Contingent Staffing 101

What Is Contingent Staffing and When Should You Use It? (Plus Tips for Success)

Learn all about contingent staffing and when to use it, and discover five top tips for managing a contingent workforce in this article.

What Is Contingent Staffing and When Should You Use It? (Plus Tips for Success)


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As a business leader navigating the workforce management landscape, you likely already understand the importance of talent acquisition. But if you need flexible and agile access to expertise, you may be considering whether contingent staffing is right for your organization.

In this article, we’ll delve into this strategic approach to give you a better idea of how it works and when and how to use it for maximum impact. From flexibility to access to a wide talent market, discover why contingent workforce solutions might just be the game-changer your business needs.

What Is Contingent Staffing?

Contingent staffing, also known as flexible staffing or temporary staffing, refers to the practice of hiring workers on a non-permanent basis to fulfill specific business needs. In this model, businesses typically use agencies or platforms that specialize in contingent staffing to find workers who can meet their immediate requirements.

More and more companies are using contingent staffing in combination with in-house employees to improve operational and cost efficiency and gain access to a wide labor pool of specialized talent on demand.

Contingent workforce staffing solutions are becoming the preferred choice among many serious players within industries like retail and hospitality.

Contingent workers can include:

  • Consultants
  • Temporary workers
  • Independent contractors
  • Gig economy workers such as freelancers

Unlike permanent full-time workers, contingent workers are brought in for a defined period or project. This helps businesses achieve greater flexibility and scalability.

Typically, a contingent worker’s contract begins and ends with a specific project or is based on seasonal demands and the evolving needs of a company.

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When Should You Use Contingent Staffing?

Contingent staffing may seem like a great business approach, but when is the opportune moment to deploy this flexible workforce solution?

Let’s explore scenarios where contingent staffing can be a strategic move for businesses seeking to optimize their operational efficiency:

You need workers for project-based initiatives

Contingent staffing can be particularly beneficial if your company undertakes short-term projects, particularly if they require niche skills or domain expertise.

With the help of a temporary employment agency, you can tap into a large talent pool of contingent workers who have specialized knowledge not available in your company.

Whether you need more support in your IT development, marketing campaigns, or regulatory compliance projects, contingent staffing can help your business without requiring long-term commitments. This enables you to complete projects faster and with better results.

You have seasonal demand variations

If you experience seasonal fluctuations in demand, you can use contingent staffing to scale your core workforce up or down as needed. Whether you need to manage increased customer traffic during peak seasons or handle inventory surges, contingent workers offer this flexibility.

You need a short-term solution to fill talent gaps

If you need to fill in temporary skill gaps caused by employee absences, such as maternity leave, sabbaticals, or extended periods of illness, hiring contingent staff can be a simple solution.

5 Tips and Best Practices for Managing a Contingent Workforce

Managing a contingent workforce requires a strategic yet holistic approach to ensure productivity, compliance, and integration. Here are five essential tips for optimizing the performance and contributions of contingent workers:

1. Integrate contingent workers into teams

Break down silos by encouraging open communication and regular contact among full-time employees and contingent workers. To achieve this, establish clear roles and responsibilities for each team member on dedicated channels, outlining expectations and deliverables.

Here are a few ways of integrating contingent workers into your current team successfully:

  • Consider assigning a dedicated team lead or project manager to coordinate tasks.
  • Facilitate knowledge-sharing sessions where contingent workers can share their expertise, while permanent employees can mentor and guide them.
  • Use collaboration tools and platforms such as project management software, communication apps, and virtual meeting platforms. Tools like Slack, Trello, or Microsoft Teams can enhance communication.

2. Manage workers’ performance

Track the progress and achievements of contingent workers. Set clear performance expectations, provide regular feedback, and recognize their contributions to maintain motivation and accountability.

Use tools like Mirro, a performance management platform, to track specific goals and metrics. Offer feedback and recognition through regular check-ins, performance reviews, or virtual meetings with Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

3. Follow compliance and legal regulations

To mitigate legal risks, ensure you properly classify contingent workers’ status as contractors, temporary workers, freelancers, or consultants. Additionally, you must take steps to understand and adhere to labor and tax laws.

In addition to quickly sourcing best-fit candidates and enabling you to take advantage of recruitment cost savings, a contingent staffing agency can prove invaluable in helping you navigate and adhere to laws related to contingent workers.

4. Conduct training and development programs

Provide access to relevant resources, tools, and company-specific training programs to your temporary staff. This will help them understand and adapt to the company culture, as well as stick to procedures and guidelines.

5. Use performance metrics and KPIs

Define key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to measure the performance and impact of contingent workers. Track metrics such as productivity, quality of work, and project outcomes in your performance reviews.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How are contingent workers different from regular employees?

Contingent workers are hired on a temporary or contractual basis to fulfill specific roles or projects within an organization, whereas traditional employees are the permanent staff of a company and have long-term responsibilities.

What is the difference between a contingent worker and an independent contractor?

An independent contractor is a self-employed worker who works with one or more clients on either a project or long-term basis.

A contingent worker, on the other hand, can be hired through an agency or staffing firm to work on a temporary or project basis. Some contingent workers are independent contractors, but they can also fall into other classifications, such as temporary contingent employees.

It is critical to clarify the classification of contingent workers to avoid legal risks and ensure a successful working relationship.

What are two examples of contingent work?

Contingent staff are often hired for short-term projects or to cover employee absences. For example, a marketing agency may hire a freelance graphic designer to work on a specific client project for three months. 

Another example would be a manufacturing company recruiting contingent workers with specialized skills to assemble a new product line alongside its internal team.

Final Thoughts

Contingent staffing can be an effective and cost-efficient solution when you have a temporary need for specialized skills or project-based support. If you’re considering implementing this flexible staffing model, keep the following key points in mind:

  • Clear communication fosters teamwork. Effective contingent workforce management, an open-door policy, and a smooth transition for your contingent workforce all help ensure this approach will contribute to your company's goals.
  • Performance management drives accountability. KPIs enable you to monitor the success of contingent workers, so make sure to communicate and implement a performance management system from the get-go for the best results.
  • Training and development empower growth. Supporting your temporary workers with the right tools, procedures, guidelines, and leadership helps them find their place in your organization fast so that they can start delivering and filling the skills gap.

You can take the next step by learning more about the process of contingent recruiting, including its benefits and challenges.

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