5 Strategic Characteristics of a Scalable Independent Workforce Program

By MBO Partners | November 9, 2022

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Key Points

The Great Realization has spurred the engagement of contractors in larger numbers and in roles that were previously considered employee-only.

The ability to scale and maintain the business value of a contingent labor iworkforce program requires strategic elements.

If you want to scale your independent workforce program, make sure the program features and rollout plan include these factors.

Though contingent labor has always been part of the workforce to some extent, the Great Realization has spurred the engagement of contractors in larger numbers and in roles that were previously considered employee-only. In some cases, critical skills are only available from independent professionals, causing companies to turn to blended workforce models. As a result, constantly shifting teams of internal and external, contingent talent are increasingly the norm as corporations tap contingent workers to access those critical skills, boost productivity, and react more quickly to changing markets and competition. Our research indicates that independent talent will comprise a third of the labor share of corporate workforces by the first quarter of 2024.

It’s one thing to effectively engage independent talent for a team or department, or to establish a workforce program for part of the enterprise. It’s another thing to successfully scale such a program across the enterprise. Small, isolated initiatives can serve as proof of concept, but the ability to scale and maintain the business value of using contingent labor in large numbers requires strategic elements that may not have been present in the smaller cases. If you want to scale your independent workforce, make sure the program features and rollout plan include these factors.

1. Ongoing Executive Advocacy

Acquiring executive championship for a proposed new enterprise program is an established best practice. It is also a best practice (which is sometimes overlooked) to maintain that championship even after the program has begun. During the rollout, when many stakeholders may be resistant to needed workflow changes, it is essential that an executive openly advocates for the workforce program. As the program becomes established, executive advocacy continues to be important to articulate the value of the blended workforce to key stakeholders and to maintain oversight over program metrics and results.

2. Buy-in from Key Stakeholders

Some stakeholders (such as HR staff and hiring managers) may be wary or outright resist the contingent labor workforce program. This might require big changes to the way these and other stakeholders work, and a natural reaction is to avoid any disruption to the status quo. Implementing an effective communication plan is a proven way to gain and maintain the buy-in needed to make the program successful. This plan can be a major influence in moving people through resistance to appreciate of the value of the program. Each stakeholder audience will have a different view as well as different expectations. Make sure that your plan provides clear information for each audience about how the program is working. Allow two-way interaction (e.g. a Slack channel or web page where messages can be submitted) and be prompt in responding to comments and questions. Maintain your communication channels even after the program has been established so that stakeholders can continue to comment and you can share key information quickly.

3. Clear Policies and Processes

While independent talent engagement may have worked fine within existing HR and procurement policies while this activity was team- or department-based, scaling engagement into an organization-wide program requires clear policies and processes. Implement policies that mitigate risk of misclassification and require adherence to remote work policies already in place. In addition, put a digital nomad policy in place that details requirements for mobile independent professionals. Streamline hiring and onboarding processes so that hiring managers can bring on contractors quickly.

4. Program Accountability

A full-time role that oversees the contingent labor workforce is an important element of a scalable program. As the program will most likely be part of the company’s HR department, a member of that staff should be assigned the role. They would be responsible for achieving the goals of the program, reporting status and progress to business leaders, and managing the communication plan noted above. In addition, this role would be responsible for cultivating the company’s independent talent network and helping hiring managers source the right contractors for their needs.

5. Centralized Direct Sourcing

Part of streamlining the engagement process is direct sourcing, which allows hiring managers to source and hire talent with no sort of agent in the middle. Pursuing direct sourcing in a talent marketplace tailored to the company supports scalability.  Consider initially using an external talent marketplace to establish the program, then moving to an internal one. Companies that have curated internal marketplaces in their organization-wide contingent labor workforce programs have seen excellent results. The customized, self-service sourcing platform that one of our clients implemented across the enterprise saw great uptake by hiring managers, significant growth in the number of vetted independent professionals available on the platform, and impressive cost savings.

Want to talk to our experts about scaling your independent workforce program effectively? We’re here to help!

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