How to develop inclusive cultures for contractors

We look at how to develop blended workplace cultures that are truly inclusive for contractors and why it’s important for business.  

In today’s labour landscape, there’s an increasing acceptance that traditional workforce models may need to flex or be fundamentally reimagined to cope with ongoing talent shortages. More employers are turning to contractors when struggling to fill specialist skills gaps and complete projects. But in order to attract the best STEM contractors and get the most out of blended teams, it’s important to consider how you can develop workplace cultures that are genuinely inclusive for these recruits. 

While contractors are not new to the economy, their numbers have been rising fast in recent years, particularly since the pandemic. In January 2023, there were an estimated 1.66 million temporary workers in the UK, compared with around 1.45 million in January 2020.

Increasingly, people are seeking flexible work arrangements that allow them to manage their time how they see fit and boost their skills and experience with a wider variety of employers and projects.  In the fourth quarter of 2022, there were around 382,000 job-to-job resignations in the UK, resulting in skills shortages across all sectors.

The benefits of blended workforces

With more and more workers bypassing the security and benefits associated with permanent roles for the freedom of contract work, it’s becoming ever more critical for employers to rethink how they attract this talent. Post-pandemic, Forbes says the art of managing the new blended workforce relies on understanding that contract and permanent workers are no longer that different, particularly in light of today’s hybrid and remote working practices and all staff being interconnected with technology.   

However, while demand for contract specialists remains high, a report by Harvard Business School, Managing the Future of Work, says that only a limited number of companies have so far embraced a cohesive approach to incorporate highly skilled contractors into their business strategy. So how can employers adopt a more strategic outlook on future workforce models in order to properly harness the potential of on-demand STEM professionals?

A study by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte revealed that companies where permanent and contract staff are viewed as a single, blended workforce reported better management practices, more effective recruiting and retention, and more efficient allocation of resources. Employers who can create a culture where contractors are fully accommodated should also benefit from more opportunities for peer-to-peer relationships, collaboration and the innovation that comes from truly incorporating the diverse experience of contract specialists within your teams.

But building this workforce means reassessing certain long-standing policies and procedures, and asking yourself these kinds of questions:

  • Is your definition of success only attainable for permanent employees? Can you change those metrics?
  • Can you redefine your projects into distinct components that can be completed by internal or external staff?
  • Do your current permanent employees understand the value added by contractors?
  • Do you have an onboarding process that makes it easy to integrate ­contract talent?

How you can answer these questions will determine your organisation’s ability to find and attract the top candidates for hard-to-fill positions.

Taking the right steps

To create a single, cohesive workforce, where contractors feel properly accommodated, your first step as an employer should be to ensure contract staff receive the same benefits and resources as permanent staff, wherever possible. And this is where employers can often go wrong. While contractors are said to be largely driven by pay when considering a company or role, factors such as workplace culture and career growth also rank very highly for this demographic. In terms of non-monetary benefits, aim to offer contractors access to reward and recognition schemes, staff feedback discussions, company meetings and informal staff reviews. Including contractors in more informal activities, such as birthday celebrations or company outings, will also help to promote a culture of inclusivity.

Part of building an inclusive workplace is creating a welcoming environment built on respect. This starts with being upfront with your contractors about project length and whether their work could lead to full-time employment, should they be interested. Getting permanent employees to appreciate the added value of a blended workforce and actively contribute to its implementation is critical to fostering this environment.

Contract staff are more likely to feel invested, loyal to your brand and motivated if they feel genuinely part of the team, which should maximise their happiness and wellbeing, associated productivity and work quality, and avoid them feeling disengaged.

A steady influx of highly qualified contractors is key to surviving and succeeding in today’s volatile business environment. By revisiting your policies and procedures for identifying, recruiting and onboarding contract candidates, you can look to establish and maintain a culture of inclusivity – where the only thing differentiating contractors from permanent staff is their tax form.

To find the best candidates for your next project, talk to us today.

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