What about a “Contingent Workforce”?

Frank Vande Voorde
  • 3 Min read

It is a said that with the “gig economy” the contingent workforce is rapidly growing. Or is it the wish of employers to have a more independent status which feeds the “gig economy”?

Anyway, how do we, as HR, respond to this evolution and do we need to change existing models to adapt to the growing external workforce? It is a challenge for many HR people.

What is a “gig economy”? An interesting definition I read stated: the gig economy is a free market system where organisations and independent workers engage in short-term work arrangements.

This is not a new phenonoma because freelancers and temporary staff have been active for many years on the labour market. Today the gig economy is growing much faster because of several factors:

  • Technology: people can work from anywhere in the world thanks to the tools available;
  • Globalisation: you can find talent and expertise all over the world;
  • Mobility: people are more mobile and companies expect their staff to work from anywhere.

A study of Deloitte: “The open Talent ecosystem” adds also to the list:

  • Social business (connect and sharing information);
  • Analytics (data drives business and where to find talent);
  • Education (with online learning competencies can be acquired everywhere).

Talking about contingent workforce, who are we talking about?

  • Freelancers – Independent contractors;
  • Consultants – Volunteers;
  • Temporary staff – Seasonable workers and others.

Those people treat their flexible work sometimes as their main source of income and sometimes as a secondary one.

Some are highly paid, very skilled individuals other are working full or part-time for an organization in a disruptic environment. Think about Airbnb landlords, Uber or Deliveroo workers.

Many people observe that the contingent workforce has evolved from a needed labour to a group creating value.

HR people think about this evolution and their HR model and wonder how to attract, integrate, engage and retain the best of this contingent workforce. But does it need a new model?

Some treat the separate categories differently. Some people argue that there should not be a different approach between contract types and we should regard it as one workforce aiming for the same purpose: to finish a project, to create value for the customer or achieve a goal.

In Belgium (but also other countries) we need to be aware of the legislation about false self-employed people.

There are strict rules to respect not to have an art of your contingent workforce requalified as normal staff and therefore being obligated to pay additional social security contribution or serious severance packages at the end of a long assignment.

As an HR in this economy one needs to find a balance between both types of contracts and find an alignment with the strategy of the company. What to do to attract, train and retain talent.

In order to attract people, whether independent or not, you need to work on your employer branding and culture.

Taking the legislation into account, our opening is not to make too much difference between the contingent workforce and your regular employees.

Engagement, motivation and culture is not related to the type of contract but rather to mindset, respect and values.

It is an overall issue which vehicles onboarding, collaborations and departures. Do bear in mind who to hire for which role. Tending is to hire fixed term employees for strategic roles or customer related function. But it is not a rule!

Also think how you can preserve your knowledge and expertise inhouse . A lot can be achieved through good contract.

Finally, we would stimulate transparency and a clear and overall communication. For example about the existence, the differences, the reasons of contiguity workforce.

If you have any comment, questions or experiences to share, please do not hesitate to contact us or post it on our social media channels.

Have fun!

Your Rainbow Team

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