Why DE&I in the Workplace Should Include Contractors

Woman wearing a hijab working on office conference room

Bringing a more widely diverse set of workers into your organization not only enriches your talent pool and brings much-needed additional skill sets to an organization, it can also offer a flexible route to staffing projects and roles, while enabling an organization to work towards its DE&I goals.

Having a diverse workforce has never been more important for organizations looking to evolve and stay ahead of their game. And building a such a workforce today is so much more than the typical indicators we envision when we think of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I).

Thinking beyond the Form W-2 workforce for inclusive solutions

While the foundational pillars of DE&I, such as race, orientation, gender, and disability, are critical to building a diverse workforce, there are myriad other workers who can enrich your team and help your business thrive. These workers may be found in your Form W-2 (i.e. full-time employee) workforce, but further enrichment can be found by hiring diverse independent contractors.

In doing this you open your doors to a wide variety of workers who may not have otherwise been available. Think about retirees, caregivers, parents returning from work, neurodivergent candidates, veterans, and more. These workers bring different skills to the table that provide specific value. For example, a caregiver may have considerable experience dealing with multiple requirements at a time while on a very strict schedule; meanwhile, a neurodivergent candidate could bring an alternative perspective with different problem-solving skills to a project; and veterans are often equipped with strategy and project-management skills.

Bringing a more widely diverse set of workers into your organization not only enriches your talent pool and brings much-needed additional skill sets to an organization, it can also offer a flexible route to staffing projects and roles, while enabling an organization to work towards its DE&I goals.

In addition, having a strong DE&I position offers appeal outside of your organization, giving your DE&I audience a sense of belonging, and so making your brand more inclusive and appealing. Meanwhile, being intentional about inclusion efforts creates an internal environment that workers, especially in those in underrepresented groups, want to stay in, do their best work in, and invite others to explore. These factors positively impact the organizational bottom line, along with employer brand perception.

Those organizations looking to build their DE&I environment via independent contractors of varying diverse categories have the opportunity to use technology in their DE&I journey. Such technology helps streamline processes, as well as enable organizations to be strategic about using independent contractors to achieve diversity goals.

The role technology plays

The flexibility hiring independent contractors can bring is enabled by technology in several ways. First, being able to organize your diverse independent workforce based on skills, location, demographic, availability, qualifications, and more makes it quick and easy to choose candidates for specific projects. It also gives you the ability to easily monitor your diverse hires and ensure your workforce is meeting its DE&I goals.

Additionally, using technology to create talent pools gives your independent contractors the opportunity to self-identify outside of the typical categories by allowing you to create pools of alternative skills. For example, LinkedIn recently created an option to add the skill "dyslexic thinking" to a candidate's profile. This means organizations can now select people who offer the alternative skills associated with dyslexic thinkers may offer, such as creativity, alternative problem-solving skills, and so much more.

Self-identifying outside of standard categories also offers workers the opportunity to be seen and included in a way that may be more important or relevant to them than traditional categories. Being able to share pronouns, for example, may make a worker feel more valued and included. Using technology that makes considerations for this Identification creates an organic opportunity to build a diverse workforce, while making it known to new hires that they are joining an inclusive culture.

Further, using technology to build talent pools of independent contractors allows you to use that data to expand analytics on DE&I beyond your Form W-2 workforce. For example, you could report the number of diverse workers you have at any one time, as well as monitor data points such as how long the worker will be with the company, where they are based, what field they're in and what qualifications they have.

Using contractors strategically

When aiming to reach DE&I goals, contractors can be used in a number of strategic ways to help you get there. Your organization may want to hire more from underrepresented groups (URGs) and will set percentage goals to do so. If your candidate pool for an accounting role does not include any who are people of color, for example, you could:

  • Hire a contractor while you continue to expand your candidate pool. This buys time to source more full-time candidates from those URGs.
  • Create a pipeline of URG candidates who start as contractors. For example, if you want to add more diversity to your accounting department, hire a contractor who represents a URG and has an adjacent skill set (i.e. bookkeeping). Treat this as an opportunity for upskilling, thus creating a potential URG candidate for the accounting team.

Companies grappling with the great realignment can use independent contractors strategically to help achieve DE&I goals, while also helping ensure that their Form W-2 workforce does not become burned out. As organizations continue to struggle to attract new talent, business has to continue. But in today's climate, it's critical not to overwork your employees while you try to fill open positions. Hiring a diverse, temporary workforce can be key. Consider the following:

  • Hire contractors to maintain business operations and support permanent staff.
  • Diversity goals can take time. While you're working towards those goals, contract workers can bridge skills gaps.
  • Use contractors to fill positions that can be done on a contract basis, enabling you to use diverse talent that is seeking flexibility/short-term opportunities (for example, caregivers, retirees, parents returning to the workforce, etc.).

Related: To hear how ADP is designing HCM solutions with diversity in mind and to gain a better understanding of the need for inclusion in technology, listen to my recent podcast conversation with Mark Feffer from HCM Technology Report.

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