Contingent Workforce Planning for Marketers in 3 Simple Steps

Creating a balanced workforce strategy that scales up and down with your marketing needs requires a thoughtful blend of employees and outside marketing experts.

Contingent Workforce Plan for marketing consultants or managed marketing service

And as challenging as it can be to hire employees directly, it gets even more complex when you start talking about using marketing consultants or outsourced managed marketing services.

Gone are the days of using contingent workers however you wanted. Now you’re faced with a whole bunch of rules, terms, and tools that make getting what you need that much more difficult. As if your job wasn’t hard enough.

A contingent workforce plan can help you make your way through the complexity. With the right plan, you can avoid making resource decisions now that will cost you time and money later. 

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What is a contingent workforce plan?

Contingent workforce plan documents why and how you will use contingent workers to help achieve your marketing objectives.

Simply put, a contingent workforce plan helps you define what resources you need so you can make informed staffing decisions up front.

Your plan needs to document exactly how (and why) you will use contingent workers to help achieve your marketing objectives. The most effective plans cover a specific period of time and include budgeting details.

Contingent workers are defined as people who are not directly employed or paid for by your company. They provide services to an organization and are often called contractors, consultants, temps, or advisers. Most are sourced through workforce solution providers (like Crawford Group).

Plans to use contingent workers will increase over the next 3-5 years.

According to Deloitte, “More than one-third of all US workers are contract workers and more than half of our respondents say their need for contingent workers will keep growing over the next three to five years.”

How to create a marketing contingent workforce plan

Contingent workforce planning in 3 simple steps. 

Step 1) Understand your contingent worker classifications

The first thing to do is get familiar with the specific contingent worker classifications your company uses.

Educating yourself on the rules and benefits of the different contingent worker classifications is critical to understanding your choices and limitations as it relates to leveraging marketing temps, contractors, consultants, outsourced managed services, etc. It’s worth taking the time to get informed.

Each company has their own approach to how they classify their contingent workers. Make sure you have the classification information your company requires you to adhere to. Reach out directly to your contacts in procurement or HR if you don’t know where to start and need help.

While your company’s classification may differ, we tend to see three major categories of contingent workers common across most large companies:

  • Temporary Worker / Staffing
  • Consultant / Managed Project
  • Managed Service / Outsourced

Contingent worker classification includes temporary workers / staffing; consultants / managed projects, and managed service / outsourcing.

Understanding the most common types of contingent worker classifications will give you a better idea around what your choices might look like.

Temporary Workers / Staffing

Temporary workers are just that — temporary. They are limited in the amount of time they can work at your company, often requiring a gap of inactivity before being able to return for another engagement.

Temporary Workers are best used to cover for someone on maternity leave, a specific project, or some other type of short-term absence. In certain circumstances, they can be used to fill a new need or expertise gap.

While this individual is employed by a workforce supplier, their day-to-day activities are still managed directly by you. They are hourly based and because of legal employment risks, most companies restrict how long Temporary Workers / Staffing folks can work at your company. It’s common to see them restricted to 18 consecutive months, and have to leave for 6 months before being eligible to return for a new engagement.

Consultants / Managed Projects

Consultants / Managed Projects are when one or more people work together to deliver on a statement of work (SOW) that contains specific start and end dates and predefined milestones.

Consultants are great for project-based work that may or may not be ongoing. Leveraging a Consultant / Managed Project approach can help you acquire missing skills or expertise and quickly scale to complete a project.

This is a higher touch model and the workforce supplier manages consultants directly so you can stay focused on bigger, more important things. 

Managed Services / Outsourced

A Managed Service / Outsourced option is when the workforce supplier creates a team of two or more people accountable for achieving predefined service level agreements (SLAs). While an SOW may still be leveraged, Managed Services tend to be more ongoing and long-term.

Managed Services ensure that you are getting the results you need, in addition to the best talent. The best workforce suppliers have a single point of contact or “Lead” for you to work with that manages the individuals and workload within the Managed Service to ensure continuity and results.

This option is great for covering or completely outsourcing a specific program, function, or area of focus. It provides an extremely high-touch engagement model that not only scales, but can be optimized for ongoing efficiency and results.

Leveraging a Managed Service / Outsourced approach will also expand your talent pool. Many great marketers like being a consultant, but want longer term engagements. A Managed Service approach can offer the consultants more consistent work and can get you awesome talent.

Where do freelancers fit in?

The way companies treat freelancers can vary so much that it’s hard to say. Some companies do not even allow direct engagement with freelance or 1099 workers. Instead, a workforce solution provider is leveraged to help mitigate risk with required insurance coverages,etc.

For example, Crawford Group has a pool of freelancers that we manage to help our clients. When we do leverage and place a 1099 worker, how they get classified at the client’s company is typically dependent upon the work they will be doing.


Step 2) Use your marketing plan to drive your workforce plan

The whole reason you have any resources at all is to achieve the results in your marketing plan. So it only makes sense to use it to inform your marketing workforce plan.

Use your marketing plan to drive your workforce plan


Review goals, objectives, and strategies

Well written marketing goals, objectives, and strategies describe what you’re trying to accomplish, why you’re doing it, and the approach you will take.

Review your marketing plan to make sure you understand how the big picture impacts the work you need to get done. This informs your overall workforce strategy and your contingent workforce plan needs to align and support it. 

