Smarter, Faster, Better: The Digitization of Contingent Workforce Management


In the current environment, leading companies are acting faster, thinking bolder, and investing in technology and innovation when it comes to contingent workforce management, writes Kevin Akeroyd, CEO, PRO Unlimited.

In these tumultuous economic times, leading companies aren’t playing it conservative. Instead, they’re acting faster, thinking bolder, and investing in technology and innovation. They’re also harnessing data and analytics to increase organizational agility and gain a critical edge on the competition. Put another way, they’re embracing digitization, a term whose meaning shifts slightly depending on industry, but that generally encompasses the following:

  • Moving operations online and migrating to the cloud
  • Upgrading technology and investing in innovation
  • Expanding business partnerships and increasing overall reach
  • Improving organizational agility and accelerating decision-making
  • Capturing more data and using it to inform strategy

In many cases, contingent labor provides an excellent opportunity to evaluate these new strategies, since companies can try different tactics with this workforce before fully committing.

Let’s take a look at how an organization can approach digitization to help their contingent workforce program operate smarter, faster, and better.


This year, the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered the workforce landscape, with more than 70% of employees working remotely at some pointOpens a new window . In this environment, allocating more resources to digital versus physical makes more sense than ever.

This evolution is best achieved through a carefully thought-out strategic approach. In the contingent workforce realm, one focus area right now is better measuring and ensuring remote workforce productivity. This can entail increasing manager check-ins, creating new KPIs, shifting to outcome-based performance measurements, and/or implementing a hybrid workplace model that aims to achieve the best of both office and remote workplaces.

Upgrading your technology can help your program become smarter. According to McKinsey researchOpens a new window , companies that invest in innovation during a crisis not only outperform others by 10% in the short term, they also outperform the market by 30% in post-crisis years.

In contingent workforce management, artificial intelligence (AI) continues to be a key aspect of technology innovation. Machine learning is helping proactively surface actionable, real-time analytics. Natural language processing is enabling users to engage directly with their vendor management system (VMS) via text or email, reducing the need to log in to the VMS.

In addition, developing a holistic partnership ecosystem is critical to getting smarter, so take time to evaluate organizational knowledge gaps. In many cases, partnering with experts that have years of experience in a subject area can be a better way to fill those gaps versus trying to develop the knowledge in-house.

Technology integration is also key here, so take a hard look at your tech stack. Are your solutions functioning in siloes, or are they operating in tight alignment? Building out integrations can enable much-needed data flows that drive critical insights and efficiency.

Learn More: How Companies Are Preparing as Remote Work Increasingly Becomes a Norm


On a broad level, digitization and moving “faster” frequently involves scaling the business. For many organizations, expanding the global footprint of their contingent workforce program is a natural way to extend their reach. To that end, consider what needs and demands you can fill at a global level. What steps can you take to grow into those areas?

Typically, establishing standard global program practices (invoicing, etc.) and deep knowledge of local compliance issues and regulations is essential. Also, a global VMS technology with multilingual capabilities and worldwide currency options is critical in this area.

Given the shifting landscape right now, increasing organizational flexibility is also key. In the contingent workforce realm, one of the smartest ways companies are improving agility is by strategically redeploying workers rather than spending valuable time and resources refilling these positions externally.

By increasing visibility into the existing workforce and how these workers might match with future opportunities, organizations can achieve faster fill times, improved talent levels and culture fit, and money saved on sourcing and onboardingOpens a new window .

Increasing mobile VMS usage is another effective tactic for driving the speed of execution given today’s on-the-go workforce. The ability to approve project funding and extensions, submit and approve time and expenses, and manage candidates from a mobile device helps accelerate process completion.

Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the sourcing of candidates. Whether it’s managers reviewing candidates, suppliers coordinating interviews, or workers expressing interest in an opportunity, the use of mobile significantly decreases the time needed to complete these tasks. Across PRO Unlimited clients, managers using mobile VMS apps have achieved a 25% decrease in time to fill versus their non-mobile counterparts.

Learn More: How AI Can Help Businesses Survive the Shift to Remote Work


The information age, coupled with technological advances, has created exciting opportunities for companies to leverage data to drive better decision-making. For example, leading organizations are using behavioral analytics to understand how users are leveraging the contingent workforce and how their performance is contributing to companywide initiatives and goals.

An increased emphasis on data and technology also means a commensurate emphasis on personnel with expertise in these areas. Chief people officers, given their key role in connecting the technological dots, are more important than ever. Hiring or partnering with data experts that can help you capture data and glean related insights is also critical.

Data’s importance has further risen with the current health and economic crisis, with organizations scrambling to better understand their global contingent workforce and answer the question, “Now that we can source anywhere, where should we source?” To that end, best-in-class analytics platforms offer holistic visibility to the entire workforce (across all labor types) and enable quick communication to global workers.

Furthermore, data is enabling organizations to update their talent landscaping approach to better leverage today’s remote workforce. Pulling in external data sources with the help of experts is offering new intelligence and insights regarding billing rates, time to fill, and hiring difficulty in locations where companies may not have previously sourced talent.

During the sourcing process, digital tools can also supercharge direct sourcing efforts. For example, leading VMS technologies enable organizations to leverage brand recognition and employee referrals, then tap into these private talent pools when filling job openings. Used strategically, direct sourcing can drive significant cost savings and other benefits.

Digitization is also playing a role in a highly human arena: diversity and inclusion. With many organizations focusing on D&I, data can provide key business intelligence on potential improvement areas and where/how businesses might evolve their approach.

Thriving in the Age of Digitization

A recent surveyOpens a new window found that 61% of CEOs say their businesses will be more digital in the future, while anotherOpens a new window found that a third of businesses plan to have a majority of their workforce functioning remotely in the future. If you want to become an industry leader in this landscape – or strengthen your current position – evaluate the areas in this article and think about what steps you can take can to operate smarter, faster, and better.

As part of the process, consider what areas you’d like to be stronger in, and what you can do to move the needle in that direction. Questions you might ask include:

  • What can we do different internally?
  • What is the state of our data?
  • What technology integrations do we need?
  • What partners would help us improve?

What about areas in which you’re already strong? Don’t get complacent – instead, consider how you can accelerate your successes in these areas. By adding to your strengths and shoring up your weaknesses, you’ll be well positioned to thrive in digitization.

Why do you think digitization is necessary for contingent workforce management? Tell us on TwitterOpens a new window , LinkedInOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window .