Monday, December 10, 2012

The Myth About Contingent Employee Engagement

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A new survey says contingent workers are engaged with
hiring companies. Despite a small sample, it may have merit.
Last week we talked about worker loyalty and engagement when it comes to employers. Hours later, I received my daily email from a staffing feed with a report that says contingent worker attitudes toward hiring companies are quite favorable. It seems reasonable given the fact that contingent workers need to prove themselves because their livelihood as an independent relies upon performance and results. What benefit would they get from not going 'above and beyond' and being truly engaged in the efforts of the company for which they are working?

While not the same as loyalty; the numbers were quite surprising given the fact that a much larger global workforce study (1,000 times as large) suggested that two-thirds of employees are unhappy and disengaged with their current employer.

So I asked myself, 'Was I mistaken? Should I possibly scale back my way of thinking regarding this matter?' The fact that contingent workers are happy with the organization for which they work, own employer problems as their own, and over 41-percent of them would like to finish out their career with their current company certainly makes a strong case for using my contingent IT staffing offering and goes a long way to break the myth that they are just there for a big payday.

Then I looked at the numbers: 346 employees surveyed, all of whom were from Australia, responded to the favorable survey. With that, I had to ask myself if the favorable data was remotely credible. Given the sample size and country (I have yet to meet an Aussie who wasn't positive and persevering) my first thought was that last week's idea was on point: employee engagement is a problem and social media and the Internet have something to do with it.

However, I do think the positive survey does have some credence and reinforces another of last week's points. There are loyal workers around the world and forward thinking organizations that put employee happiness and engagement at the forefront of their efforts to improve results.

Both studies also support another point from last week:  What is the norm for one type of worker may not be the norm for another. Personally, I don’t see the difference that conventional 'wisdom' holds true about the differences in FTE and Contractors (barring 1099 situations).  I’ve worked with contractors who are no different than their internal FTE counterparts. They have a job to do, and engagement and happiness often depends on their current situation. Whether either type of worker decides to be loyal depends on something more.

I think it all comes down to two factors. The first of which is what the hiring company breeds as far as culture. What the level of trust is like, the management structure, and the role teamwork plays within the organization all factor in to the equation. If employees feel like a part of the team, contingent or otherwise; if they feel like their opinion and expertise is valued; if they have the ability to make decisions on the way the business or a project is structured; they will perform and feel engaged.

The second factor comes down to who the company is hiring, contingent or otherwise. It’s not a question of whether or not they are a contractor, but the type of people for which they are looking. A problem arises when employers are looking to hire the best of the best only in terms of a skill sets at the potential expense of enthusiasm, engagement and loyalty.

A candidate's personality and engagement can be hard to gauge during the interview process; that is…unless you ask. It's important to find out a candidates real motivation for wanting to work for you.

There's a big difference between a worker who was attracted by what you do as well as how you do it and one what is looking at how much you pay and what they'll be doing for you. A good interviewer can usually get an inclination of intent by asking questions about former employers and what the candidate liked or didn't like about working for them.

I am not a professional economic prognosticator, but being in the staffing industry and, due to the hints the recession seems to be slowly subsiding, I can firmly say the days of A+ employees for less are over. Companies will no longer get the best of the best in both terms of culture fit and skill sets for a song. However, that's not to say they aren't available. It all depends on what companies offer in terms of value and engagement potential to candidates.

Companies that have had the luxury of retaining top talent, contingent or otherwise, should do whatever they can to hang on to it: offer a stable environment and keep workers engaged and happy. If you don't, someone else will.

Josh Kaplan writes on various subjects including management, information technology breakthroughs, healthcare IT recruitment and innovations, big data, IT staffing and recruitment, and technical news and trends.