the subject of managing contingent workers. “Company 1” shared that in order for contingent workers to be considered an integral part of the team, it is best to treat them like a permanent hire. The other, “Company 2”, offered a stark contrast to this management style, stating that his company absolutely regards contingent workers differently. While there are pros and cons to each method of managing, there are a few take away points that we can all utilize to become better managers of the ever evolving workforce.

In managing temporary and permanent employees the same, Company 1 supports including contractors in almost every aspect of the business—attending meetings, strategy sessions, etc. This perspective revolves around the idea that contractors cannot do their best work if they do not understand the big picture. Company 2 manages employees and non-employees with a clear segregation—each having different workspaces and generally not including contingent workers in employee engagement programs.

Benefits of treating contingent workers differently: Contractors are free spirits. These types of professionals often occupy rare and specific skills, and because of this they enjoy contract work as it allows them to express creativity and fine-tune their skill set. Contingent workers value the freedom to choose their own hours, workplace, methods and work style. Because they are often hired to work on designated projects, they are happy to be treated independently from company staff, as specialists.

Benefits of treating contingent workers similarly: Like previously mentioned, letting contractors in on the big picture is important. While they might not necessarily desire to feel like part of the team, it helps them do better work for the company, as they more fully understand the workplace culture and nuances. Also, if they do seek a position at the company some day, the transition to a permanent hire will be smoother.

The bottom line is that no matter the method, its important to be clear on the nature of the relationship from the beginning. Managers must pre-determine guidelines and discuss them fully, and before day one. The upfront and candid conversation will go a long way to manage expectations and put all policies and issues front and center.

Cindy Lubitz is Managing Director of inTalent Consulting Group

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