Over the past year, we’ve witnessed a major shift in awareness around diversity and inclusion within the workplace. However, while many organizations have focused on D&I efforts with their full-time employees, far less have considered the importance of diversity within their contingent workforce. As a result, barriers to contingent diversity and inclusion initiatives remain. In order to overcome these challenges, we’re examining the business case for improving diversity and inclusion among your contingent workforce and how to go about implementing these important initiatives.
According to the American Staffing Association, workplace diversity is defined as the range of attributes and experiences that a person brings to the workplace. Once used to refer to visible characteristics such as gender, race, or age, the definition of diversity has expanded to include other characteristics like national origin, language, ethnicity, disability, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status and more. Diversity also considers difference in thought and life experience such as where someone is from and where they’ve lived.
Inclusion, on the other hand, goes beyond the individual to workplace culture as a whole and the behaviors that shape an organization. An inclusive culture is one that encourages collaboration and fairness, and leverages diversity so that employees can participate and contribute to their full potential. Inclusion can be measured in the workplace by tracking metrics such as access to mentorship and career advancement, measuring employees feeling of belonging, and counting incidents of micro-aggressions or harassment.
When thinking about diversity and inclusion together, a recent report by SIA in collaboration with the organization Consciously Unbiased and HireTalent put it best. “Diversity,” the report noted, “is the mix of people, whereas inclusion is getting the mix to work together.”
Until recently, contingent workforce diversity was largely overlooked. Now, thanks to the social unrest and cultural changes that have taken place in the past year, more businesses are recognizing the importance of a diverse and inclusive contingent workforce. According to The Future of Diversity & Inclusion in the Contingent Workforce report, 63% of respondents to the SIA and Consciously Unbiased survey expect contingent D&I to become a higher priority due to the recent social upheaval.
So, how do you bring more diversity and inclusion into your contingent workforce? Let’s examine some of the key steps suggested in the report and how you can implement them for your organization.
In order for your diversity and inclusion efforts to be successful, getting company leadership on board is a crucial first step. And getting senior-level support starts with building a clear business case for D&I in the contingent workforce. While previous studies have helped make the business case for D&I among full-time employees, the report showed that contingent D&I leaders (those whose contingent workforce diversity and inclusion practices are considered leading edge) outperformed laggards (those labeled as behind in contingent D&I efforts) in key areas. The study also found that D&I leaders reported a 24% higher ROI for their contingent labor and saw D&I improve their ability to attract and retain skilled temporary talent. With minorities predicted to be the majority in the US according to 2045 Census projections, companies not building D&I into their entire workforce now will be less competitive in the future.
While building the business case for D&I efforts in your contingent workforce is important, it’s not the only way to build executive-level support in your organization. Try to engage leadership on an emotional and moral level and make the case that increasing D&I efforts among your contingent workforce isn’t just good for business, it’s the right thing to do. It’s also helpful to find allies and partners within the organization who feel the same way and can help you spread the word about D&I efforts to key stakeholders.
You’ve got the support of leadership and you’re now ready to move forward with D&I initiatives in your contingent workforce. But to ensure your efforts are really improving D&I, you’ll need to measure the impact. When tracking D&I metrics, it’s important to go beyond the basics. The SIA and Consciously Unbiased report found that D&I leaders tracked diversity-specific metrics like the number of diverse candidates in the applicant pool, the ratio of diverse candidates hired, and staffing supplier outreach to diverse talent sources. This data can then be compared to industry benchmarks and best practices as well as company-specific goals.
Another helpful way to measure the impact of your diversity and inclusion efforts is to survey your contingent employees and gather their feedback. Do they feel their voices are being heard? Do they have the tools and support they need to succeed? Would they consider the organization to be diverse and inclusive? And if not, how can your organization improve? Data on diversity and insights on inclusion among your contingent workforce will allow you to determine the impact of your efforts and adjust your D&I initiatives as needed.
Creating a diverse and inclusive contingent workforce won’t happen overnight, and D&I initiatives won’t grow and succeed without continued investment and effort. That’s why it’s necessary to think long-term when establishing your D&I infrastructure and laying out your goals. In order to help contingent D&I thrive in the future, consider implementing the following:
If your organization wants to compete for the best talent, you need a workforce that reflects the diversity of the world we live in and a work culture that allows everyone to grow and thrive. That’s why improving diversity and inclusion in your contingent workforce and implementing D&I initiatives are key to building a successful future for your organization.
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