By: Sara Jensen, VP of Business Development

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We hired an SQL specialist recently. While the rest of our team focused on a technology upgrade, he conducted critical data management work. With extensive experience in the space, he knocked out several projects in his first few weeks. Truly, we couldn’t have asked for more.

What might surprise you is that he wasn’t staff. He was a contingent worker.

For years, companies only hired contingent workers for low-value work like administrative support, back-filling for leaves of absence, or light general labor. But as we all know, that’s begun to change. Upwork and the Freelancers Union conducted a survey recently that found that 36 % of the U.S. freelanced in 2017, and more than half are expected to be freelancing by 2027.

Statistically speaking, half of your workforce will be contingent in less than a decade. Have you considered what roles those workers will fill on your team? The next time one of the following positions opens up at your firm, consider a contingent worker:

1. Highly technical positions

Imagine if we’d tried to hire a full-time SQL developer. We might have been recruiting for months, and, assuming we found someone, we probably would’ve broken our labor budget to hire her.

Contingent workers allow companies that don’t currently have technical skills on staff to bring them on in a lower-cost way. Contingent web developers, data scientists, and systems administrators are easier to find and can be paid on a per-project basis. Being open to remote workers will enable you to broaden your search while saving desk space and other resources.

2. Roles where you’re struggling to find the right fit

Whether the position is notoriously hard to retain or you’re committed to finding the perfect person to fill it, consider contingent workers for a ‘temp to hire’ model. That way, you can make sure your hire has the right skills and temperament to succeed before investing in him in a big way. The worst thing that can happen is that you release the worker from his contract and try again.

3. Creative roles

Many companies turn to their marketers to tackle creative tasks. If you have open bandwidth on your marketing team, that’s great. But if there are holes in your current team’s skills, a contingent worker or two can fill them. Whether it’s graphic design, audio production, writing, or something else entirely, freelance creatives can take on the same work as their full-time peers for a fraction of the price. Plus, if you establish a relationship with a freelancer, you can continue working with her as projects come up, which benefits both of you.

4. Customer service management

Traditionally, customer service has been handled in-house. But companies are finding that contingent workers are great supplements to their permanent service staff during peak seasons. For those worried that the service provided by contingent workers won’t be up to par, there’s ample evidence that contingent team members are even better workers than traditional employees. And remember, contingent customer service personnel can work anywhere they have access to an internet connection.

5. Seasonal hires and interns

If your company hires interns or seasonal workers, it already employs contingent workers. When the season ends, you can offboard these workers just as easily as you onboarded them. They move on to other projects while your company saves on staffing costs.

Next season, consider hiring these contingent roles through an employer of record. If a worker employed through an EOR applies for unemployment, it affects the EOR’s unemployment rating and not the company’s. Plus, if you decide to extend benefits to a contingent hire, your EOR partner will administer those, too.

How, ultimately, can you know if it’s time to bring in contingent workers? Consider your company’s strategic objectives. Break them down into specific tasks to be done. Can these be handled by your internal team, given their existing workload? If not, could contingent workers skilled in those particular areas tackle them instead? Remember to bring HR into the picture early to get its take.

Don’t box yourself into a full-time worker whenever you have a skill shortage. There’s no reason any of the five roles above can’t be broken into bite-sized jobs, and you might be able to think of others that contingent workers can complete with ease. It can take some trial and error, but once you learn how to hire and manage them, contingent workers won’t let you down.

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Sara Jensen is the Vice President of Business Development at Innovative Employee Solutions – Prior to joining IES in 2011, Sara served as director of distinguished events for the American Cancer Society. She also worked as a development resource specialist for the San Diego branch of nonprofit Social Advocates for Youth. A Washington native, Sara earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Western Washington University.

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