How to Attract and Retain Contingent Workers

The contingent workforce has transformed the way we consider, evaluate and hire today's candidates. Not only that, it has been growing exponentially in recent years.

In fact, a survey by Freelancers Union estimates that 57.3 million Americans - or 36% of the workforce - are freelancing right now, and the majority of workers will be freelance by 2027.

The good news is this leaves organizations with a veritable bumper crop of contingent workforce candidates to choose from. And the beauty of these workers is that they can help businesses weather busy seasons smoothly, or can become part of the team for longer stints with more complex projects.

So how can your organization attract and retain the cream of the (contingent) crop? Read on for some tried-and-true strategies.

Check Your Roster of Past Contract Workers

When attempting to fill an open position, oftentimes recruiters and hiring managers choose to start from scratch and source unknown candidates from a new pool of applicants. However, this isn't always the most efficient or cost-effective way to find talent.

Instead, Tom Starner of HR Dive, recommends, "...after a contract worker successfully completes a project, companies should find ways to "re-deploy" the same individual again."

Drawing from a well of familiar candidates who have worked for the same organization on similar projects before, Starner says, saves both time and money.

"Not only will increasing retention among contract workers make life easier for recruiters and enterprises, but there will be significant financial benefits too, as not needing to continually vet new candidates against client contractual requirements - criminal background checks, drug screening and more - will save both time and money," Starner points out.

Use Internal Resources

Today's technology spans to every phase of the recruitment process, and has made gleaning insights from your own internal data easier than ever. This can be especially useful when looking for contingent workers.

In these situations, it's ideal to use an approach that combines internal and external resources to find the best possible contingent workers. This includes everything from leveraging referral programs to job sites, social networks and enterprise-style platforms specific to contingent workers. Combining these internal resources makes much quicker work of identifying qualified contract workers within the organization.

In turn, organizations can then engage with them in a compliance-friendly, low-cost way to enlist their services.

Leverage Assessments

When it comes to retaining workers, data and analytics are among the most accurate predictors of success and tenure.

Indeed, pre-hire assessments are among the most powerful tools for pinpointing essential skills in contingent workforce candidates. When married with AI, these tools can help contingent workforce recruiters, "...make wiser decisions that would decrease time to fill, maximize talent and reduce cost," writes Ted Sergott of Forbes.

Assessments like work samples and simulations can be especially effective in showing you exactly what a candidate's strengths and weaknesses are, as well as if they'll be capable of completing the tasks required of them in the specific role they're filling.

Plus, pre-hire assessments bring with them a myriad of advantages, including the ability to help curb attrition, increase retention and even predict whether or not a candidate will fit the company culture more accurately than ever before. What's more, the data and metrics furnished by these assessments allow you to compare candidates quickly and easily, and predict future performance.

Provide Value

In addition to an income stream, the reason many contingent workers take on their roles it provides them with flexibility and the opportunity to say yes (or no) to specific opportunities.

One survey conducted by the Freelancers Union in partnership with Upwork showed that many professionals who are in the top of their industry increasingly choose to work independently.

Regardless of skill level, most contingent workers desire to hone their skills with training, and advance their careers.

"Just like any worker, contractors value the opportunity to advance in their careers and tackle challenging work," writes Julia Fournier of HCM Works. "This could involve simply offering contingent workers the attractive opportunities to work on new projects which will further their skills development."

Fournier recommends thinking of ways to go above and beyond for them in terms of additional development and opportunities you can throw their way. This extra effort goes a long way in keeping them continue working for you, as opposed to hopping over to one of your competitors, he says.

Tried and True Tactics with a Twist

Contingent workers are quickly becoming an essential part of talent strategies for businesses in every industry. When it comes to finding and keeping the best contingent talent, you can use many of the same resources, job boards, tactics and principles you do when hiring full-time employees.

Just make sure you give your on-demand workers the flexibility they crave while still giving them new challenges and letting them know they're important within the team and the company as a whole.


Attracting and retaining contingent workers are set to be hot topics at this year's ProcureCon Contingent Staffing 2020, held March 31 - April 01, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona.

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