5 Important Steps for Engaging Your On-Demand Workforce

The US workforce is changing, and one of the most rapidly growing aspects of our economy is the on-demand workforce. By 2020, it’s estimated that one in five employees will be hired on a contingent basis. This means there is a need – now more than ever – for companies to engage and motivate on-demand workers.

This new workforce will continue to change the face of work. Any company that fails to keep up with the needs of these employees, risks losing out on a highly skilled talent pool. Fortunately, there are strategies and processes that you can easily implement to drive your relationship with on-demand workers.

Contingent workers are some of the most engaged and qualified individuals out there. And while the same basic principles of leadership apply to these employees, as they would in a traditional office setting, contingent workers often have different goals. Many on-demand employees are looking to develop career skills or have personal reasons for seeking contingent employment.

According to some top HR experts, intentionally developing strategies to fit these needs will build trust among this group and increase engagement. Let’s look at some specific steps for engaging your on-demand workforce.


The time to figure out how to engage contracted specialists or project-based workers is not after you’ve hired them. Make your engagement strategy clear to your internal team ahead of time, so that everyone is on the same page. Talk in general terms about how work will be divvied up and set expectations early on.

If a knowledge worker may become a recurring partner based on performance expectations, set these metrics ahead of time. This way any reservations can be aired and fully discussed before the onboarding process begins.


One of the main reasons that qualified individuals choose to work on a contingent basis is that they like the freedom. Many independent experts are looking for a remote work arrangement with project-based scheduling. It’s most helpful to plan the hours of work and meetings in advance, which means establishing a firm and transparent communications policy from the beginning. Technology platforms, like Catalant, enable real-time communication with experts – whether that’s communication around a deliverable or payment.

While it’s always important to communicate well with your workforce, it’s especially crucial when it comes to contingent workers. Those who work remotely depend on your communicating expectations and directions for each project as clearly as possible. Best practice is to write out a  scope for the project with as much information as possible. Some information to include is: a background on the company, what resources are available, the timeline for the deliverable, what format the deliverable will take, if it needs to be presented to an internal stakeholder etc. Clearly defined expectations and communication around those expectations will ensure both sides have a positive experience.  

In addition, technology tools for video conferencing and real-time collaboration (e.g., Skype, Zoom, Slack, and appear.in) can help managers to communicate more effectively. As a general rule, keeping lines of communication open will keep everyone more engaged.


A complete orientation program may not be necessary, but having some system for onboarding that introduces contingent workers to your company’s culture, relevant team members and company culture with the goal of breaking down any barriers in communication or stigmas associated with blending on-demand workers with full-time employees. Overall, independent workers will be more engaged if they feel a part of the team.

Schedule Deliverables

Because the best contingent workers tend to be highly self-motivated, often all it takes to engage these individuals is projects with clear deliverables ready to be handed off.

When contingent workers receive a list of deliverables with due dates, they can easily schedule their weeks to meet those milestones. You may even be surprised at how much they can accomplish once you establish a rhythm.

Professional Development

Employers who provide opportunities for knowledge to be shared internally and encourage all workers to continually update their skills see higher rates of engagement, motivation and retention. Project-based employees, like all employees, appreciate recognition. Share good news with your whole team, including your contingent workforce.

As a general rule, if you treat contingent workers as crucial contributors to your organizational success, they will be more engaged and you’ll build a relationship that can extend to other projects. While this may seem like a challenge, especially with those on-demand workers who work remotely, there is a lot you can do to counteract the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality with a contingent external workforce.

Technology platforms, like Catalant allow employers and on-demand workers to communicate, share deliverables, set timelines and facilitate payment through one centralized system.

Setting up an intentional strategy when it comes to your on-demand workforce is crucial to building trust among your whole team and keeping everyone engaged. Watch our webinar Enabling the Future of Work to learn more.

Featured in: Workforce Flexibility

About the Author

Emily Crookston
Emily Crookston

Emily Crookston is the owner of the Pocket PhD (thepocketphd.com) and a contributing writer to the Catalant Technologies blog. She is a copywriter, former professor, and pocket resource for your business. When she’s not writing intensely, she’s most likely practicing yoga intensely.