Manpower: Use Contingent Workers More Strategically

By Theresa Minton-Eversole Nov 6, 2009

More than 60 percent of employers worldwide do not view contingent labor as critical to business success, according to a survey that Manpower Inc. released Nov. 3, 2009. Manpower foresees a new executive mind-set in the post-recovery world, with forward-looking companies turning to a dynamic mix of regular and contingent workers, increasing their flexibility for a competitive advantage.

“What began as a financial and economic crisis has evolved into a workforce crisis, and employers are struggling to adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace and the growing mismatch between needed skill sets and available talent,” said Jeffrey A. Joerres, chairman and CEO of Manpower Inc. “As the world emerges from the recession, employers’ natural instinct will be to exercise caution around hiring permanent talent, reaching first for contingent workers to fill the gap—and they should.”

The winners in the post-recovery world, said Joerres, will be the companies that leverage a mix of regular and contingent workers to optimize their performance, increasing their speed of execution, building talent capability, keeping fixed costs low and doing more with less.

“As employers and employees alike move toward more flexible ways of working to suit lifestyle changes, it is time to start leveraging the contingent workforce strategically to gain access to people with scarce, specialized skill sets, outsource non-core business functions, try out candidates before hiring for full-time positions and provide longer-term workforce flexibility,” Joerres added.

These recommendations and findings are noted in Manpower’s white paper Rules of Engagement: Harnessing the Potential of the Contingent Workforce, whichcalls for companies to adopt a more strategic and flexible approach to workforce management to reach their goals and better manage risk in the post-recovery world. Key to this approach, notes the white paper, will be a growing reliance on the four types of contingent workers: temporary employees, outsourced workers, contractors and consultants.

Manpower predicts that in order to take full advantage of opportunities in the recovering economy, employers will need to move away from viewing contingent workers as a practical resource to cover maternity leave, meet seasonal demand or keep permanent payrolls in check. Instead, they should be viewed as a valuable strategic asset. The most common reason worldwide for employing contingent workers is to meet peak seasonal demand, with nearly one in five employers doing this, according to a Manpower survey of more than 41,000 employers in 35 countries and territories about the current role of contingent workers in workforce strategy. Only 14 percent of responding employers now turn to contingent employees to derive greater strategic value.

A regional comparison reveals employers in the Americas (48 percent) most felt that contingent workers were key to their workforce strategy, followed by those in the Asia Pacific (33 percent) and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) (23 percent) regions. In contrast, EMEA employers (75 percent) most often indicated they did not believe contingent workers to be a critical element of their strategy, followed by those in the Asia Pacific (58 percent) and the Americas (50 percent) regions.

“Companies must also fully engage with their contingent workforce, making sure they are committed to the company, its business goals and overall strategy,” Joerres said. “This involves understanding their individual needs and motivations, integrating contingent workers successfully into the company's operations, and ensuring ongoing engagement through training and career development programs.”

Theresa Minton-Eversole is an online editor/manager for SHRM. She can be reached at

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