Employee Engagement and Contract Talent Relations

Employee engagement & contract talent relations - neteffects

*Updated September 2018

Employee engagement is a topic that has seen an increase in interest during the past few years as more companies take a closer look at their CX (customer experience), just one of many touch points that make up a brand’s overall experience.

For years marketers and sales professionals have understood that no matter how great the product or service is, a less-than-stellar customer service experience can not only cost you the sale but more importantly, a potentially loyal customer. And a negative impression of a brand is almost always impossible to overcome without significant investment.

The employee engagement & CX connection: proof is in the data

Numerous studies have been done that demonstrate the importance of employee engagement and CX connection for brands. The Gallup State of the Workplace study found that companies with top marks in employee engagement experience 10% higher ratings in customer ratings.

Another study conducted by Bain & Company also indicates that customer satisfaction is directly correlated to employee satisfaction. In the same study, Bain & Company points out that characteristics of the workplace matter even more than compensation and benefits to employees including: a strong sense of purpose, ample autonomy, opportunity for growth, and a sense of affiliation.

Still need more convincing? Check out these 32 other studies compiled by Kevin Kruse in this fantastic Forbes article which also suggests that employee engagement and CX is more important now than ever before in this connected age.

Employee engagement & contract talent relations

Contractors who work through staffing firms and those who represent themselves often work on assignments that put them in the position to come in contact with your brand’s customers (clients, employees, other key stakeholders). Even though they may be temporary, they’re part of the perception of your brand and a role in the CX.

However, contract talent is in a grey area when it comes to employee engagement. They’re not a full-hire employee of the client to whom they report to during the length of their assignment, nor are they a regular classified full-hire employee of the staffing firm; with the exception of consulting practices who keep a ‘bench’ of talent. As a result, these relationships can be neglected or altogether overlooked by employers who focus their attention on their traditional employees and direct hire candidates.

Even as temporary or contract-based staff, contractor talent should be viewed as and treated as a potential customer and steward of your brand. Employers who engage with contract talent often fail to realize that as much as they are watching and drawing conclusions about the talent that comes to them through a staffing agency or other contracting source, so to is the talent.

Contract talent engagement: perception is everything

Websites like Glassdoor, CareerLeak/CareerBliss, Vault, Indeed, Hallway, and Facebook’s business pages (amongst others) provide current and former employees (including temp talent) an online platform to review companies in real-time. Even a simple Google search can also yield reviews of any business. With this and other new technology, employers are being pushed more than ever before to make employee engagement a priority, if only for the sake of brand reputation management.

Negative reviews and general poor word-of-mouth can make the job of HR and the talent acquisition department that much more difficult, as would be employees and contract staff are empowered with information when considering application and offer acceptance decisions.

Top talent, especially those in the most in-demand fields such as technology, have their choice of job opportunities. Even average performers can afford to be picky when the supply for available talent is low. Employers with a poor recruitment experience and employee engagement will find themselves struggling to fill open positions.

Engaging contract talent – begin with the golden rule

Employers who’ve developed and manage excellent employee engagement programs often have one thing in common: when developing their programs they began with the golden rule and asked, “How would I want to be treated?”

 Keeping that thought in mind while defining, testing and modifying their processes and procedures that they employ throughout the lifecycle of the employee-employer relationship has enabled some companies to go from being relatively unknown to being on the Fortune Magazine’s annual Best Companies to Work For list. From small startups to Fortune 500 companies, businesses of all sizes and budgets dedicated to employee engagement and CX make up the list proving that any organization can build a program that works with their budget.

Set high standards for the company…

As mentioned in the above research done by Bain & Company, workplace characteristics are important to Employee engagement & contract talent relationsemployees of all classifications. But before any of those can be considered, employers must first review and refine the way in which they manage relationships with contractors, a function that should not be left up to HR and the talent acquisition department alone.

Putting together an action committee that includes operations, marketing/communications, sales and executive members will provide you with varied perspectives and resources to make sure that the responsibility for the engagement and experience of contract staff is a priority for all departments across the organization.

Utilizing an employee engagement system (web-based solution, software, or mobile app) that enables temp talent to submit anonymous feedback during and after their engagement can provide a safe way for them supply vital feedback that can be tracked and measured. Problem areas will become apparent and can then in turn be quickly addressed. (TinyPulse and AskNicely are two such solutions that have received high marks.)

…and for your staffing and consulting firm vendors

How a staffing and consulting firms vendors treat their contract talent should be of concern for any employer. We can tie this back into the above research that pointed out the important characteristics of a workplace, namely, a sense of affiliation.

Ask yourself that as an employer or as a contractor would YOU feel good working with them? Would you want to be affiliated with their organization? Here you’ll need to look beyond what their website says. This is where feedback provided in an engagement solution can be invaluable. Some companies today track data for the performance of their vendors and compile it into a scorecard. However, sometimes data regarding the satisfaction of their contractors (the temporary staff hired out) is left out completely, or deliberately omitted from vendor review meetings.

