As Australian businesses face ongoing skills and labour shortages, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) programs are being increasingly recognised as a strategic approach to attract, support, and maintain a varied employee base. A diverse workforce and leadership—in terms of gender balance, ethnic representation, neurodiversity awareness, disability accessibility, and even inclusion of veterans and ex-service personnel—make a business more representative of the real world. It also creates an environment where everyone can feel valued and included. Businesses can unlock enhanced creativity and innovation, and increase productivity, employee morale, and levels of engagement. Yet, surprisingly, few businesses prioritise DEIB initiatives for their contingent workforce.
According to the Global Party Alliance Insights Report, it will take at least 29 years to reach parity in gender diversity and at least 24 years to reach parity in ethnic diversity. That realisation is sobering. Hopefully, we can work to accelerate these timeframes. However, organisations that have incorporated DEIB initiatives reported considerable improvements in their employees’ self-confidence, self-worth, and sense of purpose, as well as a stronger work ethic and a heightened sense of hope and ambition. Research by the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) found that 84 per cent of human resource (HR) professionals believe that DEIB is crucial for their organisation’s future; however, only half of them say their leaders prioritise DEIB. At the same time, 36 per cent of HR professionals report that they need their managers to undertake training on diversity, equity, and inclusion.
While there’s ample evidence to support the positive impact of DEIB in businesses, there’s an oversight in many Australian organisations. They might be unintentionally excluding a significant part of their workforce, particularly the 22 per cent who are casual employees and 7.5 per cent who are independent contractors. This equates to almost one-third of the nation’s workforce potentially being overlooked in DEIB initiatives. This issue often stems from a lack of data or visibility, rather than deliberate exclusion, highlighting the need for more inclusive strategies that consider all segments of the workforce. Without a robust contingent workforce program, non-permanent workers can remain invisible to an organisation’s DEIB initiatives. This gap in inclusion is particularly concerning as businesses emerge from significant social changes, where there’s an increasing focus on combating workplace discrimination and fostering an inclusive environment.
Balancing speed and inclusivity
Contingent recruitment often emphasises speed. This can work against DEIB hiring, but it doesn’t have to. It’s increasingly common for non-permanent resources to be engaged for longer assignments. Therefore, getting the ‘fit’ right, along with the ability to be productive on day one, is also increasingly important. Changing the mindset of the contingent hiring manager is essential to move towards fairer and more accessible recruitment processes.
How to build an inclusive contingent workforce
Let’s work on the assumptions that your organisation already provides training for unconscious bias and inclusive leadership for hiring managers and team leaders, and promotes an inclusive culture through strategies that focus on diverse hiring and create an environment where all employees feel valued and included. What else can you do to specifically support more diversity in your contingent workforce hiring?1. Visibility
Understand your current contingent workforce, and typical areas of demand. Accurate forecasting may be a more advanced goal. If you have a managed service provider (MSP)—a provider and program that manages your end-to-end contingent workforce needs—you should already have total visibility. If not, understand how contingent workers are engaged and start there (for example, through an agency panel managed by procurement, or individual hiring managers that can procure talent independently).2. Supply of talent
Most organisations engage contingent talent through recruitment agencies. Consider their DEIB sourcing merits. How do they source the talent? Do you provide them with inclusive job descriptions? Do they apply fair and unbiased selection processes, either leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) or trained consultants? What drives their behaviours and how do you incentivise them to do the right thing? An MSP, your procurement, or HR team can support in establishing niche DEIB providers as well.3. Establish and set targets
Can you quantify your goals and measure performance? What is realistic or aspirational? You likely have goals across your direct or permanent workforce, so these might be applicable; however, simplicity and consistency are always useful.4. Track progress and seek feedback
Use sophisticated reporting tools to track the progress of your DEIB initiatives. Regularly evaluate and audit your contingent DEIB strategies by assessing current practices, identifying areas for improvement, and making data-driven decisions to enhance DEIB efforts. Perhaps most importantly, gather, listen, and act upon feedback from contingent employees.
A new approach to DEIB in 2024
The new year marks an opportunity to refresh and re-focus DEIB strategies. Employee attitudes and their unparalleled access to information, demonstrable business benefits, and an ever-evolving legal landscape, provide incentive.
This includes building equitable practices and taking targeted actions based on clear proof points. The focus is on creating genuine inclusion and fostering a sense of belonging, where every individual feels valued and can be their authentic self at work, no matter their means of engagement.
For our clients and ourselves, through our direct source MSPs and our vendor neutral supply chains, globally and locally, MPG Talent Solutions lead the way in supporting the sustainable engagement of truly inclusive contingent talent. We can provide training to company leaders, offer specialised tools for managers, and build and manage programs on our client’s behalf.
If you find out more about how we can support your organisation in integrating DEIB into its contingent workforce strategies, get in touch today.
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