In this series of blog posts, I have explored how tapping into an extended workforce can help financial services (FS) companies to improve agility, gain access to the talent they need and enhance efficiency. But to achieve these goals, most banks and insurers will need to re-evaluate how they manage and interact with freelancers, contractors and gig economy workers.

Freelancers, contractors and talent marketplaces give FS firms the flexibility to meet business goals, with the added advantage of scalability, allowing them to contract and pay only for the work that’s necessary. The downside, however, can be a lack of commitment to—and engagement with—the business from people who expect to work with the organization for only a short time before moving on.

Wise FS employers should be relooking their traditional approach to contractors and freelancers, treating them as a valuable part of the workforce. To attract the best talent from the external labor force, banks and insurers should explore the creation of workplace experiences and culture that keep them engaged in the business.

They should leverage self-service digital platforms and data to deliver personalized experiences that enable them to optimize the performance of their contingent workforce, while ensuring ongoing access to the skills they need to achieve their goals. Let’s consider this imperative across a worker’s lifecycle with an organization:

Onboarding: One reason that banks and insurers like using contractors and freelancers is that they are usually experienced professionals who can hit the ground running when a project comes up. Yet they should not overlook the importance of a formal onboarding process, which will familiarize new workers with company processes, systems, policies and culture.

Getting this right can set the tone for the relationship between the company and the freelancer or contractor—many members of the contingent workforce may feel disengaged or isolated if they are not welcomed to the team, given a formal introduction to their co-workers, and provided with a clear view of their responsibilities to the business.

Training and reskilling: Many FS firms still believe that it’s the contractor’s responsibility to keep their skills current with market trends and the changing needs of the business. But if organizations wish to make the external talent pool a key part of their business, they will need to rethink their approach to training the non-payroll workforce.

Thanks to digital platforms, they can make training materials available to potential freelancers and contractors at low cost. This can enable professionals to train themselves up to address skills gaps within the business, or to learn about the company’s processes and systems before beginning an engagement.

Training and skills development for contractors will usually need to be packaged as decentralized, on-demand, bite-sized chunks of learning that fit their on-the-move lifestyle. For many contractors, training, mentoring, coaching and reskilling will become a currency—they will seek out opportunities with firms that give them the opportunity to build their skills bases.

Rewards and employee experience: I have alluded to skills training and development as one potential incentive for freelancers, contractors, and other members of the adaptive workforce. This highlights the fact that an hourly rate is no longer the only benefit contractors and freelancers seek from their work engagements.

FS organizations should segment their extended workforce and provide personalized experiences that meet the needs of different workers. For example, a young data science expert may be seeking opportunities to develop skills, a mid-career developer may wish to maximize earnings, and a new parent might want to achieve the best possible work-life balance.

Release: A contractor terminating a contract or a freelancer concluding a job are not always the end of the relationship with the company. Likewise, employees resigning or retiring may not necessarily mean that their skills are permanently lost to the organization. FS firms can use tools such as Enterprise Jungle to keep talent engaged in the company network after their employment ends. This facilitates access to people who understand the business for special projects for fixed periods of time.

An extended workforce strategy cannot be considered in isolation—it forms part of a larger discussion about which functions to automate (check out our Future Workforce research for banking and insurance for insight into how artificial intelligence is changing the workforce), which to entrust to employees, which to outsource, and which to fulfill through the contingent workforce.

Some steps organizations can take towards an adaptive, blended workforce include:

  • Using predictive analytics to understand today’s skills gaps and tomorrow’s requirements.
  • Considering how to design agile HR capabilities and an operating model to support a digital, customer-centric workforce of the future.
  • Defining governance and HR policy as well as legal and regulatory issues that may impact on a blended workforce strategy.
  • Determining which groups, projects, or products are most in need of gaining agility in their workforce and skills. These may include areas of the business where much of the work is already remote, externally sourced, highly variable, cost sensitive, or driven by specialist skills. Project leaders, managers and employees should be consulted to find out where they believe external skills and expertise are needed.
  • Establishing key performance indicators to track how the talent marketplace transformation is advancing broader business priorities.
  • Working toward blending the internal and external strategies with a goal of erasing the boundaries between the internal organization and the external ecosystem of labor platforms.
  • Communicating the blended workforce vision to managers and full-time employees to win their trust. This can help combat anxieties that contractors will take the most interesting projects and work, or that full-time jobs are at risk.
  • Providing tools, policies and methodologies that help managers to build blended teams.

There is little doubt that external talent pools will become an increasingly important part of every FS workforce in the years to come. Leading FS firms should start building this adaptive workforce of the future today, laying a foundation for a more scalable, flexible and high-performing organization ready for the change and disruption digital technology will bring to the industry in the years to come.

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