Companies Wrestle With Technology Needs of Contract Workers
Defining the company’s role in tech support for contingent workers is key.
If you are one of the 25,000 independent contractors who work for one of business outsourcing company Arise’s virtual call centers, don’t bother calling the corporate help desk if your laptop crashes.
“All of our service providers are remote, so we can’t just pop out and fix their computers,” said Martin Ingram, CIO of the Miramar, Florida-based company.
Instead, contractors are tested on technical skills as part of the admissions process, and new contractors are educated about IT compliance during onboarding. The company outlines expectations for technology use and maintenance, and makes sure contractors understand that if they have a problem accessing the Arise system because of a hardware or software issue, their hours will be turned over to another contractor until the problem is resolved, Ingram said.
The decision to leave IT support to the contingent worker isn’t uncommon. But it’s a decision that should be made jointly between the human resources and information technology functions, said Chris Dwyer, research director for Ardent Partners, an analyst firm in Boston.
Involving HR in this process ensures contractors get the tools they need to do the job they’ve been contracted for, and that the company is protected if anything goes wrong.
“If a computer crash is going to cause the team to miss a critical milestone, providing IT support makes good business sense,” Dwyer said. Similarly, if the contractor is going to have access to sensitive corporate information, providing a company-owned laptop that is controlled by the IT department reduces the risk that data will be stolen or corrupted.
More and more, companies are embracing contingent labor — software company Intuit predicts contractors will make up 40 percent of the workforce by 2020. Such collaborations between HR and IT can ensure these workers are as productive as possible, without compromising the security of the business.
HR should also make sure that management of contingent workers — including the tech support they receive while under contract — complies with all IRS requirements, said Colleen Klehr, director of HR for Prescient Solutions, an IT consultancy in Schaumburg, Illinois. “Each organization needs to find the right balance of integrating contingent workers into their environment, while not compromising the benefits typically associated with a contingent or outsourced worker,” she said. “HR should work with the company’s legal counsel to review contractor relationships at their onset so they are properly established.”
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Unlike Arise, Prescient takes a more hands-on approach to tech support for temporary workers.
The guideline is simple, said Prescient CIO Jerry Irvine. If a contractor runs into a problem that prevents him or her from doing work, the IT team will help solve it, “Even if it’s a virus or a malicious application they downloaded, we get them back up and running — but then we let their manager know what happened.”
Providing contractors with IT support ensures their client projects don’t get delayed, and alerting the manager about the problem reduces the risk that it will happen again, Irvine said. “It goes on their work record, so hopefully they will be more careful the next time.”
At Prescient, HR and IT work closely when making decisions about tech support for contingent workers. “Both groups are stakeholders in this process,” Klehr said.
The article "Companies Wrestle With Technology Needs of Contract Workers," published Aug. 21, 2013, inaccurately described the way technology services company Arise assesses and onboards contractors. The Arise human resource function is not involved in those processes.