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These Are the 3 Biggest Trends in Workforce Innovation

Keeping up with the changing world requires constant innovation — and this includes hiring. Evolving technology, the shifting generational makeup of the workforce, and a candidate-centric market[...]

February 18, 2020

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The Four Subject Matter Experts Your Contingent Workforce Team Needs

In a recent article for Inc. Magazine, Marissa Levin discussed the four areas of subject matter expertise that leaders must have on their boards. She astutely observed that 2017 gives every indication of producing a volatile and fluctuating environment that will impact businesses of all types, across all industries. Levin is the CEO of Successful Culture, a consultancy focused on organizational strategies, leadership development and enhancing corporate culture. Political, technological and regulatory “upheavals,” she noted, will require specialized insights in the boardroom. However, these transformations affect the contingent workforce space just as dramatically. Borrowing from her recommendations, let’s explore how contingent workforce program leaders can rise above the chaos and drive positive momentum by ensuring they have the same levels of expertise on their teams.

Big Challenges, Bold Leadership

“It's apparent that 2017 is no longer business as usual,” Levin writes. “Between Brexit and an unprecedented US election that has already delivered the reversal of significant trade policies and healthcare legislation, along with massive cyber-security breaches, business leaders must step up their vigilance across all aspects of their organizations.”

In fact, the National Association of Corporate Directors anticipates that the next five years will signal one of the “most challenging periods in the history of corporate governance.” With perspective, preparation and focus, contingent workforce leaders can turn any change into an opportunity.

Four Subject Matter Experts Required in 2017

Global Experience and Intelligence

Contingent workforce programs are spreading on a global scale. MSP/VMS engagements, for example, not only continue to grow, they continue to penetrate new and emerging markets overseas. In fact, they are now prevalent in all major staffing sectors around the world. This is evident in the ongoing rise of VMS and MSP providers at home and abroad. In 2014, for instance, the industry witnessed continued growth that covered all corners of the map: 23 percent for VMS and 19 percent for MSP.

Staffing Industry Analysts estimates the global contingent labor market’s worth at $3.154 trillion. Statement of Work (SOW) is by far the most lucrative opportunity for global staffing, and continues to expand.

global contingent labor spend.png

Last year, emerging contingent labor markets abroad promised even more opportunity and potential. Significant demands were anticipated in Asia/Pacific, South America and Middle East/Africa.

global cw growth.png

However, these regions now represent the global communities most impacted by new restrictions, immigration bans, proposed border taxes, heightened tariffs and other policies being introduced by the United States. As Bloomberg reported, CEOs from major organizations spoke out against newly imposed travel limitations that have already disrupted their operations and workers.

“Global employers from Google to General Electric Co. criticized Trump’s dictate on Friday shutting the door to nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -– including refugees, visiting scholars and permanent American residents who happened to be abroad for work or holidays.”

The Washington Post noted that Google, a sprawling worldwide tech innovator and jobs creator, found itself forced to recall nearly two hundred workers because of the anti-immigration mandates:

“Google chief executive Sundar Pichai late on Friday ordered scores of staffers traveling overseas to return to the United States immediately. Pichai sent out a company-wide memo that was highly critical of Trump’s action, saying it could prevent at least 187 foreign-born Google employees from entering the United States.”

The new U.S. administration also threatened China with a 45-percent tariff, as Forbes pointed out. Given that China is one of the fastest growth sectors for global contingent labor, the “border tax” initiative could complicate matters for contingent workforce leaders. The same obstacles arise in South America, another rapidly expanding contingent work region, with the threat of a 20-percent border tax.

Global expansion isn’t just changing the dynamics of business, it’s changing how business is done. Contingent workforce programs outside North America aren’t being deployed as cookie-cutter solutions; because of the unique talent needs and nuances of each country, they couldn’t succeed without conforming and transforming to accommodate tailored approaches. However, as Levin explains in her article, “Relationships that have remained stable for decades are now experiencing uncertainty.“

Contingent workforce leaders attempting to tap into global markets now confront additional layers of legal issues, tax changes and other possible hurdles. Success requires bringing aboard experts with global experience, regulatory knowledge and connections.

Regulatory Expertise

With the new U.S. cabinet came a slew of planned changes to regulations that directly influence the contingent workforce. Repealing the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, was a top priority during the presidential campaign. President Trump has already signed an order that compels federal agencies to dismantle key provisions of the law.

“The one-page order allows the head of the Department of Health and Human Services or any other agency with authority under the law, not to enforce regulations that impose a financial burden on a state, company or individual,” NPR reported.

The president seeks to encourage “the development of a free and open market in interstate commerce for the offering of healthcare services and health insurance, with the goal of achieving and preserving maximum options for patients and consumers.”

