Managing People

The Challenge of Employee Engagement in a Changing Workforce

By Advanced Resources on December 1, 2017

Competitive companies have embraced the need to improve engagement with talent because better employee engagement means better organizational productivity—by an unrivaled 202%. However, the rules of employee engagement are once again changing as the norms and nature of the workforce are changing. What’s the biggest driver of this change? The rise of the flexible workforce.

The Changing Workforce

An increasing number of workers are opting for non-traditional means of employment such as temporary or contract work, as opposed to traditional permanent work. To illustrate, a study by Intuit shows that the “gig economy” is now estimated to be about 34% of the workforce and it’s expected to grow to 43% by the year 2020. Preempting this shift, from 2005 to 2015, survey research shows that the proportion of American workers in what they refer to as “alternative work” jumped from 10.7% to 15.8%.

Here’s the question: if employee engagement is critical to your company’s success and a portion of your employees are “flexible” or “temporary,” how can you create an engaged workforce?

Today, we’re exploring the challenge of employee engagement at the intersection of temporary employment.

Engaging Your Temporary Employees: Why It's Important

Employee engagement has been an important topic for a couple of years and here at Advanced Resources and we’ve explored it in multiple forums. Employee engagement is defined in many ways but essentially, engaged employees are those who have passion, commitment and their own willingness to work hard within your organization.

The body of research on employee engagement continues to expand. In the most recent State of the American Workplace report, Gallup shared that only 33% of the American workforce is engaged. Gallup also reported that an engaged organization can lead to up to 18% higher revenue per employee, making an undeniable business case for the importance of having an employee engagement strategy.

Having an employee engagement mentality towards your contingent staff is important. First, most companies who use temporary staff are looking for immediate results. Managers often don’t have time or resources to provide extensive training for temporary employees and they rely on the staffing agency to provide qualified and skilled talent that can be productive from the beginning. You want that talent to have the tools and resources they need so they can provide the results you require, and you want them to feel good about your organization and the overall experience so that they consciously put their best work forward.

Second, engagement is important for word of mouth. Your company’s reputation is an essential asset in acquiring and retaining customers and your reputation has a strong impact on your ability to attract and retain talent as well. Social media amplifies the importance of “word of mouth” when it comes to your employer brand.

If a portion of your workforce is temporary, what experience and engagement are you creating with them? What would your temporary employees say about your organization on sites like Glassdoor or Yelp? Engaged employees – flexible or full time – are likely to spread the word. Unfortunately, so are unengaged employees.

Finally, your customers matter. If you’re using temporary employees and they’re providing service or products to your customers on your behalf, you want those temporary employees to be engaged. A customer doesn’t know or care whether or not they’re talking to a temporary or full-time employee. They just want their needs met and they want a great experience. Engaged employees are more likely to do just that.

Engaging Temporary Employees: The Challenge

Typically, the employee engagement equation has two variables: the employer and the employee. When we’re talking about temporary employees however, the employee engagement equation now has a third variable: the staffing firm.

Challenge of Employee Engagement

Add in a shorter-term work period, and employee engagement for temporary workers quickly becomes even more complex. For instance, a temporary employee does not officially work for your company; they work for their staffing agency. The staffing agency is the employer of record, an important distinction when it comes to protecting your company from the risks of co-employment. The staffing agency needs to clearly be the employer, which can complicate actions such as giving performance feedback, establishing compensation, and providing day-to-day direction. The challenge is, how can you build engagement with a temporary employee if you can’t manage them the same way you manage your own staff?

While the most influential aspects of employee engagement happen on the job, every day, all of the steps leading up to employment (recruiting, interviewing, assessment, etc.) are taking place with the staffing agency. These pre-employment steps are important in providing experiences that build employee engagement, but they are out of your control. Another challenge is, how can you be sure the temporary employee is having engagement-building experiences before they come to your company?

These are just two examples of the challenges you might find at the intersection of employee engagement and using temporary staff. At Advanced Resources, we think about engagement for our temporary employees using the same 12 questions Gallup uses in the employee engagement surveys. When you start to think about these questions from the perspective of a temporary employee, you can see how challenging engagement can become:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is imporant?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

Discover the path to a successful flexible workforce. View The Flexible Workforce, A Guide to Creating a Fast, Nimble Team.

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