You may not be a Fortune 500 company, but your talent needs are just as critical. Actually, the use of an extended workforce, including contingent workers, might be more important to the health of your organization than it is for larger companies with seemingly endless resources and employment brand recognition. With the on-demand economy affecting how we adapt our business models in a tightening labor market, it is advisable to revisit early and often your talent acquisition strategies (if you have them, which is an altogether different issue) and how we execute them to keep the pipeline of qualified, motivated workers flowing.

Here are some simple, but noteworthy, best practices for smaller companies who depend heavily on their contingent workforce:


Because a smaller organization is often dependent on a smaller number of, typically, demanding clients, it’s easy to rely too much on the use of contingent workers and MSP/staffing partners. Yes, business seasonality, the need for fresh full-time talent, project-oriented workflows, and quick headcount surges make sense for the use of MSPs/staffing partners, but all of these can lead to an unhealthy dependence on your extended workforce. Without proper staffing level forecasting and a sound base within your own core team, often companies ‘dump’ requirements on their MSP/staffing partners at the last minute and pray for a miracle. This strategy (or lack thereof) is doomed to failure and changing your staffing suppliers is unlikely to solve your problem.


Not only should your MSP/staffing partners be seen as an extension of your HR department, they should be engaged that way. Look to them as trusted advisors and collaborators in your contingent worker strategy and plans. They probably have a better feel for the labor market than you do, so you should bring them to the table when planning for your labor needs and work in symphony with them on the execution of your co-sourced strategy. When a culture of collaboration and trust is built with your key staffing partner(s), the benefits are immeasurable. Remember, you are both in this together – in a true partnership, when one succeeds both do.


If you are not using technology to manage your contingent labor processes, you are late to the party and quickly becoming less competitive with the limited talent resources in the market. There’s a reason all of your larger competitors have integrated 21st-century tools into their talent acquisition game plan. You probably wouldn’t think of banking, investing or traveling without some kind of app or cloud-based tool – why then would you think it’s preferable to have this critical element of your business managed with a slide rule and abacus (think email, spreadsheets and faxes, if they still exist)? With viable vendor management software (VMS) options – built with your business and budget in mind – not only can you afford technology, you really can’t afford to do without it if you want to be a competitive employer in your market.


If you don’t have an employment culture that attracts people beyond touting wages and benefits, you need to create one. Why would a qualified worker choose to work for your company? Think hard on that – after all, they have plenty of options right now. As organizations and managers, we must be intentional about how we value people, with all of their needs and aspirations. Your environment should be permeated with the sense that their work has significance and an understanding that what they do creates value for companies, clients, consumers and, hopefully, themselves and their families. Be the kind of place to work that others recommend – even Fortune 500 companies find it difficult to compete with that.


Challenge the way your organization is currently thinking about contingent workers and ask tough questions about its sustainability. What is going to differentiate you in the war for talent? What can you do in collaboration with your MSP/staffing partners to set you apart as the employer of choice, even if you can’t always bump wages or increase benefits along with larger organizations? And, if I could emphasize something, how can you screen people in instead of screening them out? Yes, these types of things will often require a serious paradigm shift – but often this is not just helpful, it is absolutely necessary.