Diversity, Creativity, and the Nontraditional Workforce

The employment landscape is continuously evolving. Now more than ever, there's access to more diverse talent pools due to contract labor or flexible work arrangements, including everything from global virtual teams to joint employment ventures. Nontraditional workers are creating new cultural challenges; chief among them is the need to leverage diverse perspectives in the workforce through inclusive leadership and talent practices.
 
The Institute for Corporate Productivity, or i4cp, conducted a study “Beyond Uber: The Evolution of Work,” between May and July to take a closer look at this shift in the meaning of and approach to work through interviews with 80 chief HR officers, COOs and CEOs from leading companies. Most agree that an influx of diverse nontraditional workers can affect organizational cultures in multiple ways, positive and negative, but one trend was clear — 95 percent of those interviewed reported they are already using nontraditional skilled workers, and they are anticipating using more in the coming years.
 
“It doesn’t matter if a specialist in nanotechnology, for instance, is located in our head office in St. Paul, or in Chennai [India]. We want the flexibility to allow the work to move seamlessly across borders without being tied to location," said Marlene McGrath, senior vice president of HR, 3M Corp.
 
There's no doubt that increased reliance on diverse digital workers or skilled contract labor from global talent pools has the potential to change the way ideas are sourced. The challenge is in capitalizing on that diversity of thought, which requires inclusive talent management practices and leaders who are trained to recognize and promote idea sharing from diverse employees — including multicultural, generational, and differently abled talent who may have valuable but limited creative input opportunities without these more flexible employment models. 
 
But how engaged are contract or virtual employees when it comes to sharing innovative ideas or even acting in ways that uphold an organization's culture and brand integrity? How do employers create more affinity or connection with only a limited-time contract or virtual presence to connect with?
 
Those concerns are why many of those i4cp interviewed are becoming more active in assessing fit to their organization's culture with virtual workers and contractors. They are also changing the way these employees are brought onboard and included in the workforce, ensuring they have a clear understanding of the organization's values and line of site to how their work contributes to enterprise success. 
 
Some are updating their HR information systems with vendor management capabilities that allow them to holistically manage traditional and nontraditional talent — on-site and remote — to the extent of including contract and contingent labor in corporate learning, expertise sharing, performance reviews, and even succession plans. They also have made investments in multimedia learning communities to bridge the gap between on-site, full-time employees and contingent or remote workers. Another study set for release later this year by i4cp found 7 percent of high-performance organizations are including contractors with leadership responsibilities in development training focused on leveraging diverse stakeholders.  
  
Another step is preparing leaders for the cultural challenges of managing diverse nontraditional workers. By focusing on skills based in collaboration and an inclusive, global mindset, they will be better prepared to effectively leverage contributions from the diverse stakeholders who comprise a fast growing segment of the world's workers.