Contingent workforces provide organizations with flexible operational power that can be scaled up and down depending on the need. For companies that need extra employees during peak times of the year, such as during the holidays, hiring so-called “gig” workers isn’t a novel concept—it’s been a core part of their operations for decades.

But the nature of contingent work has changed because of the “gig economy.” In 2018, the Labor Department announced that 1 in 10 American workers is now an independent contractor rather than a full-time employee. By one estimate, over half (52%) of the U.S. workforce will have spent time as an independent contractor by 2023.

Although this has implications for the very nature of labor, it also has implications for recruiting. As more companies vie for contingent workers, they’ll need a gig recruiting strategy that attracts the best talent.

What Is gig & contingent recruiting?

Gig & contingent recruiting is the process of sourcing and hiring conditional, hourly, or freelance workers to fill necessary positions temporarily. Instead of hiring full-time employees, contingent workforce recruiting involves hiring employees who work for an established period before vacating their positions.

Most contingent workforce recruiting strategies involve building a talent pipeline so that employees can be vetted and approved efficiently. Some recruiting organizations specialize specifically in contingent workforces, providing companies with the talent they need quickly.

In some cases, contingent workforces may be hired only at specific times of the year or only when needed. This may result in an organization rehiring the same temporary employees year after year.

Still, contingent workers are not officially incorporated into the company. As independent contractors, contingent workers are not guaranteed health and retirement benefits, or other benefits that are required for full-time employees.

What elements of a recruiting strategy are important in gig & contingent recruiting?

Contingent employees and gig workers usually fill a niche need within the organization, so it’s important to target specific skills when recruiting. Job descriptions must be clear, and applicants must be tracked and sorted based on a list of skills and experience.

Of course, one of the most important elements of gig and contingent recruiting is speed. It can help to automate recruiting processes to free up time for recruiters to engage with potential employees and vet them accordingly.

Mass communication through SMS and email can help recruiters stay in touch with potential hires and respond to them quickly when their talent is needed. It can also help to break down barriers to faster hiring speeds, as SMS messages have a much faster response rate than emails and phone calls.

What external elements are important when doing gig & contingent recruiting?

Some contingent workers can be taken on as part-time employees. But increasingly, companies are hiring independent contractors in a contingent capacity to save time and money.

Perhaps the most important element to keep in mind when recruiting a contingent workforce is the legal definition of an “independent contractor,” which can be difficult to understand. According to the IRS, “The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done. The earnings of a person who is working as an independent contractor are subject to Self-Employment Tax.”

You can only classify workers as independent contractors if they are self-employed individuals who are responsible for their tax obligations, and only if they are in control of the services that they perform. In this arrangement, the organization pays the independent contractor as a separate business entity rather than an employee. This means the organization only has control over the result of the independent contractor’s work, not what will be done to reach that result.

It’s important to keep this in mind for two reasons:

  1. You must be able to set realistic expectations in the recruiting process. If you hire independent contractors, they must understand their responsibilities and know that you will treat them as a separate business entity.
  2. It is illegal to pay someone as an independent contractor when an “employer-employee relationship” exists, regardless of what that relationship is called. This type of misclassification can lead to lawsuits and fines.

What challenges do organizations face when recruiting contingent workers?

Two of the biggest challenges when hiring contingent workers are identifying qualified candidates and onboarding contingent workers at scale.

It is already challenging to source and vet qualified candidates for full-time positions. Often, contingent workforces must be hired quickly to meet a specific need, so multiple viable candidates must reach the pipeline in a short time. Without the right sourcing solutions, it can be difficult to find candidates that meet your specific needs, especially if your industry is already suffering a talent shortage.

According to the Harvard Business Review, it typically takes eight months for a newly hired employee to reach full productivity. As contingent employees are hired temporarily, they may not be in a position long enough to reach this milestone.

That’s why it’s essential to have an intuitive and technology-enabled onboarding process. Your gig and contingent workers must be able to familiarize themselves with their role and reach productivity in time to produce real value for your business. As your full-time employees may not have the time to train contingent workers, digital onboarding tools are essential for meeting this need.

What software can help with gig & contingent recruiting?

Career sites, candidate relationship management (CRM) tools, applicant tracking solutions, and a robust employee onboarding system are all essential for successfully recruiting and managing a contingent workforce.

The right solution can help you build a pipeline of talent that targets the specific skills you need. You can even use your CRM to maintain groups of talent, allowing you to bring previously vetted candidates back into the workforce when you need them.

Any solution that adds automation to the process is also key to keeping contingent workers engaged. You should be able to send out automated messages to encourage applications, then transfer data from your recruiting tool to your onboarding system to help your temporary workers reach productivity faster.

Make your gig & contingent recruiting a success

To reach contingent workers, you must reach them where they are.

Use powerful software to engage gig workers on their favorite platforms, such as Facebook, SMS, and LinkedIn. Use career sites and automated messaging tools to create funnels of talent, then feed data about your talent pool into your applicant tracking system and your CRM.

Establish a formal onboarding process that gets contingent works into productive positions quickly. Be sure to leverage technology to help in this process.

Finally, keep track of successful hires using your CRM. There’s no need to hire and onboard a new candidate if you have a contingent worker in your network who can be productive the moment they start.

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