Assess critical skills against tactics

The section of your marketing plan covering tactics will give you the most useful insights for creating your contingent workforce plan. That’s where the specific programs and projects you need to execute are described.

Look at each of the efforts you’re accountable for from the perspective of what resources you need to get the work done and achieve the results you’re committed to.

Make a Skills Assessment list (see example below) to capture the critical skills needed to successfully execute against all your marketing efforts. Include a rough estimate of the number of people you think it will take, the period of time you’ll need that skill, and any notes.

Example Skills Assessment List:
Example of a skills assessment list for contingent marketing consultants

Calculate your people estimates based on the percentage of time you think a person working full-time (40 hours, 5 days a week) would spend using that skill. List your estimates in 5-10% increments to keep the math simple.

Keep a running total of the number of people needed across all the efforts for each unique skill. Make sure you capture all the critical skills you need, regardless of whether or not you have existing resources with those skills.

Update the time frame estimates to cover the time you will need to leverage this skill. Capture any notes that may indicate peaks and valleys in the workload or other factors to consider.

This may seem tedious, but trust me, it’s worth it. Not only will you be able to leverage this to develop your contingent workforce plan, but you’ll be able to use it when you are ready to partner with a marketing workforce solution provider to get the skills and scale you need.

After you’ve created your Skills Assessment List, stop to admire your hard work! Going through this exercise has given you a holistic picture of the critical skills needed, an estimate of how many people it will take, and how long you’ll need it.

Strategic questions to ask regarding contingent workforce planning.

Now, put your strategic thinking cap on and ask yourself:

  • How can I best leverage my existing employee’s skills and strengths to meet their career goals and still get the results I need?
  • Is there an opportunity to balance workloads, help employees grow, or gain efficiencies?
  • Do I have any resources leaving or that will need to be covered for an absence or any other reason?
  • What areas do I feel strongly about managing closely and prefer be done by an employee? Why?
  • Do I have any contingent workers at risk? Why?
  • Am I using any marketing agencies for these skills? Is that still the best approach? Why?
  • Is there an employee-to-contingent worker ratio or other restrictions I have to manage to?
  • Are there other departments or teams that share my needs? Could it be advantageous to pool resources to leverage a Managed Services / Outsourced model?


Analyze your marketing budget

You will find it extremely difficult to create an effective contingent workforce plan without some indication of how much you can spend.

Analyze your budget, breaking things down until you have arrived at the total amount you will be able to spend on your contingent workforce. Be sure to include any cross-charges you might be able to leverage. And don’t forget to explore budgets already allotted to existing contingent workers or marketing agencies.

Once you have your contingent workforce budget estimated, you’ll want to partner with the right workforce solution provider to do a thorough assessment of your needs so they can advise you on the best approaches to take.

Step 3) Partner with the right marketing workforce supplier

To complete your marketing contingent workforce plan, you need to partner with the marketing workforce solution provider best suited to meet your needs.

Partner with the right marketing workforce supplier; leverage approved vendors and choose diversity suppliers

Understand the procurement process

It’s time to find a bestie in procurement, because this part can get complicated. It’s good to have a friend to help you understand the rules, options, and processes required to leverage contingent workers at your company. Those details will greatly impact how you approach the vendor selection process.

Here are some of the questions you’ll need answered:

  • What are the different classifications we use for contingent workers? What are the associated rules, tools, and processes?
  • Can I choose the supplier I want to work with or do I need to use an RFP process that sends out requests to multiple suppliers on my behalf?
  • Am I allowed to discuss my needs directly with a workforce supplier? If so, when? Are there any exceptions?
  • Are there any obstacles coworkers encounter when they are trying to leverage contingent workers for marketing?
  • Do I have to work with an approved vendor? If so, how do vendors get approved?
  • Can I work with a new workforce solution provider? What is the process to get them added as a supplier?


Get referrals

Ask your colleagues and friends to recommend marketing workforce solution providers to partner with. Referrals are still one of the best ways to find great resources. Don’t be shy, ask around!

Leverage approved vendors

Working with a marketing workforce solution provider that has been “approved” by your company is quite advantageous. Approved vendors are already familiar with your business, brand, and culture. They can quickly assess your needs and onboard the right resources.

Choose diversity suppliers

Want to feel good by doing good? Support women-owned or minority small businesses by choosing a diversity supplier as your preferred marketing workforce solution provider. Contact your procurement department to learn how you can include diversity suppliers in your RFP or vendor selection process. (Full disclosure: Crawford Group is a certified woman-owned business, so we are definitely fans of diversity!)

In Summary

Going through the process to create a contingent workforce plan will help you assess and quantify your marketing resource needs. It encourages you to develop strategic and creative approaches to how you will leverage contingent workers to get the best marketing ROI you can.

The three steps to create a contingent workforce plan for marketing are:

STEP 1:  Understand your contingent worker classifications
STEP 2:  Use your marketing plan to drive your workforce plan
STEP 3:  Partner with the right marketing workforce supplier

Well there you have it. Follow these three steps and you’ll be able to develop and execute against a strategic marketing workforce plan that gets you the best marketing talent and results.

At Crawford Group, there’s nothing we love more than partnering with our clients on how they can maximize their workforce. Developing marketing workforce solutions that leverage contingent workers is our speciality. 

Whether you need one contingent worker, a few, or a fully outsourced managed services team, we can get you the marketing expertise you need to drive results. 

Contact us to get started today.


Managed Marketing Service, Outsource Marketing

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