How to Effectively Manage Your Contingent Workforce

By Emily Roner | Updated: 01 May, 2020

According to Randstad’s 2019 Talent Trends report, over a quarter of companies plan to increasingly leverage contingent workers for roles that were historically in-house. This percentage is expected to rise as companies strive to make their workforces increasingly agile in the face of rapidly changing market conditions.

The sudden chaos caused by COVID-19 further reinforced the need to keep staffing levels lean and to maximize the productivity of your full-time employees. To achieve these results, you need to take a strategic approach to contingent workforce management that emphasizes agility and performance.

Here’s how.


Create a Comprehensive Scope of Work

Unlike internal employees who can keep themselves busy by identifying and tackling a variety of projects that fall within their role, contingent workers can typically only work on tasks that are directly assigned to them due to a lack of information and authority. Since they’re not in most internal meetings, contingent workers often don’t know what needs to be done and, if they do identify projects they can tackle, they may not understand the nuances required to proactively complete projects.

To keep your contingent workers productive, you need to give them a clear scope of work that includes:

  • An overview of the bigger picture goal their work is contributing to. Knowing the end goal will help them make better decisions
  • The specific results you expect them to achieve and the deadline
  • Any preferences you’d like them to follow as they complete the work.

Keep in mind that details that may be obvious to you, such as using certain procedures or meeting specific criteria likely won’t be evident to contingent workers who aren’t as familiar with your business. When you’re managing them, provide as much detail as possible to empower them to do the work right the first time.


Assign Responsibility for the Contingent Workforce Relationship

A study from the University of Texas at Austin found that one of the biggest challenges that agency-based contingent workers face is receiving contradictory information from their managers and the clients they support. This issue occurs when the two sides of management don’t communicate and send mixed messages to workers.

When contingent workers receive contradictory instructions, it can drastically slow progress since they’re likely to either follow the wrong orders or waste time waiting for answers about who is right.

To avoid this issue, you need to make someone on your team responsible for all aspects of managing your contingent workforce, including:

  • Continuously monitoring results and resetting expectations when necessary
  • Establishing best practices that enable both sides to work more effectively together
  • Identifying new projects that your team can offload to the contingent workers so they can focus on more strategic tasks

Having someone manage your contingent workers like they would an in-house business unit ensures that they meet performance goals and generate an ROI.

Want to leverage contingent workers but don’t have time to manage them? Learn how our managed service model provides admin, sales, and operations support without any of the hassles.

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Close Communication Gaps

One of the biggest challenges of managing a contingent workforce is ensuring that they’re kept in the loop on conversations that affect their work.

Excluding your contingent workforce from distribution lists and other communication channels due to privacy concerns is often justified. However, the greater the limits that you place on their access to internal communications, the more effort you have to invest in proactively giving them the information that they need to know.

The internal manager responsible for your contingent workforce must take responsibility for ensuring that the workers have access to essential information, including:

  • Project updates from your employees
  • Changes to project goals and deadlines
  • New policies that your contingent workforce has to follow
  • Feedback on project progress

And any other information that your contingent workforce needs to be successful. To help prevent messages from slipping through the cracks, host syncs at least once a week to connect on work in progress and what’s next.

Learn more: Have an Assistant? You Need to Master These Communication Strategies


Foster Long-Term Relationships

Most businesses seek out contingent workforces to avoid the costs and commitment of hiring employees. Though contingent workers are a cost-effective and flexible form of labor, you should foster a long-term relationship with everyone that you enjoy working with.

Even if you only need a service temporarily, you never know when you’re going to need help with the same kind of work again. If a tangible project needs to be updated or your need for a service reemerges, it’s much easier to resume working with someone who already knows your business than a brand new person.

We have many clients who have ended our virtual assistant services while they dealt with business challenges and returned when the need for our service reemerged. Since we’re familiar with their business, we’re able to deliver value much faster than if they had gone with a new provider.

Investing extra time to find outsourcing providers who understand your needs and align with your values will reduce the amount of time you have to spend managing your contingent workforce and ensure that you have access to high-quality support whenever you need it. 

Learn more: The Ethics of Offshoring: How to Choose Vendors that Align with Your Values


Seek Out Managed Services

Contingent workforce management is time-consuming. In addition to the steps above, you also have to prepare for many other factors that can create productivity barriers and business risks.

For example, what happens when the individual you’re working with can’t accommodate ebbs and flows in your business, or they have to take off time for personal reasons? Their work either isn’t going to get done, or someone on your team is going to have to pick up the slack. Both options can unexpectedly hinder your team’s productivity and reduce some of the benefits of leveraging contingent workers.

The easiest way to leverage a contingent workforce is to hire a managed service that takes full responsibility for the workers supporting you.

At Prialto, our managed virtual assistant services have a variety of support systems in place, including:

  • An Engagement Manager who helps you smoothly offload new projects
  • A back-up VA who is trained on our clients’ processes, so they never go a day without support
  • Internal management that handles training, incentives, and performance coaching
  • Strict IT security policies including monitoring software

These people and systems allow our clients to quickly offload projects without worrying about all of the logistics needed to ensure their VA’s productivity.

To learn more about how our managed service model can support your business, download our free guide.

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About the Author: Emily formerly led Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.