Diversity in the workplace brings benefits to a company beyond checking boxes and looking good to potential talent. To the staffing buyers, it’s about capturing the most qualified pool of candidates to create a diverse and inclusive workplace environment. But companies often overlook their contingent labor programs when looking to increase their overall diversity spend, says Dawn McCartney, VP of Contingent Workforce Strategies Council at Staffing Industry Analysts.

“It’s very rare that a diversity and inclusion group, or department within a company, will come to the group responsible for contingent labor and say, ‘I want ‘x’ percent of spend,” she says. “It may be important to them, but sometimes they don’t even think about the contingent being part of where they could get additional diversity spend. They are thinking more about companies in their supply chain.”

That said, leaders in charge of contingent programs recognize the value in having a diverse workforce. “They feel good about it and it reflects well on their brand,” McCartney explains, “so even if they are not getting a mandate for diversity inclusion, there is still an interest in learning how to diversify their labor pools.”

And working with diversity-owned staffing suppliers can help them increase diversity in their contingent programs. With some diversity suppliers on their list, program leaders can start tracking their results through them. They can promote internally that they have diversity suppliers, and suppliers can promote that they are partners with their organization, McCartney explains.

Wendy Stenger oversees Thomson Reuters Corp.’s global external workforce program, which includes about 12,000 external workers. The success of Thomson Reuters’ Direct-Source program has enabled it to attract contingent labor talent directly, Stenger says. “We are utilizing our brand and our career site to attract contract talent directly,” she says. But that doesn’t mean Stenger doesn’t still use suppliers; she just uses them less and in slightly different ways than other companies do now.

“For the suppliers I do need, I’m looking at ones that can help provide that unique and hard-to-find talent that my brand alone cannot attract” — skills that may be hard to find not only because of the skill set, but because of the labor market, she explains.

And the smaller suppliers need not feel at a disadvantage. “In my opinion, small, niche, diverse-owned suppliers have a deeper understanding and passion for inclusion,” she says. “There is a better opportunity to see the different types of labor, capturing everyone for the jobs that we have to get the most qualified candidate and then to create a diverse and inclusive environment.” Ninety percent of the suppliers utilized in Thomson Reuters’ US contingent labor program are small, niche and/or diverse-owned staffing companies.