The nature of work is changing rapidly, and contingent work arrangements are becoming a major part of the new employment landscape. Experts predict the global contingent workforce will have grown by over 50% in 2023 as companies rely more on flexible talent to fill skills gaps. While contingent work provides benefits like schedule flexibility, it also comes with challenges. Contingent workers often feel disconnected from full-time staff. This isolation could drive talented workers away if companies don't take steps to actively include them. The good news is that small changes to company culture and management practices can transform contingent worker relationships. With a little effort, organizations can make all workers, especially women and people of color who have historically faced exclusion, feel valued and integral to team success. The future of business relies on adapting to new workforce models in ways that tap into the strengths of both full-time and contingent staff.
To do so, we need changemakers and companies that understand the value contingent workers offer. Two leaders in the DE&I field — Rocki Howard, Chief Equity & Impact Officer at The Mom Project, and Rebecca Perrault, VP and Global Leader of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) — recently collaborated to discuss a report by Werklabs, The Mom Project, and Magnit: “Defining What Matters to the Extended Workforce: Key Drivers for Attracting, Equipping, and Empowering Contingent Labor.” Using their experience and insight to guide this four-blog series, Rocki and Rebecca each shared their perspectives on how companies can prepare for a future of work that delivers for everyone.
Trust & Equity
Rocki kicked off the first blog in the series, Empowering Workers: How Equity and Trust Create Positive Contingent Work Experiences. As a celebrated leader in the DE&I space, Rocki understands that contingent work can be a critical pathway for moms and women of color to take a viable next step in their careers, pivot industries and refine newly learned skills. But in order for these workers to make the most out of their opportunities, they must feel valued by their organizations.
Companies can foster a sense of trust and equity by providing:
Opportunity: Contingent workers feel valued when they have the resources and opportunity to do their jobs well and share their opinions in the workplace.
Transparency: The way organizations communicate and freely share information can make an impact on how included contingent workers feel.
Fair and Sincere Treatment: Just like their full-time counterparts, contingent workers want to feel like “more than just a number,” knowing that companies care about their well-being.
Flexibility & Competitive Pay
Rebecca led the discussion on the next two drivers for empowering contingent workers: flexibility and competitive pay. In Empowering Contingent Talent: The Importance of Flexibility and Competitive Pay, Rebecca shared the importance of flexibility for women in particular — in fact, the report found that female professionals value flexibility significantly more than their male counterparts. According to the survey results, 94% of participants feel optimistic about the possibility of working at an organization that offers flexibility.
The three categories encompassing work-related flexibility include:
Ability to work remotely or from a location of the worker’s choosing
Flexibility in times of day worked
Autonomy in how work gets done
While men and women both cited competitive pay as being important in their consideration of contingent work, women benefit from a strong pay equity commitment from organizations.
Respect & Belonging
Our third blog of the series tackled respect and belonging at work. In Honoring the Individual: How Respect & Belonging Create a Foundation for Inclusive Workplaces, Rocki shared how belonging and respect are critical for inclusive workspaces. Feeling a sense of belonging at work is about more than just fitting in — it's about feeling valued for who you are and the unique perspectives you bring. Belonging means connecting with colleagues in a way that makes you feel respected, included and like an essential part of the team's success.
True belonging happens when all employees feel their voices are heard, their experiences matter, and they have opportunities to shape the organization. Without this, negative effects can emerge like isolation, disengagement and poorer mental and physical health. Ultimately, a lack of belonging harms productivity and innovation.
The future of work relies on fostering inclusive environments where all team members feel valued as their authentic selves. Belonging should be seen as a key ingredient for organizational health and success.
Respect begins with seeing the person behind the role. For the extended workforce, this can be thought of in terms of a cycle, where colleagues and managers:
Listen to their opinions
Recognize work contributions
Support & Success
Finally, Rebecca gave her thoughts on how support in the workplace leads to success for all in Empowering Contingent Talent: Fostering Ongoing Support and Success. Organizations can make contingent workers feel valued through both concrete actions and intangible efforts that demonstrate support. The report revealed that contingent workers especially appreciate opportunities to grow and develop while on assignments. Receiving constructive feedback and having clear paths for advancement makes them feel invested in and supported by companies and colleagues.
Specifically, the survey identified the following key ways organizations, leaders, and coworkers can positively impact contingent workers' sense of inclusion:
Giving workers feedback on ways to improve
Providing workers feedback on their strengths
Inviting workers to team building events
Giving workers opportunities to network
Offering employee perks
Having conversations about career goals with workers
Informing workers of internal jobs
One thing is clear: organizations have enormous power over the worker experience. Yet in this power lies opportunity — the chance to build a better future of work that enables happiness and success for both workers and employers. As contingent work grows in popularity, companies will be met with increased competition to attract the best of the best. Understanding what workers want and taking steps to deliver on those needs will be key to gaining an edge.
By making meaningful cultural changes — including instilling a sense of trust, ensuring equitable treatment, and building a respectful, inclusive environment — and providing sought-after benefits — including flexibility, competitive pay, and dedicated, supportive leaders — companies can create welcoming workplaces that thrive.