It remains uncertain what consequences this could have. Contingent workforce firms and their clients may benefit from the relaxation of strict mandates contained in the ACA. Workers could lose access to medical care, which would lead to increased illnesses, absences and disruptions in contingent workforce programs. The implementation of the ACA was a difficult and cumbersome undertaking in our industry. Removing and replacing it will be equally challenging. To minimize the confusion, contingent workforce leaders should prepare to have strong regulatory guidance beforehand.

The administration has also expressed a desire to curb “net neutrality,” a principle that advocates no restrictions by Internet service providers and governments on content, sites, platforms, types of integrated equipment and the modes of communication utilized by Internet users. In a net neutral model, all users with access to the Web essentially determine for themselves which content they can view or filter out. As it currently stands, the Internet operating model is mostly neutral. However, existing regulations ensuring equal access to all users and creators could effectively end.

As talent acquisition becomes increasingly more digital, contingent workforce leaders rely on the Internet to engage talent, interact with candidates, advertise employment brands and source the most skilled workers. If the Internet shifts toward a pay-to-play model, it is possible that their ads and inbound marketing content could become less accessible.

As CNN explains, “If net neutrality is walked back, an Internet service provider like Comcast could potentially allow its own video content to load faster than competing content on a service like Vimeo. Alternatively, it could force Vimeo to pay more to get its content into the Internet’s fast lane.”

Contingent workforce organizations with large budgets could benefit from having their marketing rank much higher than their competitors’ content. Meanwhile, smaller firms would lose visibility.

Recent employment legislation introduced by Obama may also be rolled back. In May, the government revised the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to make an additional 4.2 million employees eligible to receive overtime pay. Mr. Trump has argued against the revision, stating that increasing salaries to meet the $47,476 threshold will negatively impact small business owners. Again, some of the policies could bolster revenues for clients and contingent workforce leaders, or hinder productivity. Achieving the optimal solution and maintaining compliance with new legislation will require contingent workforce leaders to have regulatory experts on the team, who can navigate the new waters.

Cyber Security

According to Symantec’s 2016 Security Report, cyber security is the biggest risk to most organizations. Nearly 45 percent of all attacks target small- and mid-sized businesses. The average recovery cost is $36,000. The National Cyber Security Alliance discovered that 60 percent of the businesses affected had to shutter their operations within six months of a breach. This year, that could add up to 550,000 business failures.

It’s no secret that our industry relies heavily on technology, most of which contains sensitive candidate and client information. As we wrote this November, ensuring data security and ethicswill be paramount to success in 2017. Contingent workforce leaders, particularly those integrated with hiring platforms, must have cybersecurity experts involved in their operations.

  • Develop or refine onboarding processes to include training that covers the ethics of data use and handling.
  • Bring in internal or external legal experts to coach team members on the legal obligations and best practices for data processing, storage, analysis and distribution.
  • Ensure that all applicable contracts or agreements contain solid terms and conditions for data standards, and that related stakeholders are knowledgeable of them.
  • Work to promote a business culture for tech teams that encourages open, supportive communications; team members need to be comfortable discussing or identifying topics related to data ethics, and managers must be willing to engage in those dialogs by creating a safe, repercussion-free environment.


In her article, Levin emphasizes a point we champion regularly at Crowdstaffing: “It has never been more important to integrate different perspectives, experiences, and problem-solving approaches” that accurately represent an organization’s employee and customer base. contingent workforce leader should continue to fight for diversity, especially as big tech players still struggle with inclusion. And because some newly proposed policies could forgive certain levels of discrimination by removing protections, the staffing industry must continue to push for evolving diversity efforts.

Beyond implementing policies and procedures to strengthen diversity, I believe staffing firms and MSPs play a more critical role. They’re not just stewards of the underrepresented. As consultants outside the client’s organization, they’re ideally positioned to conquer the internal biases of business cultures that demand a “business case” to place qualified talent.

Each year, diversity is a hot topic, because the world is growing more diverse. For 2017, we must continue to champion an inclusive workforce regardless of politics, policies or accommodations. Starbucks, Levin illustrates, is taking bold steps to increase its advisory power for diversity by appointing to its board Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Lego Chairman Jørgen Vig Knudstorp – all advocates for inclusion. Contingent workforce leaders are already experts on this topic. Diversity is one of the cornerstones of their success. And right now, they can translate that mastery to help clients overcome new policies that could reshape how inclusion efforts play out.

We have written extensively on the strategies, processes and leadership needed to help clients thrive through diversity. We encourage you to explore all of these ideas on our blog.

Bracing for Change, Pushing for Success

Over the course of one week in the United States, a flurry of political activity has led to almost a dozen executive orders being signed. They impact workforce regulations, global business dealings, diversity and digital security. More than ever, forming a dedicated advisory team could be an essential strategy for success as more shifts loom on the horizon. The leaders most likely to prevail and fuel the growth of the future will bring expanding skill sets, knowledge, contacts and accountability into the fold.

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