Half a year into the pandemic, companies still feel the pressures of disruption. Organizations shifted to remote work, closed and then reopened facilities, and made difficult adjustments to survive. But when it comes to finding a way forward — creating value, innovating and competing for market share — many are only beginning to regain their footing.

The flexible workforce now plays a large role for many organizations navigating uncertain markets. Contractors come from all fields and all levels of skill. They are every bit as influential as traditional employees, often taking on strategically important work.

Unfortunately, the uncertainty of work and life is often amplified for the flexible worker. Demand for their skills fluctuates, opportunities come and go, and conditions can change instantly. Where workers once sought out new opportunities based on ambition and sense of worth in a pre-pandemic world, they now seek their next gig out of concern that their current job could end without any extension or subsequent offer.

Companies have the power to address these pandemic-borne anxieties and keep their vital, flexible workers in the fold. To do so, they must revisit key practices for connecting with their contractors. Specifically, here are five priorities that can help organizations, as well as their staffing and talent partners, benefit from stronger relationships with flexible talent.

1. Provide community. In the past, many talent communities provided little activity, interaction or value to the user. Now, the talent community may be one of the few touch points available to a remote worker during the day. Employees of the hiring company or team members of the staffing partner should take an active role in the communities they host. A great organization not only creates a virtual environment for interaction but also ensures the group is sharing new information and offering fresh perspectives.

2. Deliver clear assignment information. Along with providing a connection to peers, a good talent community for contractors functions as a one-stop source for important work information. Start dates, end dates, and main points of contact within the client and the staffing organization give contractors the security of knowing where they stand in their assignments.

3. Push opportunities. No candidate wants to worry about being jobless at the end of an assignment. The only way to remedy that anxiety is to offer the candidate a view of potential new opportunities as early as possible. Rather than wait for contractors to ask, staffing partners can give them access to the work that is available through a single system and then support that system by actively informing workers of specific new openings on the horizon.

4. Maintain awareness. Many contractors lack time to research trends or news related to their field or industry. Take that unmet need as an opportunity to build trust. Provide workers with updates on emerging skills, major acquisitions or mergers, or perspectives on hiring trends. In our organization, we are committed to updating clients and suppliers about regulations that may affect them and their workers as well as relevant news related to the Covid-19 crisis. In turn, the recruiter should be building relationships with workers to keep them in the know about issues that could influence their careers.

5. Build one-to-one relationships. Don’t let the technology do all the work. More than ever, workers need to hear from the people who are partners in their success. We treat technology as a way to have better interactions with candidates, not avoid them. That relationship can prove critical for not only keeping the worker in the fold but also for building the talent networks staffing organizations need to survive and grow.

Embrace the Essentials

Job markets leave little tolerance for outdated information or missed connections. Each of these practices is devoted to keeping the information fresh and supplier-candidate connections active. The approaches are not new, but the urgency to embrace them is higher than ever.