Skip to main content

should your employer brand treat contractors differently?

Contract workers aren’t different — they’re the same. By which we mean they are no more or less different than other talent segments, and so deserve to be treated in the same way.

As an ever-growing, and ever more influential part of the global workforce, many organizations are considering how to build and maintain long-lasting relationships with this transient population. A successful strategy doesn’t come from treating your contingent or freelance populations differently from the permanent workforce, but rather treating them separately when it comes to employer brand.

The motivations that drive the work, and the expected outputs, remain much the same when building brand relationships with a contractor or a permanent member of your staff. You’re looking to inspire discretionary effort, loyalty, willingness to stay/return and a belief in the goals you’re working towards. Whether someone joins the business for 10 years or 10 weeks, this should be your goal.

But what we need to recognize is that this is a distinctive group of workers — with many overlapping drivers and motivations — and they need to be considered as such. As with other smartly targeted segments of our potential audience, you need to consider what your company can offer that will appeal to contingent talent.

For years employer brand marketers have been doing this for skill sets or experience levels. Tailoring our messaging, our language or our style to reflect what will matter most to our target audience. Companies also use this strategy to attract a more diverse candidate pool, creating more inclusive messages for different genders, backgrounds, socioeconomic profiles and geographies.

In each of these cases, you can consider the individual elements of the employer value proposition (EVP) that most strongly align to what you know and understand is most likely to motivate that audience segment. You can dial them up or dial them down accordingly. This provides you with an approach that is highly configurable, but maintains consistency with the overall brand framework. It gives you the best of both worlds — something that can be owned locally, but is still 100% brand compliant and complementary.

This can be achieved by considering everything from the the content you share, or the channel it’s delivered by, to the process you ask a candidate to follow. The more you know about the audience you need to reach, the better able you are to create messages that will stick, engage and inspire action.

their growing influence means they should be treated the same way.

One of the reasons this issue is so important right now is that this slice of the global workforce is growing year on year, especially in the most advanced economies. Estimates from Upwork’s “Freelancing in America 2017” study place around 36% of the U.S. workforce as freelancers and, while different reports might come to different specific ratios, most are in agreement that more independent ways of working are on the rise. Randstad Sourceright’s own 2018 Talent Trends research also uncovers that 1 in 4 employers globally is expecting to shift more permanent roles to contingent positions this year.

Contingent talent is also growing in terms of economic contribution and clout, with the “Freelancing in America 2017” report estimating earnings for freelance workers in that year as being north of $1.4 trillion.

Technology is accelerating contingent talent growth. Challenges of the modern working world, such as the balance between professional and personal, the demand for new challenges or the ability to work outside of the office are all now relatively simple to deliver.

Different studies highlight different drivers for pursuing careers in non-permanent roles, from the potential for greater pay to the desire to find time for a hobby. A study by McKinsey even reminds us that not all such choices are really choices at all. There is no one decision to be made when considering the move. Indeed, increasing numbers of individuals in the workforce may never have had a permanent role — beginning and continuing with contractor roles. They are not a single, homogeneous entity in the same way that smart businesses understand one single approach cannot effectively position a business with all women or every Java developer. There are commonalities and crossovers of course, but there is also a need to segment further, to delve deeper.

This complexity, combined with the increasing influence of the non-permanent workforce, make it imperative to form a key part of every stage of the employer brand journey — from concept through to delivery and ongoing management.

treating everyone the same means everyone is treated individually.

With talent scarcity a looming concern across industries and geographies, organizations need brands that can resonate with every qualified candidate. Not every job seeker will be right for you (thankfully), but you should aim to have your brand reach and engage them. To have something of interest to share with them. To provide something helpful or useful that, at the very least, leaves a good impression. The blurring of customer and candidate dividing lines makes this vital.

Candidates expect content and communications will be personalized. They want to hear about interesting things, but not necessarily things that are interesting to you — only those interesting things that are relevant to them.

With all this in mind, the argument about treating the contingent workforce differently is moot. All talent in your ecosystem should be treated with their interests in mind. Contingent talent gets no special treatment, because everyone gets special treatment.