Managing External Contributors in Workforce Ecosystems | MIT Sloan Management Review

Talent Management

The number of contingent workers (CW)—those performing gig, contract, or freelance work—continues to grow in many organizations. However, firms often lack an integrated approach to managing their CW. This article provides considerations for integrating the management of both employees and external contributors.  It draws from a case study on Cisco, which has over 50,000 contingent workers — a substantial part of its workforce ecosystem. One challenge Cisco faced in managing its CW is that its CW strategy sits within the finance organization in the procurement group. Cisco HR is responsible only for matters associated with full- and part-time employees—leading to a fragmented workforce strategy, labor laws and compliance risks, increased costs, inefficient processes, and missed beneficial synergies related to CW. The article describes three initiatives the firm employed to manage its CW more effectively: 1) Governing with a cross-functional steering committee that meets monthly on CW, 2) Changing technology systems, and 3) Emphasizing values, culture, and diversity. Concerning the steering committee—which represents all functional areas, such as finance, HR, IT, and operations—the team provides guidance on such issues as a) which functions can have significant numbers of contingent workers and which should have fewer and b) resolving questions related to CW policies. As a bonus, I am resharing this 43-page report from MIT and Deloitte, which includes additional insights, including how seven talent practices (p.6) must shift to align with this workforce ecosystem approach comprised of internal and external contributors.