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Performance Takes Practice, Engagement Takes Experience
By Lisa Quattrini  |  February 3, 2017
Performance Takes Practice, Engagement Takes Experience

Part II in a Series on Best Practices in Contingent Workforce Management

To kick this series off, I started with a blog that argued how best practices in contingent workforce management can hold a good business back. "Best," after all, is a relative term - relative to a business, its industry, its location and its many varying workforce demands. It’s like the perennial "do dogs or cats make the best pet?" question. There isn't one right answer (passionate arguments aside) and there isn't one set of best practices for the contingent workforce management.

To underscore this point and offer insights on how to build standards that work, I believe it's important to look at the key elements that define contingent workforce management excellence: performance, engagement, sustainability and cost. By looking at each of these four factors, it's easier to see how one company's best practice is a poor measuring stick for another company. In this second edition of the three-part series, we will zero in on two of the four key measures of contingent workforce management excellence: performance and engagement. Let's look at what it takes establish effective standards and measures of excellence for in these two areas.

Performance: Where Do You Begin?

When it comes to setting goals for contingent workforce performance, where you start matters as much as where you end up. Too often, businesses look to their competitors to set their performance goals, but that is a mistake. You have to look inside to set metrics that make sense, assessing your environment, team and the complexity of your contingent workforce skill mix.

Begin with an Internal Baseline

The key to getting to the right performance numbers is your baseline - the measure of current performance. You can't set a worthwhile performance goal without it. For example, if hiring cycle times are long - perhaps 45 days - you need to understand the processes that drive the 45-day timeframe. Once you understand the processes and where there are inefficiencies, you can set a reasonable first goal, such as cutting the cycle time down to 30 days.

Unfortunately, in too many cases, the business will choose the number (cycle time in this case) that sounds best. Why? A business leader might decree that the hiring cycle should take no more than 14 days/two weeks because that is what the market demands or competitors can achieve. While it sounds like a great goal, it ignores the important opportunity to examine why the existing process requires 45 days. Perhaps there are proprietary methods that extend the hiring cycle while also increasing quality of the process or hiring result? In reality, several factors affect the overall cycle timeline and must be examined.

Skill Category Affects Performance

Another critical step in setting performance goals in contingent workforce management is examining performance by skill category. Call center metrics should be very different from those for an IT consulting project. Performance goal setting should reflect that. Rather than setting blanket performance goals, a business needs to create goals by role and skill. It's a practical step but quite often businesses forget as they quickly plug in performance goals in the race to optimize. Great contingent workforce management performance is not a flat line that rises and falls together. Some roles may allow for greater performance variance while others hold steady. Taking time to mark baseline performance across all processes and roles is a way to create performance goals that are achievable but also ambitious enough to drive the business forward.

Engagement: Connect with Contingent

You hear a lot about the importance of talent engagement in the marketplace today but rarely is it a high priority in contingent workforce management. Businesses spend money and strive to engage full time talent (it's a best practice after all), but do little when it comes to cultivating relationships and loyalty among flexible, temporary, freelance and contract staff. Treating contingent talent as disposable is a bad habit, and it's one businesses need to change.

The Risks of Lackluster Engagement

In the age of social media and social sharing, the consequences of poor talent engagement have never been more public or potentially harmful for employers, staffing firms and contingent workforce management providers. An employer that doesn't take time to find out what motivates different segments of contingent workers and look for ways to genuinely connect with them puts its employment brand at great risk. Workers share and talk and those conversations spread, which is a good thing when workers are satisfied and dangerous one when they are not.

Where should a business work to improve its contingent talent engagement? First, ignore standard best-practice behavior that encourages a business to treat full-time workers one way and contingent workers another way. You can have co-employment mitigation strategies without compromising candidate experience. Second, look to assess and improve the entire "employee experience." Consider this piece from HR and Recruiting, which looks at the changing responsibilities of HR leaders and how Airbnb has created a Chief Employee Experience Officer. Businesses are learning how important it is for employee engagement activities to be customized and considerate of employee backgrounds, experiences and generation. Millennials, for example, often have different workplace goals and priorities than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

This focus on the engagement and experience of employees needs to extend out to contingent talent, which is a high-value workforce that businesses continue to invest more in every year. How do contingent workers "experience" your business, its culture and their work? Is there time and work worthwhile? If not, this is the place to start to improve contingent talent engagement. While keeping in mind the nuances and legal requirements of various worker engagement models, it's important to consider your business can better engage contingent workforce talent and give them an experience that they will want to share and repeat as opportunities allow.

Sustainability and Costs Ahead

Just as with performance and engagement, contingent workforce practices also tend to fall into best practice ruts when it comes to sustainability and cost management. In the upcoming and final blog in this series designed to challenge best practices norms, we will dive into those two areas and identify areas where it's time to look for new approaches rather than rely on old standards. In the meantime, take a moment to assess whether your performance measures are adjusted to baselines that make sense and consider how well you are managing contingent talent engagement and experience.

 

Lisa Quattrini is an executive vice president of enterprise solutions at ZeroChaos with over 20 years of operational experience and excellence in human capital management solutions. She develops and deploys successful customer-centric workforce management strategies and operational methodologies that increase transparency and efficiency and reduce total cost of ownership.