Both parties can benefit from sharing this invaluable insight with each other. Some staffing and consulting vendors aggregate data on their clients as well and can provide it to their clients, but even more do not; this is something that the vendor should consider.

Going to bat for temp talent relations

Employers, whether they’re a staffing and consulting firm or not should care about the treatment of its contract talent. To dismiss it “not our organization’s problem” can end up costing all those involved in the end. A majority of contractors will not speak up about poor treatment at the hands of the staffing firm itself or of the client’s of the staffing firm and rightfully so. There is the constant fear of retribution in the form of being dismissed and in some circumstances black-listed.

There is a proactive approach that both companies and staffing firms can take by going to bat for temp talent and putting the tools and resources in place to make employee engagement a priority and factor for business relationship decisions.

Here’s a questionnaire that you can build upon to as you assess your current contract employment engagement program with common questions and concerns from contractors and companies engaging with a staffing firm vendor:


Vendor influenced

  • Can they provide insight to their candidate relationship management system that demonstrates a positive experience? (This should include management of their talent communities for both selected and non-selected candidates. Example could include recruiter/candidate communication practices for open positions.)
  • What is the attrition rate of the people the place? What is the temp-to-perm ratio?
  • What is their internal staff’s turnover rate?
  • What standard and non-standard benefit options do they offer their contractors?
  • How do they recognize outstanding contributions from individual contractors?
  • How is longevity acknowledged for contractors?
  • Do they offer training and ongoing development for their contractors and internal staff?
  • Who is the contractor’s go-to person? Is there a ‘team’ of people in place in case there is an absence of their primary contact? (This can include the initial recruiter and/or account manager and possibly a director or staffing firm temp talent manager.)
  • Who manages their contractor onboarding and offboarding with clients? What does this process entail? (Ask for a detailed breakdown of the process and who is responsible for what.)
  • Are they willing to work with your team to tailor an onboarding and offboarding program for your account to make transitions smooth for any current or future talent?
  • Do they track internal and contractor employee engagement, if so, how?
  • Do they provide contractor client engagement feedback? If so, in what ways and how in-depth?
  • If repeat concerns arise with the treatment of talent at a particular client’s business, how is this handled? Have they fired clients over the treatment of the talent?
  • How has the markup been determined? How often is this reviewed and updated to meet current economic and market demands? How often is talent paid?
  • If a contractor isn’t working out, how does the vendor handle this communication to the contractor? Who handles the return of any work supplied equipment such as mobile devices?

Internal Measures

  • Are we proactive in getting ongoing feedback from our contractors? If so, is this data used meaningfully and is it available to each department and across the organization?
  • Do we ask our staffing vendors to provide contractor and candidate feedback? Do we proactively use this data to identify problems and resolve them? If not, why?
  • How human friendly is our ATS (applicant tracking system)? Is it optimized for mobile users?
  • Is the contractor phone screening process standardized? Have we made the process clear for the contractor and vendor to follow?
  • Is the contractor in-person interview process standardized? Have we made the process clear for the contractor and vendor to follow?
  • How fast are we providing feedback to vendors or to candidates without vendor representation regarding hiring decisions?
  • Is our onboarding process for temporary contract help optimized to ensure maximum productivity? Has our process been shared with our staffing vendor?
  • If submitting timesheets for approval, have we optimized this process to ensure timely processing for the contractor?
  • Do we know and understand the policies for time-off requests for contractors from our vendors? Have we made our policies clear to the vendor and the contractor?
  • Is our offboarding process for temporary contract help optimized for ease of transition? Has our process been shared with our staffing vendor?
  • What does the conversion process of temp-to-hire staff look like? Has this been optimized for ease of transition?
  • Does our workplace provide flexible options for our contractors?
  • Do some of our employee benefits extend to our temp and longer-term contractors? (Onsite gym usage, parking facilities access, stocked kitchen access/permission, etc) Has this been communicated to our vendors and the contractors?
  • Are there some employee perks that we could extend to our contract talent in order to make their experience with us more enjoyable?
  • Have we set clear job expectations for the contractor and communicated this to our vendor?
  • Are we providing performance feedback during the engagement for our contractors and is this being communicated clearly to them? Are performance reports being sent to our vendors in a timely fashion? 

Final thoughts

Giving special consideration and attention to the employee engagement and CX program of contract talent can pay off in more ways than one. Engaged and happy contractors are almost always eager to continue a relationship with employers who treat them well and will perform to, if not above expectations. And in doing so, they make a positive experience for other key stakeholders involved in the talent lifecycle; just one of many factors influencing the total brand experience.

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