As HR practitioners embrace and grapple with the Shared Workforce, it is essential to understand that it is not a monolithic concept, but two organizational constructs -"badged and unbadged"- covering employees, contractors, freelancers, consultants, part-timers, retirees, on-call employees, onsite and offsite BPOs, subcontractors and joint ventures. Most organizations utilize both constructs simultaneously. Perceptive HR leaders need to rethink traditional HR programs and strategies and adapt them to the new organization dynamic. Underpinning the effort is the need to effectively promote relationships, leadership, and engagement throughout the Shared Workforce.
Gallup's 2013 meta-analysis research determined that work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. But most engagement studies and surveys focus on internal employees, with only limited research directly related to the Shared Workforce. However, two important studies on Shared Workforce underscore the importance of engagement. One study discovered a high rate of alienation and stigmatization among unbadged workers led to lower performance, teamwork and results. They also found that organization and structure were contributing factors (i.e., hierarchy, supervision, titles). Another study conducted among Nairobi Call Centers revealed that creating affinity between the outsourced employees and their clients improved goal achievement. Recent literature (i.e., Vlatka Hlupic's The Management Shift) reinforces that openness, transparency and shared values reduce barriers and lead to higher engagement and performance for individuals in the Shared Workforce.
Opportunities for engagement abound. An organization's Rewards and Recognition programs, if constructed, implemented and reinforced by leadership correctly, results in higher employee engagement. The Shared Workforce creates challenges to traditional Rewards and Recognition programs due to legal obstacles, the temporary nature of the relationship, lack of direct control over output, and ability to determine the relative value of services performed. However, the Shared Workforce can participate in most programs and access unregulated benefits and perquisites as long as appropriate business outcomes and risk tolerance are considered. Additionally, Leadership needs to assume a broader definition than Hierarchy and pursue fostering teams, building relationships, eliminating organizational boundaries and identifying non-traditional innovators.
The Shared Workforce needs an integrated approach to affinity, leadership and engagement including onboarding, rewards and recognition, analytics for work value creation, and accountability for results. Higher engagement and business performance should motivate organizations to develop their road maps now.