When I was a middle manager, a temporary worker taught me the single most important lesson of my career: Every team member — no matter the nature or duration of their employment arrangement — is valuable and deserves to be included.
Until then, I'd taken the "they won't be here for long" management approach to the temporary workers I managed. Eventually, one of my temp workers took me to task, explaining that they felt excluded from company communication and training, yet were still expected to perform.
I sat there dumbstruck. I couldn't believe I'd been so inconsiderate. Unthinkingly, I'd been reinforcing the ugly stereotype that temporary and part-time workers are somehow less skilled or less valuable than their full-time peers.
In fact, temporary workers can cost 30 to 50 percent more than your core employees. If you're paying them more to fill a critical void while expecting them to get up to speed quickly, why would you treat them like they're a lesser part of the team?
Create a More Inclusive Company
As the gig economy grows by leaps and bounds, more and more leaders are realizing they need to treat their temporary employees well. Because most of them work for multiple organizations, contingent workers broadcast their experiences far and wide. Through sites like Glassdoor and Facebook, not to mention word of mouth, short-term hires can make a lasting impact on a company's recruitment and retention.
Beyond deterring talented people from knocking on your door, poorly treated temporary workers might look elsewhere for work. According to Staffing Industry Analysts' "North America Temporary Worker Survey 2017," 31 percent of temps quit early when they receive better job offers. By mistreating them, you're not saving time or money; you're encouraging them to leave.
So how can you show temp workers that they're an equal part of the team? Start with these five strategies:
1. Craft a total workforce management strategy.
You wouldn't think of excluding 40 percent of your talent pool, right? Well, a study conducted by Intuit found that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers will be contingent employees, such as freelancers, contractors and consultants who work on per-project terms.
Prepare for that future today by sitting down with your human resources and management teams to craft a total workforce engagement strategy. Formulate a plan for onboarding temporary workers, communicating with them, and integrating them into your culture. Remember to share your plan with your core employees, particularly managers, who need to understand why inclusion matters in the workplace.
2. Lead by example.
When everyday employees see managers and executives treating contingent workers with respect, they'll feel comfortable doing the same. Invite temp workers to team meetings, provide them with a company email address, and conduct the same onboarding as your core employees.
And remember, little things can send a big message. For example, make sure temp workers have a workspace that's equal to that of other employees. If your core employees are going to happy hour, invite temp workers, too. Isolating temps from other team members is a sure way to make them feel less valuable.
3. Ask for employees' perspectives.
As important as it is for you to set the example, it's not just you who has to treat temp workers well. For them to feel welcome, everyone has to let them in. To determine the "state of the union" at your company, solicit feedback and suggestions on your total workforce strategy in your next survey.
In your questionnaire, ask employees to rate collaboration and rapport between core and temporary employees on a five-point scale. Don't forget to include an open-ended question asking for suggestions, and be sure to conduct the survey through a third party. Surveys sent directly from your company might not receive honest responses from employees who are worried about retribution.
4. Check social media and employer rating sites.
When temp workers are dissatisfied with their employer, they often take to sites like Glassdoor and Facebook to air their grievances. Don't underestimate the reach of poor reviews on these sites, either. Glassdoor alone hosts more than 32 million reviews and receives 45 million unique visits per month.
Remember, a single review might not reflect others' perceptions. Comb through feedback in search of themes. Common threads can help you understand what issues might be bubbling beneath the surface of your workplace, whether among contingent workers or core employees. Sure, bad reviews might sting, but reading them is key to understanding and strengthening your company's reputation among all types of workers.
5. Reconsider your company's organizational structure.
Given that the gig economy is here to stay, it's time to take a look at whether your company's organization is compatible with the 21st century's workforce. In fact, in Deloitte's "Global Human Capital Trends 2016" report, 92 percent of respondents named organizational design as an area of focus for their company.
As contingent work becomes more common, you'll need to get creative to keep your company competitive. If a role needs to be filled or a job completed, a contingent worker might be a more cost-effective choice than a full-time employee. A freelance developer, for example, might also be able to consult on your company's website redesign. Don't be afraid to outsource, consolidate, and see how skills and jobs intersect in new ways.
But even with all this change, one thing remains the same: Team members must feel valued if you want them to do their best work. Instead of driving a wedge between contingent and full-time employees, recognize that everyone brings something to the table. Full-time, part-time or contingent, everyone wants to feel included.