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As contingent employee hiring rises, HR gives it focus

The use of contingent employees is increasing, Gartner said, and with it an interest from HR departments for better control over the contingent worker experience.

The contingent workforce is on the rise. More than 80% of firms globally are expanding their use of contingent labor, according to Gartner.

The uptick of this temporary workforce is prompting firms to look more closely at the recruiting and hiring practices of contingent workers, Gartner analyst Emily Rose McRae said at the firm's ReimagineHR conference this week.

Contingent employees are mostly hired by individual business units, and the hiring process typically goes through procurement -- not HR, McRae said. But procurement is often interested in getting the best price and is not necessarily interested in a contingent employee's experience, she said.

The contingent worker gets "very inconsistent messaging about what it means to work for [a company]," McRae said.

Royal Philips, a global healthcare firm, recognized that they wanted to improve collaboration and communication in how it hires contingent workers. In the past, HR recruiting teams, procurement and managed service providers (MSPs) didn't work together, said Martin Thomas, head of total workforce management at Philips, during a conference presentation.

Now, HR leads the contingent worker program, and recruiting teams collaborate with MSPs, which can supply contingent talent. With this newfound cooperation, Philips has developed a more personal and tailored approach to finding candidates, Thomas said.

The company may be hiring software developers as contingent workers, but these workers also "wanted to feel some sort of connection to the application" that they were working on, Thomas said.

When the developers know that their work is related to cancer detection, for instance, it gives them a stronger sense of purpose, Thomas said.

Contingent employees want investment

Contingent workers are also interested in improving their skills, and that created something of a quandary, Thomas said. These workers are "employed for the expertise that they have," he said, "and not necessarily for the potential that they might show in the future."

Nonetheless, Philips decided to make its learning and development content available to contingent workers. The hope is that doing so will help keep these workers engaged with the company as time goes on, according to Thomas.

[The contingent worker gets] very inconsistent messaging about what it means to work for [a company].
Emily Rose McRaeAnalyst, Gartner

In a separate presentation, NASA officials detailed an HR effort focused on skills the organization may need for the future. A part of this effort may involve an increased use of contingent workers.

In the federal government, career civil service hiring can be an expensive and lengthy process, according to Nick Skytland, deputy chief of the exploration technology office at NASA.

But Skytland noted during a conference presentation that the workforce shift to freelance workers "is a huge opportunity for us," he said.

NASA isn't going to stop hiring civil servants, but it may shift its thinking to hiring along "a continuum of talent" that includes civil servants, as well as freelancers, Skytland said.

NASA's future workforce strategy isn't limited to people but may also include "robotics and automation and bots and augmenting the workforce through technology," he said.

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