Talent Strategies for Employing Contractors & External Workers - An Interview with SHRM's Trent Burner and Liz Supinski #SHRM19



External and contingent workforce issues were a “hot topic” at #SHRMTalent. Following that trend, I recently chatted with Trent Burner, SHRM’s Vice President of Research and Liz Supinski, SHRM’s Director of Data Science about their upcoming presentation at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition. Here are some highlights and reasons why HR Professionals may want to attend the session Talent Strategies for Employing Contractors and External Workers on Tuesday, June 25 at 10:45 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.

What are two to three take-aways you expect to provide attendees?  

  • External work is here to stay. Organizations which don’t make strategic choices around this workforce are leaving opportunity on the table.
  • Managers and HR often have incomplete understanding of the interests and motivations of external workers, and thus miss opportunities, some of them easy, to maximize the value of their external workers.

The legal environment around external workers is complicated, but there are many ways to work within the restrictions to maximize outcomes for organizations and external workers.

Why are these issues important in today’s workplace? 

This is an issue impacting employers and workers, alike. Recent studies have suggested that 29 percent of the U.S. working population are regularly engaged as an external worker and 36 percent have an external arrangement, such as part time engagement. Approximately 44 percent of workforce spend is on the external workforce. And 65 percent of executives say external workers are critical to the organization’s ability to work at full capacity and meet demands. Those numbers are expected to increase. From an economic perspective, with a 3.8 percent unemployment rate, it may take organizations longer to fill vacant positions. Using external workers in the interim can be a sound business strategy.

What is the practical application for HR professionals? 

Larger organizations often have a procurement department that acquires external workers. That same department acquires pens and paperclips. So, do we treat external workers like a commodity? In small to mid-organizations, they often do not have a stand-alone procurement department. So, whether in a small or large organization, HR needs to talk to the C-Suite about how to treat external workers as workers, not widgets. For example:

  • How do we decide which jobs to outsource? 
  • When should they be outsourced?
  • From where?
  • How do we positively engage external workers?
  • How do we onboard and offboard them?
  • And, throughout all of that, how do we avoid legal liability for worker misclassification?

What unique perspective do you bring to this topic?

This is the first piece of broadly integrated research that looks at various points of few. Our collaboration with SAP SuccessFactors on this project has allowed us to reach organizations of all sizes, industries and levels of maturity in their use of external workers to really get a broad understanding of the opportunities and challenges that the external workforce present.

What else would you like attendees to know about your session?

During the conference, we will be able to start sharing some concrete recommendations regarding what HR professionals can do right now in the acquisition and management of external talent. We will share practical guidance on how to expand HR’s strategic role in this area. Another dimension to the project is to reconsider how we think about external workers. Some may think temporary workers are those who cannot find “real” or better jobs. That may be a trap into which our thinking falls. There is a large group of workers who are doing this by choice to provide greater work/life integration, because they are able to make more money as an external worker or because they enjoy the variety of different assignments–or all of these reasons! Looking at the issue from a broader and varied perspective provides us, as HR professionals and as managers, a wider set of options for using external workers in a way that benefits our organizations, our employees, and external workers themselves.



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