Managing and Motivating Contingent Workforce

Written by Munira Kachwala, Senior Category Manager at NHS London Procurement Partnership (NHS LPP) – part of the NHS Workforce Alliance.

Contingent workers – also known as ‘agency’, ‘bank’ or ‘casual’ workers – make up *20-25% of the UK’s workforce, meaning that the contingent workforce is ultimately too big a percentage to overlook or not include in your workforce plans and strategy.

In this blog, I discuss the importance of keeping contingent workers motivated and engaged. This is particularly important for our healthcare system now, given the widely reported pressures on the NHS, as well as the increased risk of staff resignation in the general jobs market as a whole – data and research by **Personio suggests that 38% of employees are looking to change roles in the next 12 months.

Before going into the theory and the practical tools of motivating this section of the workforce when you are not their employer, it is important to remind ourselves on why the contingent workforce has opted for a temporary route into employment.

As you are aware, workers who opt for temporary agency work may have a variety of personal commitments such as caring responsibilities, studies, health issues or they may simply want a work/life balance that a permanent position may not offer. There are many combinations and scenarios, but the motivation behind it is one: flexibility.

Motivation comes in different forms and doesn’t always have to be monetary in terms of pay and benefits. In fact, it is a reasonable argument that pay and monetary benefits are less of a motivator if it creates a feeling of lack of parity, proportionality and fairness. So more pay doesn’t always equal more motivated staff, and unfair pay structures and preferential and unequal pay systems definitely will be a major contributor to a demotivated workforce.

Many of the NHS trusts we work with have indicated that each of the following 10 actions and activities have proven to be useful in keeping your contingent workers motivated and involved. We thought it would be helpful to summarise them here, and of course it would be great to hear from you on other hints and tips to keep morale and retention boosted.

  1. Plan and forecast your requirements. You will get better commitment if you are able to plan beyond the daily or weekly worker bookings.
  2. Swift and efficient onboarding and temporary worker processes.
  3. Have a good orientation process and introduce them to others in the team.
  4. Make the timesheet and payment process simple and easy to use for all workers, even those who don’t have access to a computer.
  5. Have clear role descriptors and profiles so they know what is expected of them.
  6. Communication is key! Ensure all the key and relevant trust communications gets to the workers and their agencies.
  7. Give constructive feedback – keep the feedback loop going and don’t limit it to just negative feedback and tell them when they are doing well too!
  8. Treat them as real people and not just a number.
  9. Better use of technology can really improve worker experience with both pay and shift booking.
  10. And last but not the least, try and give as much notice as you can when the booking is coming to an end and not just what you are contractually required to. You are dealing with real people and they depend on the contingent routes for their livelihood.

This list is not exhaustive but a good starting point to maximise your contingent workforce as a resource.

After nearly two years of the pandemic, the NHS Workforce Alliance team continues to support the NHS working through the challenges around collaboration, consistency, wellbeing and how to manage and motivate those who remain reluctant to engage.

For any questions or to find out more about how the NHS Workforce Alliance can support you and your team, please contact the team here.

*Employment and labour market (Office of National Statistics)

**Post-pandemic talent exodus could cost up to £17 billion for businesses in UK and Ireland (Personio)

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