The importance of good relations with your contingent workforce is about more than the opportunity to retain talent within your business. The transient nature of their work means contractors tend to be very active networkers, promoting every engagement to confirm their marketability and their skills. This presents an opportunity for increased exposure of your business and reputation to an extensive list of industry peers and colleagues.

Australia’s 2014 IPro Index confirms yet again that Australia’s white collar contractors (Independent Professionals or IPros) are enthusiastic, immersed and happy at work. More than eight in ten IPros say they are generally satisfied with the kind of work they do, are very satisfied working as an IPro, are enthusiastic about their job and feel immersed in their work. Nine in ten say they are proud of the work they do. Almost all (97 percent) believe they can usually handle whatever comes their way, feel prepared for most of the demands in their job, and are confident they can usually find several solutions when confronted with a problem. They also remain calm when facing difficulties in their job.

It’s a picture that points to a strong work ethic and suggests there is much to gain for employers from an IPro’s positive influence in the workplace. While the attitudinal benefits have been widely explored by the IPro Index in previous years, the 2014 study highlights an unexpected new area of potential employer benefit from IPro engagements – reputation enhancement.

Here’s how it works

We’ve long known that IPros are good at networking. They have to be if they want to keep their name top of mind for the next contract. Many use industry events such as conferences and seminars, or get involved with user groups and professional associations. They seek out opportunities to interact with peers and potential employers, and promote every engagement to confirm their marketability and their skills.

Therefore, it’s not surprising IPros are also heavy and proficient users of social networks. LinkedIn is their preferred online platform, used by almost nine in ten IPros. Eight in ten use it to keep in contact with others or to obtain work. Six in ten use the network to keep up to date or to build their business or brand profile. While most of the activity occurs through each IPro’s own LinkedIn profile, there is also a strong emphasis on following others.

So whenever you engage an IPro, it’s highly likely they will mention your company and the nature of the engagement in their LinkedIn profile, and during discussions with their connections. Given the work they put into networking, this can mean exposure to an extensive list of industry peers and colleagues.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Fortunately, six years’ worth of IPro Index data confirms Australia’s independent contractors largely hold a very upbeat view of their employers. One in two IPros say their current client organisation has a great deal of personal meaning to them and they would be happy to spend the rest of their career working for the organisation. One in two also feel as if their current client organisation’s problems are their own.

Research shows IPros readily commit to organisations that value their contributions. They respond best to employers who care about their wellbeing and who honour their promises. They tend to remain loyal to the client until an engagement comes to an end and their value diminishes.

Providing nothing untoward occurs with a client, this attitude of close partnership should ensure any mention of your organisation on social networks remains positive. After all, IPros want to use the information they post to market themselves. They’ll be doing their best to build a very successful story about each engagement, and this is where there is an opportunity for mutual benefit.

How to help their narrative

While no one is suggesting you should engage an IPro in the hope of raising your business profile, it is certainly worth considering the spin-off benefits that a contractor can offer. By keeping your organisation’s name out there, they help increase awareness of your business and can add to your attractiveness as an employer.

That’s why it pays to keep your IPros informed, involved and interested. Rather than treating them as a bystander, make them feel part of the team for the duration of their engagement, by inviting them to join meetings and social activities. Clearly detail your expectations of the engagement and give them praise when they deserve it.