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Sep 2019

The contingent army: Employers failing to up-skill vital workforce


12th September 2019: New research published today by City & Guilds Group, the leading global skills organisation, reveals that employers across Australia are overlooking the training needs of a vital segment of their workforce by failing to provide contingent workers with adequate learning and development opportunities.

  • 86% of employers use contingent workers, and 46% anticipate they will rely on them more in the next 3-5 years
  • Yet one in 10 Australian employers say training for contingent workers is ineffective
  • And 16% don’t carry out any training at all with this workforce

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From suppliers to freelancers, contractors to temporary workers – as well as volunteers – these 2.3 million casual workers (not employed on a permanent or fixed-term basis) account for a significant 22% of the entire Australian workforce*. And the latest research from City & Guilds Group business Kineo found the contingent workforce is only set to grow. The study, conducted amongst 503 employees and 100 employers in Australia – and a further 6000 employees and 1200 employers globally – found that 86% of Australian organisations use contingent workers, and 46% anticipate that their use of this workforce will increase over the next 3-5 years.

Though the flexibility afforded by these types of roles is attractive, the research suggests contingent workers are missing out on the training benefits available to permanent employees. 16% of Australian employers don’t carry out any training with contingent workers and over one in 10 (12%) deem contingent worker training to be ineffective.

And this sentiment was echoed by workers themselves. City & Guilds Group’s research found that contingent workers around the world are the most likely to say that the current training they receive has no impact on their performance at work (24% compared to 19% for workers on any other type of contract). They are also less aware of the purpose and value of training to both themselves and the organisation (18% compared to 23% for other contracts).

Vicky Bartolacci, Managing Director at Kineo APAC, a City & Guilds Group business, comments: “Not only are the skills needed for the future changing, so is the shape of the workforce. Contingent working arrangements in organisations are on the rise, and in this evolving business landscape, it’s more important than ever that employers remain flexible in order to adapt to changing demand.

“Our research shows current training is simply not robust enough to cater to this new workforce – and this presents a risk. Employers who don’t invest in upskilling contingent workers in line with the evolving needs of the business aren’t safeguarding their future, especially if they’re not ensuring workers receive essential training such as on-boarding or compliance. Investing in L&D provision for this workforce isn’t just contributing to individual professional development, but growing the internal skillset of the organisation and attracting contingent talent for the future. Looking at the bigger picture, effectively training contingent staff benefits the wider industry – and the economy as a whole – as these skilled workers move on to their next venture.”

Currently, the most common method for developing contingent workers in Australian businesses is on-the-job training (27%), yet many employers recognise that their contingent workforce would benefit from alternative forms of training. Nearly a quarter (24%) of Australian employers say that improved delivery platforms would help, as well as more personalised (24%) and shorter, bitesized learning (23%) – and greater clarity about the value of training (22%). This is echoed by contingent workers across the world, with 28% saying that they’d like their employer to more clearly communicate the purpose of the learning they’re undertaking.

Case study: Managing Scalabrini’s volunteer workforce

Since the formation of the not-for-profit organisation in 1968, Scalabrini’s mission has remained steadfast in providing outstanding care for the elderly and those living with dementia in New South Wales. And, Scalabrini’s contingent, volunteer workforce is central to delivering the excellent care and service it provides. Scalabrini believes in reciprocating the loyalty and dedication of volunteers and staff by investing in their wellbeing and personal development. As its people flourish, so does Scalabrini.

Jamie Burgess, Learning & Development Consultant at Scalabrini, says: “Having so many volunteers in our extended workforce adds a lot of value. For us, the volunteers play a vital role in helping us give our residents the best possible quality of life, and the volunteers get so much out of caring for residents and gifting their time. However, in order for both Scalabrini and the volunteers to get the most out of their contribution, it’s important to make sure they are properly onboarded and made to feel part of the organisation.

“We are currently facing somewhat of a challenge, as the majority of volunteers are retired and less confident tackling unfamiliar tasks. Many of our volunteers are also reluctant to conduct online training on health and safety, general induction, localised orientation and specific key learning such as infection prevention and control, and there is collective concern that if we enforced more online training we would lose volunteer interest.

“When thinking about how we train these volunteers, we therefore need to strike a balance between ensuring they have everything they need to perform their role, without putting them off joining us at all. For instance, on order to demystify online tools and demonstrate that they make things less – not more – complicated, we’re reviewing and simplifying all content and removing unnecessary information. This allows us to onboard quickly with short assessments and activities – saving everyone time and effort.

“By minimising barriers to volunteering, longer-term it’ll make it easier for us to get wider family and friendship groups involved and create the robust and engaged volunteer workforce we need for the future.”

*According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as of May 2018 there were 10,647,200 employees in Australia, of which 22.0% were casual workers – this equates to 2,342,384 workers. Source.