4 Tips for Training Contingent Workforce

The modern economy is increasingly made up of gig workers. Many industries, such as retail and other labour-intensive service businesses are using increased amounts of temporary workers. This helps to smooth out spikes and drops in demand, and may keep the organisation itself more lean. However, temporary workers sometimes prove to be a headache for L&D professionals charged with figuring out how to transfer them the essential knowledge to do the job. Therefore, we put together a quick list of tips on training contingent workforce. Let’s check it out!

When training gig workers, time is of the essence

The first rule of training the contingent workforce is that everyone’s always short on time. If you employ temporary help, chances are that your permanent staff have got their hands full already. Furthermore, gig workers may often join a company for just a few weeks or months, which hardly gives them a lot of time to go through an extensive learning process.

Therefore, time is of the essence. Starting early helps. If your new temporary employees are able to access and complete e.g. their mandatory training (compliance, SOPs, safety, hygiene, etc. depending on your industry) beforehand, you’ll greatly reduce the time it takes them to get working. However, while it makes sense to go through the mandatory and perhaps regulatory programs beforehand, the actual learning for the job may be better done on-the-job.

Use on-the-job learning to build capability through practice

As we move onto more specific skills and work tasks, it stops making sense to try train everything beforehand. Too much training isolated from practice makes one an easy suspect to the forgetting curve. Being able practice things in an authentic environment greatly reinforces retention. It also helps to connect often abstract task and process descriptions to the real world.

Therefore, instead of trying to train everything beforehand, your strategy for training contingent workforce should perhaps leverage on on-the-job learning. Provide your gig workers with performance support resources, interactive manuals and how-to nuggets. In this kind of case, just-in-time learning makes much more sense than just-in-case.

Provide a support platform

However, for when those just-in-case situations occur, it’s good to have systems in place too. There’s a lot of unexpected situations that may arise in any given job that you can’t really account for in conventional training. But you can always be prepared regardless. For those rare moments of need, it’s good to have your support system ready.

When encountering problems they can’t solve based on their experience and training you’ve given them so far, gig workers could use that support system to help themselves. For instance, this might take the form of a Q&A bank, where staff can search for answers to uncommon situations. It may also be a helpline, or a support forum, or a live chat environment to another colleague. In its most analog form, it would be pointing out a person that the gig worker can go to with problems. Whatever the degree of sophistication, the idea is to provide a platform to take care of the needs that normal performance support or prior training can’t cover.

Remember to keep it inclusive

While inclusivity in learning was our main topic last week, it has relevance in this context as well. When training gig workers, there are a few inclusivity factors to consider.

First, you’ll want to make sure that the language and communication you use fits their level of experience and exposure. Temporary workers may not be familiar with all industry terms, and even less likely to understand your corporate lingo and cultural artefacts. Furthermore, when it comes to practical skills and experience, the basis for learning for temporary staff may be wildly different from that of your permanent employees. For instance, whereas your permanent staff may be formally educated in the industry, the temporary staff may not be. As such, it’s important to deliver information and learning in a way that takes into account their existing skill levels and potential lack of prior exposure to the industry or tasks at hand.

Final words

While the contingent workforce often presents a headache to learning organisations, it doesn’t need to. There’s a lot that organisations can do with relative ease to streamline the training and onboarding process of their gig workers. A good learning design process helps you to get clarity on the needs of the modern workers and provide a platform for success. If you think you need help in improving your design process, do drop us a note. We can help you design learning in a new way.