“The gig economy is here to stay. What needs to change is how we manage it.”
In a 2020 Census survey of businesses, 33% of companies reported using contingent workers. Among S&P 500 companies the number jumps to 89%. If you work in the information technology space you’re not the least bit surprised. Between the specialized skill sets and the need to scale quickly, outsourcing tech services is pretty much the bread and butter of the industry.
Equally unsurprising – but more concerning – is that 84% said they had reservations about their use of contingent staff. Some are things you’d expect, like having less oversight and control, high churn rates and endlessly having to bring new people up to speed on basic, procedural stuff. But much of their apprehension centers around those intangible qualities that employers value highly in their staff: focus; motivation; loyalty; taking ownership of a project and performing above and beyond. Is that even possible with contract employees?
I think it is. But what it requires is rethinking how we view contingent workers – and how we treat them. It’s really a question of enhancing the overall experience of contract employees in ways that encourage them to perform at their best.
Contingent is not just another word for ‘temporary.’
What we’ve tried to do here at Nascient is create an experience for our team members that’s on par with the experience our clients’ full-time employees have. This isn’t to suggest we blur the distinction between employees and contractors. (Employment law is pretty clear on that front.) But, it’s important to remember contingent workers aren’t any less essential; they can play just as vital a role in IT projects as full-time employees.
When I was first starting out, I worked for years as a contractor. I went through the typical contingent employee experience and I felt the pain of, say, not having health insurance or wondering what happens when this contract ends? I’ve also seen how that uncertainty can have an effect on how hard some contingent staff might be working or how committed they are to a project.
What I’ve come to realize is that when you take good care of people, then they’ll take good care of you — which means they’ll do good work for your clients, and everybody’s happy. We’ve tried to create an environment where people feel supported. They feel looked after because they are. We provide health insurance. We offer PTO and paid holidays. We give people annual reviews and merit pay increases. Consequently, we have an amazing group of people who’ve been with us for years and a great energy that comes from people who feel supported and know that their work is appreciated.
It’s not about adding staff. It’s about finding solutions.
It’s important to understand that while we can function like a staffing agency in some scenarios for some projects, that’s not what we are. Nascient Networks is a service provider, and our services are performed by people that we care about; people that, if we put them on the team, then we’re going to look after them and do our best to keep them with us for a long time.
With the staffing agency model, the focus is almost exclusively short-term. At Nascient, we’re trying to create a long-term solution for clients whose projects never end – and for bright IT professionals looking for a home base. If you’re a scaling company and you’re just coming out the gate and you have years of growth ahead of you, you’re going to need a lot of support. So why do the churn and burn and create a workforce that sits sort of on the side and is always resetting and restarting? Why not instead create a contingency work force that’s a real partner that can really support you and help you grow long term?
People are important. They’re not just workers, not just parts of a machine. And when you understand that, you’re a whole lot closer to answering all those reservations businesses say they have about hiring contingent workers, as well as the concerns skilled engineers and project managers have about signing on for a client project.