Technology to Better Manage Contingent Workers Is in Demand

By Dave Zielinski August 9, 2019
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Technology to Better Manage Contingent Workers Is in Demand

​As the use of contingent workers continues to grow, many companies are trying to determine how to effectively assimilate these workers into their organizations, extend their performance management processes to incorporate gig employees, and manage these workers in ways that mitigate compliance risk and lessen administrative burdens.

Whether part of core HR systems, vendor management systems (VMS) or new stand-alone platforms, new technologies can give HR leaders a unified view of all full-time and contingent workers in one dashboard—a capability that helps them manage the gig workforce more strategically.

Leaders can more easily compare labor costs, worker availability or skill sets across their workforce to ensure they put the right talent where it's most needed, elevating contingent workers from just-in-time workers to more-strategic ones. Some platforms can also streamline invoicing and billing for contingent workers, as well as automate components of onboarding and performance management for freelance talent.

For HR leaders concerned about compliance issues, some of these platforms have features designed to keep a clear firewall between independent contractors and full-time employees. Experts say these systems can set rules for how freelancers engage with a company and enforce requirements around work frequency, contracts and more.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Employing Independent Contractors]

Systems for Managing Contingent Workers

One option for managing contingent talent is to use a vendor system designed specifically for that purpose, such as ADP's WorkMarket, SAP's Fieldglass, Workday's Rallyteam or Allegis Global Solutions' QuantumWork platform. SAP Fieldglass, for example, helps companies automate the process of procuring and managing external workers, including temporary staff, contractors and statement-of-work consultants. The platform is designed in part to give HR a more holistic view of contingent workers and full-time employees, as well as to help mitigate compliance risk, said Arun Srinivasan, senior vice president of strategy and customer operations for SAP Fieldglass.

"It gives HR visibility into the various roles played by contingent workers, how they're getting paid, how long they've worked for a company and more," Srinivasan said. The platform also has compliance features tied to the nature and location of contingent work and can automate tasks such as background checks for gig employees.

HR and Procurement Collaborate

Platforms like Fieldglass and others can also make effective collaboration easier for HR and procurement functions, experts say.

The 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey conducted by Bersin, Deloitte Consulting found that using the alternative workforce more strategically lies partly in connecting different parts of the enterprise more effectively. Procurement, IT and HR too often operate in a fragmented manner when hiring contingent workers, the study found.

Elaine Orler, founder and CEO of the Talent Function, a talent acquisition consulting firm in San Diego, said she's seeing more HR management system platforms and some talent management systems adding capabilities to manage contingent workers. Orler said she's also seeing some managed service providers (MSPs) and VMS platforms that are typically used for procurement pushing deeper into the HR space.

"I think we're at the cusp of moving away from all of these fragmented systems into more consolidated platforms that help HR and procurement work together more effectively," she said.

Onboarding, Communication and Performance Management

Onboarding contingent workers in ways that familiarize them with company culture and don't leave them feeling like outsiders is another common challenge employers face, experts say. Companies that intend to use gig talent for more than just a few projects should create processes to make them feel part of the group, just like full-time employees.

Some technology platforms automate components of onboarding for contingent workers to save hiring managers time on these tasks and smooth the transition. Fieldglass, for example, can automate issuing badges, conducting background checks, and issuing laptops or the credentials needed to access company networks.

Experts say performance management, providing feedback and performance evaluation are other obstacles in managing gig workers. "Our research shows two of the biggest challenges around managing the alternative workforce are communication and performance management," said Chris Havrilla, vice president of HR technology and solution provider strategy for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting.

Bersin's trends report found that more than 50 percent of survey respondents said they had "no process or an inconsistent approach" to managing their contingent workers' performance. Matt Shannon, senior research analyst for solution provider markets at Bersin, Deloitte said the research also found a disconnect between vendors' performance management tools and HR practitioners' use of those capabilities.

The study found that 87 percent of vendor systems have the capability to extend their performance management processes of evaluating, offering feedback and setting goals to contingent workers, but only 17 percent of organizations take advantage of those tools, Shannon said.

Single View of Integrated Talent

Some vendors have developed systems with the overriding purpose of giving HR and recruiting leaders a single view of their full-time and contingent workforce in one dashboard. One such provider is QuantumWork, a part of Hanover, Md.-based Allegis Global Solutions. The platform gives users a unified view of talent across the organization from a single login, and it integrates recruiting capabilities with procurement, said Craig Fisher, head of recruiting innovation at QuantumWork.

The platform works with most human capital management, applicant tracking and vendor management systems, Fisher said, and it can match internal and external talent to open jobs using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

"We saw a need from our clients for one dashboard where they could see all the different parts of their workforce and their labor intelligence at once, rather than having to access multiple systems," he said.

Pie charts help users visualize where talent for different projects or work exists in the organization and how they can most effectively spend their money on labor, Fisher said. "The idea is to provide a holistic view without needing to have a separate VMS or MSP separate from your core talent acquisition platform."

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