“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker

Diversity and inclusion (D&I) has never been more of a priority for business as it is today. It is common practice to have a team of people internally reviewing and constantly evolving how senior leaders can further embed a positive D&I culture into their workforce.

This is now expected by employees and by decision-makers when choosing which vendors to work with.

The contingent piece of the puzzle

Where do contractors fit into the D&I picture of the modern-day workforce?

Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA) recently reported that one in five workers are engaged by large businesses globally on a contingent basis, due to chronic talent shortages (1).

In another survey (2), 64% of leaders believe that D&I efforts must be prioritised for employees, while only 26% believe so when it comes to contingent workers. Sadly, these numbers don’t add up in favour of the contingent workforce, despite its strength in numbers.

The case for diversity and inclusion in the contingent workforce

The value to an organisation of prioritising diversity and inclusion within a contingent workforce is clear. In the SIA’s research into diversity and inclusion globally, D&I “leader” organisations consistently outperformed “laggards” across the spectrum of business outcomes. Companies leading the way in D&I felt that their contingent talent provided them with a competitive edge in the market and they were getting a high ROI with contingent workers (1).

Furthermore, there is evidence of an increased level of engagement from teams with diverse hires and talent. Data-driven reports show that members of gender-balanced teams feel significantly safer, more included and therefore, become more productive and engaged (3).

The downstream impact is that productive and engaged contingent talent can have a high impact on a business quickly. They are also more likely to extend to complete a project, if required.

How COVID-19 has changed up the playing field

For the first time in history, most of the global workforce can work online and keep the economy going amidst a global pandemic. This opens businesses up to more talent and presents new opportunities for skilled professionals with remote and flexible work arrangements.

Recruiters and employers now have access to a larger pool of new and diverse candidates. The need to cultivate a culture of belonging and empowerment in which current and future hires can express ideas to unlock innovations and solutions is urgent (3).

Blockers to diversity and inclusion growth

A strong D&I culture in a business, especially a large one, doesn’t happen overnight. However, research shows two clear roadblocks to cultivating an environment that everyone feels welcome at work:

  1. When there is little-to-no corporate mandate from the top to drive forward D&I initiatives, this area of an organisation’s culture inevitably flounders. 60% of the D&I “laggards” in SIA’s The Future of Diversity survey report were lacking a corporate mandate.
  2. Lack of KPIs takes away the urgency, motivation and accountability of evolving into a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Interestingly, “Leader” organisations in the same report are 17x more likely to be satisfied with their organisation’s measurement of diversity.

The road to a more diverse contingent workforce

The case for D&I initiatives within a contingent workforce is compelling. Furthermore, 63% of survey respondents to SIA’s Staffing Trends survey (2021) expect organisations to prioritise D&I efforts for contingent workers in the future.

What are the important steps to ensure it happens?

  1. Diversity Council Australia is an association that Entity Solutions, a People2.0 Company, is a proud member of. It provides useful resources, insights, and events to support businesses committed to best practices in D&I. There are many similar organisations leading the change in Asia Pacific, such as Council for Board Diversity in Singapore and Diversity Works NZ.
  2. With leadership support, we highly encourage a diversity taskforce comprised of a multi-functional team from across the business. This creates a sense of ownership from a cross-section of the company and brings together different views and ideas. With regular check-ins with the C-suite and a measurable set of objectives (refer to the roadblocks previously mentioned!), initiatives are more likely to succeed.
  3. Ensure candidates and suppliers are representatives, where possible. A review of your supply chains and hiring processes may be required to bring in candidates from all walks of life, as unconscious bias is ever-present in the workplace. Supply Nation is a useful resource for those in Australia with its growing database of indigenous business owners and service providers. The strong presence of recruitment advisors and agencies might be relevant to businesses reviewing both their suppliers and candidates.

Research sources: 
(1) The Future of Diversity and Inclusion in the Contingent Workforce, SIA
(2) SIA Staffing Trends 2021
(3) The Future of Recruiting – Asia-Pacific, LinkedIn