The Future of the Contingent Workforce

Many Canadian companies have altered how they do business over the past two years. Employee preferences and work patterns changed over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing both businesses and workers to re-examine the nature of their work, often opting for contract or contingent employment arrangements over traditional permanent staffing. These matters have been top of mind for Jean-Francois Vezina, executive vice president and head of Canada at Randstad Sourceright, a global firm that helps businesses with their talent management needs. Vezina offers advice on how businesses can navigate the shift toward contingent and temporary work by evolving how they engage with talent. 

We know that the pandemic changed the world of contingent work. What must companies consider if they’re looking to increase their temporary workforce?

As we’re rebounding from the pandemic, everyone is hiring and there’s a huge scarcity of talent in the market. Whether companies are hiring on a permanent or a temporary basis, they’re asking themselves how to better access talent to create a competitive advantage for themselves. The main question we’re seeing companies ask is what type of talent should be hired on a permanent basis and who should be hired as contingent workers.

They’re asking themselves about the nature of their core business because that’s where they should really focus their permanent employees. A temporary workforce can be used for other non-core activities or organizations can look to outsource those functions to companies who specialize in those areas. A permanent workforce can manage projects in-house with a contingent workforce coming in an agile fashion to do some of the work as well. We are definitely seeing companies becoming more strategic about how to engage with a contingent workforce.

How important is creating a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in attracting contingent and temporary talent?

Organizations that embrace diversity and inclusion are rebounding faster from the pandemic and are also able to have a more complete workforce. About 50 per cent of Canadian companies have a DEI strategy, and companies that do typically focus it on the permanent part of their workforce and rarely toward their contractor or contingent practice.

A lot of organizations spend millions on their consumer brands and leverage that brand as part of their employer value proposition. When searching for contingent talent, most companies send requisitions to multiple vendors or agencies, which means they aren’t in control of what they say about DEI. As an end client, the company needs to have control in communicating their brand and employer value proposition throughout the hiring process. That’s one of the key areas in which Randstad Sourceright can make an impact because we understand our clients’ employee value propositions and make sure there’s a diversity and inclusion component both on the permanent and the contingent side.

Do businesses need to adjust their budgets to invest in a fleet of contingent talent? Are there strategies they should consider to make sure they have a pool of trusted people available as new projects arise?

The most important thing is to have a clear strategy about which roles should be permanent and which should be contingent. That understanding will give them much more agility but also a better focus on how to invest in both kinds of talent. From a budget perspective, that means being willing to shift budgets around to give more flexibility and better efficiency.

As far as building a talent pool is concerned, companies might consider building some type of direct sourcing practice to create their own talent pool. It keeps them directly engaged with talent that already knows their brand. Just like a company would have ongoing engagement with customers, they can start engaging in the same fashion with talent who may want to come work for them. It’s about seeing talent as a consumer of the brand.

To learn more about attracting talent, visit randstadsourceright.com.