Building diversity and inclusion within your contingent workforce is imperative. We explore how to focus on strengthening your DE&I goals and strategies!

I live in the world of contract (temporary) labor, or what our fancy industry has deemed “contingent labor.”  One topic that continues to resonate and is at top of mind (and should always be), is that of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I). This is a critical topic if businesses and humanity want to succeed and is one that is near and dear to my heart. Over the years, I have concluded there are several ways to address this challenge within a contract labor program, and I am here to lay out a few of those options and present some of my thoughts on how we should be approaching this problem and address it moving forward. Below, I express my take on building diversity and inclusion in your contingent workforce.

A caveat for this piece, I am by no means an expert, just an inquisitive business leader who likes to ask questions and provoke thought.

Diversity and Inclusion: Addressing the Issue at Hand

First and foremost, for years companies have addressed this problem by working with diversity certified staffing firms (e.g. minority or woman -sometimes Veteran- owned businesses or MBE/WBE). Others chose to partner with a diversity certified MSP who manages all contingent labor spend for the end client.  This results in 100% of a company’s spend qualifying as diverse (but not always if you choose to “follow the dollar” and see where the economic benefit ultimately lands).

Both strategies are admirable and I believe the right intentions exist (as they do support Diverse businesses); however, is there a more effective way to make progress and really “move the needle,” invoke change, and ensure a truly diverse and inclusive talent pool?  Isn’t that what we are truly after?

Isn’t our goal to Change the World, not Check a Box? 

 

A New Approach to DE&I

My view is a bit different, instead of focusing on the spend flowing through your overall contract labor program (which is the strategy mentioned above), why not focus our time and effort on the makeup of the contractor population itself.  The actual diversity (or lack thereof) of the workers in your contingent labor program.

How do we make sure that population more closely resembles and reflects the demographics of your primary business locations, or that of our population in general? Now this can be considered a “risky” proposition by some and there are legal considerations to be aware of, so understanding what policies/strategies can be deployed from your legal teams and MSP partners will be of utmost importance.

So, what options do we have?

  • Do we create SLA’s specific to the diversity of the talent population that the suppliers must hit?
  • Do we set a “submission goal” based upon a certain percentage of diverse candidates being presented for each role?
  • What if a subset of your organization, say an engineering team already has a significantly diverse population of workers, should the goal for that subset be to identify non-diverse candidates?

Keep in mind, many of the thoughts above require candidate visibility and an “opt in” policy.  During an application process candidates cannot be forced to disclose, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. AND if information is collected, it must not be used during the selection process (nor be available to those involved in the selection process), but rather used for reporting after the candidate(s) are selected.

While the reporting is after selection, the data can be very useful to “tweak” the recruitment and marketing strategies to alter the talent pool and achieve a more diverse population.  Additionally, it is important to train those involved in the selection process to recognize bias and microaggressions that can make individuals feel not included (or even sometimes wanted) in an organization.

 

Your Contract Worker Population and The Need for Evaluation

One thing is for certain and should be implemented, and that is to consistently evaluate the current composition of your contract worker population. A current state view of the demographics within your contract worker population is an absolute must to establish a baseline and seek to improve where weaknesses are identified and ensure your workforce is reflective of the entirety of the population from where it’s garnered.  This may even be an opportunity for staffing companies working within formalized contingent workforce programs to utilize metrics, such as the 2020 US census as benchmarks for diversity within their own regions/communities.

At many organizations, direct employees (FTEs) get their first opportunity at employment via a temporary position. If we are highlighting and focusing on diversity in our contract labor programs and making sure it is important to us, we can then realize progress and impact the diversity of the direct worker population at a particular company.  If (and when) these contract workers are converted as direct workers, the focus then turns to the client’s DE&I goals and strategies, such as retention, promotions into leadership roles, DE&I scorecards, and nonobvious measures that can be leading indicators of DE&I success at a corporation.

 

Benefits of Monument Consulting’s DE&I Council

Beyond being the right thing to do, what can a business expect as a result of this focus? What’s the return? We all intellectually understand that strong diversity of thought within an organization is a key component to sustainable success as a business. One of the first places to look for that diversity of thought remains the composition of your workforce, including the contractor population.

Some of the benefits the Monument DE&I council has highlighted are as follows:

  • Diverse ways of thinking/different perspectives to bring to the table.
  • Diverse experiences that bring additional insights.
  • Employee/contractor satisfaction (having people around you that you can relate to in some way).
  • A greater pool of qualified candidates (if you are selecting from only one demographic, you could be missing out on the perfect fit for your company).
  • Positive company culture: when people have good experiences with a company (or bad) they share them with their personal and professional networks. This can be made up of old colleagues, friends, family, students at universities. The better their word of mouth, the better reflection on that company (or client) within their network.

 

Starting with An Internal Reflection

So, I return to the title of this article and ask, are we checking a box, or changing the world? Although I have zero qualms with clients employing the strategy of driving all spend through a diversity MSP, or diversity certified staffing supplier (as this can be a part of a broader DE&I strategy), I am not convinced this approach accomplishes our goals by leading to a more diverse, inclusive and equitable worker population.

Instead, I will continue to advocate by focusing on the individual contract workers and their composition as the primary motivation and the way to truly impact individuals and make the world a better place to live, work and thrive.

 

Managing Your Inclusive and Diverse Workforce with Monument

At Monument Consulting, we understand the importance of managing your contingent workforce in the most optimized and efficient manner, all while conforming to the DE&I standards. Therefore, our team uses vendor management systems to streamline our managed service provider services.

Additionally, we offer contingent workforce management consulting services to share our expertise with your staff on how to operate your contingent workforce at maximum efficiency. Our team at Monument will train your team how to operate with a VMS and help with your configuration evaluation, system integrations, and system enhancements to tailor the program to your industry and on-demand talent needs.

Are you looking to connect with Monument Consulting? Contact us today to ask about our contingent workforce consulting or managed service provider (MSP) services!

 

Author: Ryan Baker

Contributions by the Monument DE&I Council