Onboarding Contingent Workers: Challenges and Solutions

As the number of contingent workers grows, so does the importance of adopting a contingent workforce identity management system

Peter Parks
Peter Parks

With every passing year, the global workforce becomes increasingly contingent. According to a recent study cited by HRO Today, 27 percent of an average organization’s workforce is expected to be contingent by 2015. As this number grows, so does the importance of adopting a contingent workforce identity management system.

At one time, onboarding a contingent worker was considered a peripheral task, usually handled on a case-by-case basis by whichever team was managing the resource. As the proportion of contingent workers grows, it caught the attention of internal auditors who found inconsistencies in process and noncompliance with important company policies. Executives took notice and are demanding a remedy.

Standardizing the Onboarding Process

The solution is to define a standard process that all contingent resources must follow, along with the controls necessary to ensure that everyone follows it. This process must account for the varying nature of assignments and that not all resources need identical onboarding. A significant challenge companies face is that resources come in from many different suppliers, and implementing a standard process means interacting with each individual supplier, ensuring they understand the process and monitoring their compliance. Add to this the fact that new suppliers can be added at any time and you have a big job on your hands.

Given the nature of contingent labor, the onboarding process needs to be different from your process for full-time equivalents (FTEs), as it likely requires more time and resources. The contingent workforce is a more fluid population—more workers coming in and out of the organization over time means businesses are more frequently onboarding contingent workers than permanent workers. As the contingent workforce grows, onboarding frequency only increases.

Risks and Challenges

Failing to address this complexity with an adequate onboarding process, such as that provided by a contingent workforce identity management system, brings unnecessary risks and challenges to the business:

1. Poor Coordination

Companies of all sizes must juggle multiple suppliers, sometimes growing into the hundreds. Even with a well-documented process, disseminating the information to all parties—hiring managers, suppliers and sometimes a managed service provider (MSP)—and keeping it current can be a job unto itself. In some instances, new suppliers are added frequently and existing suppliers experience staff turnover. Your policies and documentation also undergo periodic updates. The coordination required is never-ending.

2. Short Lead Time and Turnover

By their very nature, contingent worker assignments are mostly temporary and exist to address issues that arise unexpectedly. This means a hiring manager often has limited time to get a resource on board. Complications with the sequence of onboarding tasks can cause further delay, such as requiring that a purchase order (PO) be issued before access can be granted. A slow approval process can leave a department without a much-needed resource. Some assignments are so short that companies find themselves commencing offboarding as soon as onboarding activities are complete, leaving managers to wonder whether it was even worth bringing in the outside help.

3. Lack of Documentation

Distributing paperwork to new contingent workers, and gathering completed forms and documents is an essential part of onboarding—driver’s licenses for contingent truck drivers, signed legal contracts for those working on customer premises and other important documentation need to be on file. Without gathering and filing the proper documents from contingent workers, businesses open themselves up to a slew of legal and financial liabilities. This often-overlooked component is one of the most common findings of failure in audits.

4. Offboarding and Deactivation

If your onboarding process frustrates hiring managers, contractors and suppliers, you can be at a disadvantage at offboarding time, too. A standardized offboarding process is just as important—hiring managers need to ensure that the worker’s access to all company systems and facilities are terminated, any equipment loaned for the assignment is retrieved (for both financial reasons and protection of sensitive company data), and any end-of-assignment documentation is signed and filed. A strong onboarding process makes it easier to tie up these loose ends upon completion of an assignment.

A Solution

The right contingent workforce identity management system can address these four problems and limit your risk through a variety of features built into the technology, providing your business with improved processes:

1. Optimal Coordination

A streamlined system can provide you with a single place to store and retrieve documentation, minimizing the time it takes to process paperwork. This makes it easier to coordinate with multiple suppliers and easily react to turnover among suppliers or your internal team, disseminating updates automatically.

2. Time and Resources Savings

Your technology should have the ability to schedule a sequence of onboarding events intelligently, providing you with a timeline that gets your contingent workers up and running as quickly as possible. You can schedule tasks to occur simultaneously and react to things such as short assignment duration. Integration with human resources (HR), facilities and asset management systems can ensure that access is granted only after critical tasks are complete. They can also help expedite the execution of these tasks, providing you with a more rapid and compliant onboarding process.

3. Comprehensive Documentation

Your contingent workforce identity management system should automate the process of sending documentation to suppliers and workers, collecting completed forms from them and filing the documents for easy future retrieval. An automated process saves time and minimizes user error, notifying employers of any missing documents before liabilities arise.

4. Effective Offboarding

A contingent workforce identity management solution can automatically trigger the offboarding process at the end of an assignment. Integrations to HR, facilities and network systems safeguard you by terminating access automatically. Notifications are sent to hiring managers and suppliers regarding assets (laptops, smart phones, tablets, badges) that must be retrieved, and payment can be withheld or docked to account for outstanding items.

Different businesses have different contingent workforce management needs, so it is critical that you take inventory of your onboarding pain points and evaluate the many features available to you through identity management systems based on your own needs. The contingent workforce identity management system you choose should remedy these four major challenges and risks, while also addressing any other challenges you may face in your unique onboarding processes. A high-quality identity management system can offer additional features that can provide even more benefits, so dig deep to discover everything the software can do for your business.

Peter Parks is chief operating officer at Provade, a provider of enterprise vendor management system (VMS) development for global contingent workforce spend management. Parks is a founding employee of Provade with over 15 years of staffing, MSP and VMS experience.

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