Written by Simon Blockley, CEO of Guidant Global

There is no doubt that the pandemic has changed the shape and dynamics of our workforces for good. Our people now work in a more agile and flexible fashion than ever before – and the way in which we engage talent has changed too.

The UK’s contingent workforce is growing rapidly. Trends that were already evident in 2019 have accelerated, and advanced workforce plans now typically include gig workers, independent contractors, freelancers, and project-based workers, as well as permanent staff.

Recent statistics indicate that around 14% of UK workers are now self-employed and Companies House data shows that new company registrations increased by 21% during 2020 to 2021. In addition, ONS figures show that the number of temporary employees in the UK rose by 4.9% year-on-year during the three months to May 2021, with 1.57 million people now belonging to this group.

However, the age when non-permanent workers were viewed as an expendable or replaceable commodity is now well and truly over. Today, HR strategists realise that temporary workers are an important part of their organisation’s long-term talent strategy – and that developing and retaining in-demand skills in a talent-scarce market is crucial.

Organisations must direct resources towards engaging non-permanent workers in order to ensure these individuals stick around for as long as they are required – and perform to the best of their ability while they are in situ. It is also worth noting that, in many businesses, contingent workers not only play a crucial role in filling skills gaps, but they are also rehired and redeployed time and again for future assignments. Keeping this pool of talented contingent workers loyal to your brand, then, is essential.

Although there are obvious differences in the way businesses should engage temporary and permanent workers, the principles remain the same: the experience of both groups should be built on a foundation of support, openness and transparency.

Every temporary worker’s relationship with your business should begin with a great candidate experience throughout the hiring process. Be open about the nature and scope of the assignment, and what is expected of them during their tenure. Keep lines of communication open throughout the hiring process and don’t overlook the importance of providing timely feedback to unsuccessful applicants – you may need to call on their skills in the future.

From day one of their assignment, make sure every worker feels they are an important addition to the team. Ensure they have all the technical, practical, and emotional support they need to hit the ground running and perform at their best. Set up meetings with individuals they will be working closely with and assign a dedicated point of contact who can help with all the small queries they will undoubtedly have in the early days.

If you’re managing temporary workers remotely, welcome them into the virtual team as you would a full-time employee. Remember, the first days and weeks will set the tone and will be a key factor in an individual’s view of your employer brand.

For the duration of their assignment, contingent workers should feel fully embedded as an integral part of the company. Fostering a sense of inclusion is important and should extend beyond 

what is strictly assignment related. In order to feel truly valued, they should have 

access to the same perks as permanent employees during the time they are with you, whether that be access to training, inclusion in wellness programmes, or even a recognition of their birthday.

Post-assignment, if the worker has done a great job, keep those lines of communication open. You might need to use that person again or even hire them in a full-time capacity. If you’ve treated them well and shown your support and appreciation, they’ll jump at the chance to continue to provide you with their expertise.

In a post-Covid world, employers must recognise and respond to the fact that a greater number of professionals now choose to work outside of traditional PAYE payrolls, and that temp workers do more than just plug gaps – they bring new, specialist skills and are able to provide a fresh perspective as well as an opportunity to upskill permanent employees.

Retention of contingent workers is vital in a talent-scarce market. Businesses that ignore this important segment of the workforce risk losing access to valuable skills, while simultaneously wasting resources in an effort to repeatedly refill the same posts.

Through efficient onboarding, team inclusion and effective post-project communication, businesses can ensure their contingent workers are engaged, productive and open to returning at short notice in the future.


About the author

Simon is a global talent acquisition and managed workforce solution leader and Chief Executive Officer at Guidant Global

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.