A streamlined, efficient, clearly communicated onboarding process is crucial to finding — and keeping — the hard-won contingent talent your organization has added to your team.

Rapidly changing compliance rules, tax implications and more all add to the complexity of contingent workforce management. According to industry analyst Josh Bersin, 40% of businesses fail to onboard and effectively integrate these workers into their workforce. Why?

The dichotomy between full-time Form W-2 workers and contingent workers adds to the challenge. Often, since contingent workers are seen as short-term, and in the essence of time, onboarding seems to be a feasible step that can be skipped. But as SHRM states "Developing a process for onboarding contingent workforce resources, different than those used for full-time workers is critical as it provides context, direction, and expectations in better alignment with the nature of temporary and project work."

How to improve onboarding for your contingent workforce

While contingent workers are not employees, they do have certain expectations around the businesses they chose to work with. And one of those is to feel as if they are an integral part (albeit temporary) part of the team. So having an engaging onboarding process can go a long way towards helping these workers feel as though they matter to you - and this can result in the worker choosing to continue to partner with you on future projects. To help you improve your process, here are a few tips:

1. Digitize your onboarding process

The majority of contingent workers today are virtual, using their mobile devices on-the-go and do not physically come to your location. Your onboarding process will need to account for a virtual environment. As such, you need to have a centralized and streamlined approach to gathering tax IDs, background checks and other necessary paperwork. Allow workers to easily upload their information, such as agreements, certification, compliance checks, etc. and make it easy for you to manage these on the backend with automated reminders and real-time updates.

2. Develop role-specific onboarding processes

Onboarding a marketing contractor would look very different than onboarding an IT field worker. Make sure your onboarding process takes into account the different ways the different departments operate and information that is needed. Identify all the different roles you believe you would need a contractor for, then create different categories of talent pools based on skills, location, and other criteria. Each talent pool should have its own pre-set onboarding checklists, documents, etc.

Avoid using ad-hoc emails and excel sheets to manage onboarding, as this creates administrative burdens and introduces manual errors. Systematize the onboarding processes needed for each type of talent pool, so that as soon as a worker is added to a talent pool, they are automatically guided through the necessary steps. Over 50% of clients that are on ADP's freelance management software, WorkMarket, use pre-defined "labor clouds" to automate worker onboarding. Bridget Quinn Kirchner, Sr. Director, Client Experience at WorkMarket, says "As a best practice, we recommend our clients to set onboarding rules for each type of labor cloud. This includes tests, surveys, certifications, and licenses to vet skillsets, ensuring that workers are meeting the requirements for your assignments.

3. Share your company culture

In addition to providing contractors with the tools and information they need to complete the project, share your company's history, mission and values and emphasize the role that contingent workers will play in your company's future. By including contractors as part of your company culture, you can enhance your brand in the contractor's eyes, and incentivize them to work for you again.

Here are a few tips to set yourself apart when attracting top talent. Highlight what sets you apart from other companies within your industry, stand out as an employer of choice by adding third-party credible employer recognition and add videos/images highlighting your company values. This will reduce the lift to get these workers going and enable you to process more workers with less time while providing a positive first impression.

4. Let technology be your friend

Leverage technology solutions that are designed to help businesses manage end-to-end freelance workflows. Imagine what it would look like if you have a single platform which can automate onboarding, verify credentials, manage the assignments, engage with your extended workforce, pay them on time and rate their performance. Freelance management systems (FMS) can help you do just that. Furthermore, they integrate with many of your current ERP, accounting, and servicing systems so that you can streamline all of your workflows.