How To Navigate the Challenges of Finding, Onboarding and Managing a Contingent Workforce
As technological tools continue to develop and become more available, accessibility to top-tier independent talent will steadily increase. As in so many business areas, platforms such as vendor and freelance management systems can serve as “digital bridges” that support organizations as they seamlessly and effectively identify, onboard, manage and pay project-based employees.
However, according to the June 2017 commissioned study "Address Critical Skill Gaps With On-Demand Knowledge" conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Catalant, organizations not only confront challenges in finding project-based workers to close their internal skills gaps, but they also face onboarding and integration difficulties.
The following is a primer on how to navigate the challenges of acquiring, onboarding and managing a contingent workforce.
Challenge: When an organization hires an employee, it’s largely a process of seeking the right skillset and culture fit. The same can be said for leveraging project-based talent. You can onboard the most intelligent consultant in the world, but if that person doesn’t understand your project goals and can't effectively integrate with your teams or organizational culture, you won’t be able to get the job done.
Solution: Understanding your organizational skills gaps is a precursor to filling them with on-demand talent. Your business units should work together to identify and define your needs, and then develop a profile and description of both “hard” skills such as technical expertise in a specified programming language and “soft” skills like emotional intelligence and relationship-building acumen.
Challenge: Onboarding is a challenge that won’t get solved by bringing in people and hoping for the best. Doing nothing will create confusion and wasted time for both your contingent workforce and the internal people they work with.
Solution: Organizations need to put structures in place to orient on-demand talent, just as you do for new full-time internal hires. Before hiring anyone, you should develop a sense of what effective onboarding looks like for independent workers at your organization. What needs to happen? Some activities that will help fully onboard on-demand talent include:
A project kick-off call, which includes an introduction and initial orientation to the project leader, team, goals and timeline in which you're working.
A description of communication and reporting structures, for example, weekly status calls (either audio or video conferencing).
Access to any necessary IT or internal systems, such as VPNs, passwords or other secure documents.
Training on data security, compliance policies and any other organizational processes.
Be sure to put together helpful tools such as videos, information sheets, presentations and other documents that can help digitally transmit relevant information to all parties involved in the project.
Challenge: You want your new contingent hires to hit the ground running, contributing to business goals from day one. But you’ll need to invest in getting them ready to do so, providing them with opportunities to “fit in” before (and after) they start working for you.
Solution: In terms of team and cultural integration, you may want to organize a team-building event and invite external talent into the office, so that everyone can meet and gain more comfort collaborating with each other. Additionally, there are several digital tools to support collaboration and integration. Project management tools, such as Trello and Asana, can help keep track of goals and measure progress. Video conferencing tools such as Skype and JoinMe are helpful as well.
The best thing your organization can do is to take an iterative approach that stresses continuous learning. As you experiment with pilot programs and ramp up your use of independent workers, you should continue to formalize best practices that work for your organizational needs.
More than one in three firms that leverage a contingent workforce are satisfied with their experiences, according to the Forrester-commissioned study. Every organization will find their own particular way of leveraging on-demand talent. And, of course, there are companies like Catalant who are carefully considering these onboarding challenges and can provide you with customizable technology and personalized solutions to ensure your selection and onboarding of on-demand talent runs smoothly.
Read more from the June 2017 commissioned study "Address Critical Skill Gaps With On-Demand Knowledge" conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Catalant.