Five Steps to Better Results with a Contingent Workforce

Posted by Bill Kazman

Oct 31, 2014 1:36:35 PM

Long gone are the days of getting a job with a company and staying with that company through retirement. The average tenure of wage and salary workers in the U.S. is 4.6 years with one in five workers planning to change jobs this year. Companies benefit from the influx of diverse experiences as outside talent joins their organizations, but they can also pay a price in lost institutional knowledge when workers leave for other opportunities. Lost institutional knowledge and the associated risk of degradation to work product quality is further amplified by the shift in the workforce towards a contingent labor model.

One out of three U.S. workers are non-employee contingent laborers, and that is expected to grow to 50% of the workforce by the end of the decade. This workforce megatrend compels companies to develop strategies for tapping the flexible workforce talent pool. But contingent laborers do not have a stake in their employers’ cultures or institutional knowledge development, and are focused purely on doing a task to get paid. This absence of loyalty/ownership in the contingent workforce deprives their work of the passion and context from their employer’s overall vision and mission, and work product quality can suffer.

The pervasive adoption of mobile technologies is increasingly “virtualizing” the workforce, especially among contingent laborers. Employers often rely on third party services and software/Internet platforms to facilitate sourcing and managing their contingent labor, reducing the touch points between employer and worker. The prevalence of the remote worker model in the flexible workforce adds additional distance/time impediments to employer/worker interactions. This expanding friction to employer/worker communications makes it increasingly challenging to manage contingent laborers’ work delivery, fueling an increasing quality gap in their results.

So how can you reverse this expanding work product quality gap?

The starting place is to source and vet resources with the right experience for the tasks at hand. However, while leveraging the right resource is essential for delivering a quality work product, by itself, it is insufficient. Quality results require a persistent and systematic focus on the tasks and delivery process.  


Here are 5 strategies to help:

  1. Clearly define the task(s): Clarity of expectations is step one in achieving a quality result. Create a concrete and specific description of the task that is to be completed.
  2. Design delivery approach: There are numerous paths and techniques to get from start to desired result in a given project or program.   Some are better than others, and more than one may get to an optimal result. Either provide to or collaboratively create with your worker a detailed work plan that will be followed from the beginning to the end of the engagement.
  3. Create and integrate touch points into the work plan:   Work execution can be analyzed as a process with a beginning, an end, and steps in-between. By breaking down the work in this manner, employer/worker touch points can be designed and inserted between the steps. These can be in the form of progress on a punch list, a phone call, a meeting, a report, an electronic check-in, and more. Use the touch points to maintain visibility on progress and measure performance.
  4. Establish / enforce quality assurance methods: Touch points provide the ongoing visibility to task execution. Leverage that visibility to create concrete progress metrics that can be objectively collected and compared against reasonable targets representative of desired quality.
  5. Optimize the work plan throughout the engagement: Touch points and quality metrics are the essential input to creating an optimization feedback loop. Use this data to adjust the work plan such that results are achieved more optimally (sooner, less cost, higher quality, higher impact . . . ). For example, a routine scheduled client call may reveal that the work process is not providing enough progress communications, leaving the client concerned as to whether completion goals will be met on time; shoring up the status reporting process may alleviate this concern and improve the client experience.

iTeam’s Service-as-a-Product is one approach that encompasses these task-focused strategies within an advanced system of productization and structured management to deliver a guaranteed result. Other labor-centric services such as staffing agencies, MSP’s, VMS’s, and crowdsourcing platforms fall short when it comes to driving quality results via a task-focused process. Both a labor focus and a task focus are critical to achieve quality work product from a contingent work force.

Topics: Service-as-a-Product, contingent labor