Do you have someone on your team designated to ensure steps don’t get missed in simple onboarding or extension processes around contingent workers? The results when a key person in the process is out for a few days unexpectedly can endanger projects — not to mention the reputation of your contingent workforce program. Whose responsibility is it?
A couple weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine — a long-term consultant for a global technology firm — launched his laptop to discover he had been cut off from all systems access at his client company. “Joe,” who supports a large business unit for the organization, knew immediately what happened. A couple weeks prior, the staffing firm that manages his contract and the team he supports alerted the contingent workforce program office that his contract was set to expire and needed to be extended.
Whether the person that alert went to was on vacation, had moved on to another role or left the company altogether, the end result was that no one completed the tasks necessary to keep Joe active in the system. For three full business days, Joe was unable to provide any support his internal team needed. Over the course of the following three days, his access was restored incrementally. So, for six business days, Joe was not able to do his job.
Fortunately for Joe and his team, this came at a relatively slow time for the group. But it made me wonder if this was an isolated issue or there were other contingent workers across this global corporation who were similarly affected. Depending on the project at hand, several days’ downtime for contractors can seriously jeopardize deliverables and, ultimately, the company’s bottom line. Not to mention that in order to ensure the contractors not be assigned out to other clients, this organization would likely find itself having to pay Joe’s — and any similarly affected worker’s — regular hourly rate for ALL the hours affected, whether he worked at all or not, notes Dawn McCartney, SIA’s VP, CWS Council. A costly lesson indeed, depending on how many workers fell through these cracks.
While managers of this program can rest assured in a way — Joe’s access was completely shut down as the system was designed to do — they should be distressed that their processes failed this contractor and their internal stakeholders.
“Avoidable mistakes like this one can have an impact on not only the contingent worker and staffing provider but on the internal stakeholders as well,” McCartney explains. “Remember, your program needs to have buy-in and adoption from all parties to be successful. Avoid giving a reason for them to avoid supporting the program and create a workaround.”
It is critical for program managers to have a clearly defined process in place. Alerts should be set up within the system to let key people know — along with assigned backups — of impending contract expirations with plenty of time to spare for an extension to be approved, if needed. “We have seen success when program offices send 90-, 60- and 30-day reminders of an expiration date approaching,” McCartney adds. And if a response is still not received after the 30-day reminder, a phone call may be required.
Because the contingent worker and the staffing provider want them to be working — and billing — both will usually start to look for the next opportunity if an extension request is not processed or received.
In this case, Joe and his staffing firm knew the extension was imminent, so Joe remained available for the client. But not all errors have happy endings. “You do not want to put through a late extension only to find out the contingent worker is not available,” McCartney warns.