3 Ways Contingent Labor Can Help Reskill the Workforce

Taylor Ramchandani, Product Manager at VectorVMS, offers her thoughts on how leaders can respond to the urgent need facing large organizations. Ramchandani provides guidance on effective ways contingent labor can help reskill the workforce.

With the availability of highly-skilled workers shrinking and competition to hire and retain the best possible talent growing, large organizations must answer the call. Although many L&D professionals refer to the shortage as a ‘war for talent,’ it has recently—and more appropriately—been coined a war for skills.

Considering 82% of executives see reskilling as critical to business success, the question now is: what are the top forces driving executives to reskill the workforce and how can they achieve such a significant feat? With contingent labor accounting for nearly half of the total workforce, leveraging non-employees to help reskill an existing workforce may be part of the solution.

Top Forces Driving Executives to Reskill the Workforce

Before organizations can develop a strategic plan to address the shrinking pool of talent and the decline of a highly-skilled workforce, they need to understand why companies are failing at reskilling. In a recent white paper by Piers Lea, Chief Strategy Officer of Learning Technologies Group, Lea outlines the five seismic forces he believes are prompting HR, L&D leaders, and executives to take action.

Lea believes learning and talent, combined with a deeper focus on their people, will help organizations find the ‘secret sauce’ to place talent in the proper roles. These forces at work, according to Lea’s white paper “A Human Framework for Reskilling,” are:

  1. The Complexity of Business and Work. The complex nature of modern business now requires a broad knowledge and deeply specialized skill set to keep up. Adding more pressure to the modern worker is the necessary time spent on internal communication and searching for information. This only allows for less than 24 minutes of learning, per week.
  2. The Pace of Change. Leaders and executives should consider how change impacts their employees as much as they fear market disruption. Chronic stress, which can be a direct result of changes in the workplace, affects an employee’s work-life balance and increases negative feelings at work—including a significant reduction in trust for their employer.
  3. Unprecedented Demographic Shifts. It’s projected that by 2035, the number of older adults will outnumber children in the United States. While birth rates continue to decline worldwide, the amount of employees approaching retirement age grows. The latter includes our baby boomer generation—a large demographic that makes up senior leadership teams across multiple industries.
  4. The Need to Compete Through Productivity. While productivity peaked in the United States throughout the technology boom of the early 1960s, we’ve unfortunately seen it decline ever since. This, coupled with uncertainty and weakened demand brought on by the financial crisis of 2008, means that productivity needs a serious pick-me-up.
  5. Changing Relationship to Work. With five generations now spanning the workforce, employers should take heed of each one’s unique approach to work and continuous learning. Simply put, these multiple generations are all rethinking their relationship to their work and employers.

Here are three effective ways that contingent labor can help reskill the workforce.

#1 Build Alternative Sourcing Methods

One of the ways contingent labor can help reskill the workforce is by finding skilled talent within previously untapped pools. L&D professionals should identify talent pools that may be underutilized and leverage them in conjunction with traditional methods. A few alternative sourcing methods to include:

Vendor management systems allow companies to source based on criteria such as skills and bill rate. This makes it easier to compare candidates and manage their contingent labor population. Many organizations today that struggle to find talent through traditional methods will source their more difficult requisitions through their contingent channels using a VMS.

Tapping into a network of former employees—full-time, part-time, or independent contractors—allows you to create an ‘alumni talent pool.’ An alumni talent pool brings in retired or past employees to serve many purposes. By working on retainer for specialized projects, in a consulting capacity, or learning opportunities for early-career employees, they can be of great value.

Freelance management systems (FMS), like YunoJuno, can be used to identify and hire specialized talent on a ‘trial’ basis. Since millennials have created a new standard for how they work, the gig economy has taken root. An FMS allows companies to source independent contractors on a candidate’s terms. This option is especially attractive for organizations who have exhausted traditional methods and need to hire the best possible talent as soon as possible, with the hopes of transitioning contractors to a permanent position.

Hybrid models have been recently adopted by successful companies to source and build a larger talent population. These companies utilize their Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to source full-time employees within a certain time frame and then push it through their contingent systems once that time frame has elapsed.

More from the blog: Is In-House Contingent Workforce Management Right for You?

#2 Identify & Retain Talent with Highly-Specialized Skills

Many organizations are struggling to find talent with highly-specialized skills through traditional strategies and models. Leaders must identify which skills (not which jobs) are necessary to overcome these forces driving a need to reskill the workforce. The alternative-sourcing methods outlined above can help, but the approach must include a greater focus on people.
A hybrid model, such as using a freelance management system (FMS) as a bolt-on to your vendor management system, has become common practice for successful organizations. Taking a contingent approach if the full-time system doesn’t elicit desired results can allow for a broader talent pool. Sourcing candidates through an FMS and your existing contingent population gives you the ability to continually build your talent population.

Don’t forget your alumni talent pool. These individuals can be valuable assets to help mentor and teach your early-career contingent workers, helping to bridge the skills gap and get millennials up to speed. The better equipped your contingent workers are, the more productive they become and the chances for higher retention increase. Retaining your contingent staff with an exceptional learning experience is key.

Also check out: A Buyer’s Guide to Vendor Management Technology

#3 Become an Employer of Choice for Contingent Workers

On the topic of retention and productivity, it’s important to discover how your organization can become an employer of choice for your contingent workers. Considering the broader talent pools we’ve discussed, people have many options to choose from, both full-time and otherwise. And according to half of the contingent workers surveyed in a recent study, learning new skills is important to their careers, while 90% of them want to be treated as part of the team.

One of the ways organizations can set themselves up as an employer of choice is by creating a learning relationship before work even begins. Taking advantage of a learning management system (LMS) integrated with a contingent workforce management system can give a contingent worker the rundown on culture and learning tools available to them before they start on day one.

It’s also important to offer flexibility to your contingent workers. If remote work suits them best, oblige their request to work remotely where it makes sense. By taking the time to make contingent workers feel more engaged, you can build a bridge and create viable options for the future.

Finding a great hire in your contingent pool could lead to a permanent, full-time employee. Setting initial expectations for those employees and establishing a good rapport goes a long way. The talent you need may be out there working as a freelancer or independent contractor until the right full-time option comes along. Creating a stellar learning relationship and a culture that treats contingent workers well can help bump your organization up the list of choice employers.

For more methods and strategies to help your organization address this urgent need facing the workforce, download the white paper “A Human Framework for Reskilling” by Piers Lea, Chief Strategy Officer at Learning Technologies Group.