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Today’s organizations are porous. Traditional workplace boundaries are blurred, with permanent, full-time employees supported by freelancers, temporary workers, casual workers, volunteers and more. Organizations must move with the times and create more holistic, inclusive support models for their entire workforce, including these vital contingent workers. Let’s take a look at five top tips for training and engaging your contingent workforce.

Respect their time

Contingent workers may work for multiple organizations, and so may only engage with your organization for a few hours a week. Contingent workers are often not paid for training time, so ensure that you are respecting the limited time they have for training with your organization. 

Your full-time employees have the time to spend on full onboarding courses, but this is rarely what contingent workers really need. Find ways to minimize their time spent training so they can gain the required skills and competencies quickly and get started in their role.

Lars Hyland, Managing Director - EMEA / CLO at Totara Learning
Lars Hyland, Managing Director – EMEA / CLO at Totara Learning Photo courtesy of The Jaxson Group for Totara Learning

Design for mobile

Many contingent workers’ roles aren’t based at a desk. They are often on the move, meaning expecting them to sit through an e-learning course that has been designed for desktops is usually unrealistic. 

Instead, make sure that any learning required by contingent workers is available on mobile. Microlearning is a great way to ensure that they can train in short, five-minute bursts in direct support of task completion, as well as reinforcing key knowledge and behaviors after more substantial learning and development activities.

Resources, not courses

If a contingent worker only performs one four-hour shift a week for your organization, do they really need to sit through a two-hour e-learning course – or, worse, an all-day in-person workshop? 

Providing just-in-time performance support resources will usually be more impactful for your contingent workers, who need to know specific pieces of information at specific times. Checklists, short videos, infographics or even chatbots can be better options for contingent workers, who can’t afford to spend hours working through irrelevant content.

Give them access to your SMEs

Subject matter experts (SMEs) are vitally important for social learning in every single organization worldwide. For full-time employees, getting access to the information they need is usually as simple as sending an SME a message on Microsoft Teams or stopping by their desk, whereas contingent workers will rarely have access to the people they need.

Consider setting your contingent workers up on the same (mobile-enabled) instant messaging system as your full-time employees to give them access to the expertise they may need. Alternatively, give them a list of relevant phone numbers or email addresses, and don’t forget to make introductions between contingent workers and useful points of contact at your organization.

Be “brutally efficient”

Senior learning strategist Lori Niles-Hofmann talks about contingent workers in terms of our learner social contract, which requires employers to be “brutally efficient.” This means striking the balance between giving contingent workers what they need, when they need it, and not overwhelming them with more than they need. 

Being brutally efficient means respecting contingent workers’ time, understanding their unique training requirements and delivering only what they need, in a way that suits them. Keep it short and snappy with mobile-optimized microlearning, and find out what relevant skills they already have – chances are, they have already completed relevant compliance training in another role, so ask if they have evidence of prior learning to avoid wasting their time and effort.

Taking the steps to train and engage your contingent workers will enable you to close the skills chasm, boost motivation and ensure high performance across your entire workforce.

Lars Hyland

Lars has a deep knowledge of learning technology in all its forms and how it can be harnessed to deliver effective and engaging learning experiences, both in the workplace and in education. Lars brings over 27 years of experience in the design and implementation of large scale learning programmes and performance improvement solutions. Lars has worked with a wide range of international organisations in most sectors including Sky, Tesco, Bupa, Nestle, DP DHL, Dow Europe, Whirlpool, Deutsche Bank, RBS, American Express, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Goldman Sachs, BOC Group, BT Group, Vodafone, O2, European Space Agency, Sulzer, Swiss Re, IHG, Aviva, McDonalds, CAA as well as public sector organisations in the UK. Lars also has expertise and experience working within the Higher Education sector including the University of Oxford, University of Edinburgh, University of Cambridge, UCL, University of Leicester, Open University, City University London. Skills include: Business development...