Contingent staffing is a critical part of many companies’ overall business plans. This is especially true since the Great Recession, as organizations have built workforce buffers of a certain percentage of contingent workers to protect them from any potential downturn. Allocating a ratio of, let’s say, 20-30% of extended workers – and I don’t recommend much higher than that unless there are extenuating circumstances – is a business strategy that hedges companies from layoffs of their own employees in the case business demand sinks or the economy tanks. This strategy also creates a more agile workforce that can be quickly ramped up or down due to seasonality or projects.


This is all well and good unless this strategy becomes an end instead of a means. By that I mean, this strategy can take on a life of its own if it is not consistently revisited, and can become a status quo of “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” When this happens, contingent workers are often seen as expendable and not an integral, even indispensable, part of the workforce needed for the organization to be both productive and competitive. Contingent workers can, unfortunately, be seen as ancillary instead of potential full-time workers and an enhancement to the company’s broad talent pool. This status is dangerous to the workforce’s well-being, unless there is an acute on-going analysis of the contingent labor strategy and honest navel-gazing as to why the ‘strategy’ is truly in place – if saving money is the lone or primary impetus, what you have is not sustainable in the current business and employment landscape.


Although it’s easy to target many organizations’ myopia when it comes to their use of an extended workforce, I also lay blame at the feet of some staffing companies. Many are so incessantly lustful of adding heads to their headcount (the repugnant, numbers-oriented paradigm that focuses on the inhuman measurement of “hours”) that they have lost sight of a much bigger and more effective mindset – that is the mindset of a more holistic concept of workforce solutions. Don’t get me wrong, some staffing companies have evolved into talent acquisition and workforce management solution architects, but many are still living in the 1990s, throwing not-so-warm bodies at their clients instead of progressive and more sustainable programs. Please don’t be offended when I say that a recruiting and retention emphasis or plan, as important as that is, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to workforce solutions. There are many layers and generations to be added beyond that.


So, you might say, what are these workforce solutions? If that is your question, then you’ve been hiding under a rock, deliberately avoiding anything beyond the rudimentary function of staffing, and/or are complacent being 20 years behind the curve and just “filling orders.” This article is written for you who still practice a staffing-only paradigm, and whose primary value proposition is sending those not-so-warm bodies more cheaply than your other developmentally delayed competitors. Although I should make you research what some of these TA solutions are, I will make a short list just to whet your appetite, in case you have one: MSP, VMS, RPO, BPO, IC compliance, alumni programs, Ready to Work strategies for millennials, demographic differentiation and assimilation, crowdsourcing, mobile recruitment, digital staffing, CX, SOW, services procurement, TCO, AI, social recruiting and diversity strategies.


So what is the next phase of evolution for so many in our industry, and maybe the hope for our survival? It’s to move from transactional to transformational, as disturbing and disruptive as that might sound. Our job is not to perpetuate status quo solutions and strategies that are, in many cases, not solutions or strategies at all, but to initiate change and be an expert that ultimately makes our client’s talent acquisition paradigm sustainable and massively benefit the company’s overall well-being. After all, the two most crucial drivers in any organization’s success are leadership and talent. Moreover, we can be, and should be at the vanguard of both.


So, what if the organizations you are dealing with prefer transaction over transformation when it comes to the way they find and keep talent? Then move on to another prospect, one that will still be relevant ten years from now.