Why Keep Contingent Workers Engaged?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Contingent worker engagement is a vital component to your total workforce strategy. According to a Harvard Continuing Education article, millennial employees are placing more value on engagement versus perks. The article states “Forget ping-pong tables, catered lunches, and nap pods. The most forward-thinking businesses are turning their focus to employee engagement.” The article further advises that “According to Gallup, a staggering 87 percent of employees worldwide are disengaged at work. Productivity and, ultimately, profitability are often victims to this lagging motivation.”

As we all know, contingent labor is one of the fastest growing segments of labor today. Organizations need contingent workers to meet talent demands for a variety of reasons, including the following:

  1. Source for highly specialized skill sets
  2. Obtain lower costs (tax burdens, regulatory requirements, and other benefits are less than that of a full-time employee)
  3. Meet cyclical demands
  4. Engage the younger generations in their preferred working relationship
  5. Expansion

In fact, all workers, more than just the millennials, crave engagement from both their direct employer and the customer for which they are providing services. Recently, a colleague’s daughter left a permanent advertisement job in New York City for a contract position – unheard of for many of us! Though, for her, this was a fabulous opportunity to work for one of the most well-known social media companies in the world. Unfortunately, because companies are running scared from the mountains of litigation surrounding co-employment, she felt disengaged from both her co-workers and management of this social media company. All the rules and segregation made her feel as though she was an outsider and she soon left the contract assignment for a new opportunity.

This is an all too common scenario with contract workers. Managed Services Providers (MSP), staffing agencies, and their corporate clients must work together to find common ground so the contingent labor workforce is just as engaged and plugged-in as full-time employees. An engaged contract worker offers improved productivity, a willingness to complete and extend assignments, and evangelism for customer brands both in the labor marketplace and as a consumer. All it takes is an engagement strategy.

Engagement Strategy

An engagement strategy is easier than you think – after all, we are each motivated by the same things, whether we are a full-time employee or contract worker.

Consider implementing the following strategies with your contract workers to increase engagement:

  • Personal recognition. A pat on the back goes a long way
  • Financial incentives. Money talks
  • Work/life balance incentives. Flexible schedules, working from home
  • Opportunities to evolve into full-time positions. Knowing about opportunities will help solidify worker loyalty to their assignment. A Dynamic Signal article on employee productivity makes a valid statement when they point out that workers, including contract labor, are not simply worker bees. “They are full-fledged humans with hopes, dreams, and desires. After work, they go home to their family. They think about their own career growth. They wonder about the future”
  • Cohesive onboarding and orientation processes. Proper onboarding provides connectivity so workers know where and how to find information. “Productivity improves by 20-25% in organizations with connected employees, according to McKinsey,” per the Dynamic Signal article
  • Offer social giving awards. Again, the Dynamic Signal article sheds light here noting that worker recognition provides a sense of purpose and results in more motivated and productive workers
  • Communicate, communicate, and communicate some more. Proactively communicate responsibilities, expectations, end dates, and other important items relevant to the job provides transparency
  • Include in company events or parties in a way that minimizes co-employment risk. While many companies have established policies about contingent worker participation in company events to protect themselves from co-employment concerns, there are other ways to partner with your MSP provider to properly engage. Work with your MSP to define these opportunities


Inherently, there are risks to engaging contract workers with your company. The largest concern is co-employment which includes worker classification, as previously addressed. Working in conjunction with your MSP and staffing partners, companies can provide beneficial ways to engage, yet minimize risk. This is why there is a responsibility of all involved parties to stay current with changing local, state, federal, and in-country classification rules and regulations.


In summary, ensure your total workforce strategy includes a contingent worker engagement plan. To minimize risk, it’s imperative that this plan is created in conjunction with your MSP, staffing partners, and legal team. Increasing retention and goodwill of contingent workers can be a simple solution that drives powerful results.

Sean DeAvila is a vice president of strategic solutions at ZeroChaos with over 20 years of experience building strategies that help to improve contingent workforce management program efficiencies and reduce costs.

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