Internal External Mix in Organizations

Numbers for externals in organizations now are surprisingly high.

50% contingent workers is not uncommon. For a Fortune 100 company that could be 50,000 who are not direct employees.

This has an effect. From the change management angle some of the effect is strange. CM has a lot to do with strange (strange to one person being normal to another).

Some observations:

Skin in the Game

Externals by nature operate at arms length for certain things. They tend to be more solution oriented than task or relationship based. They distance themselves just a little from status quo because they know that helps to get things done faster (most of the time).

The environment now though has contingent workers. They are employees. Most can not name the company they are currently “working for” but they do know they are employees. Employees are measured different than consultants. “External employees” have their own invisible measurements.

As an external change management consultant I have found a need to measure the level of “skin in the game” for these stakeholders. Because they ARE stakeholders now. Many of them stay years at a time with an organization. Almost all of them agree the magic two year timeframe basically turns them into regular employees. So they tend to be VERY interested in the change process. Many of them, because consultants like to learn, know a lot about change and change theories.

Rather than be a competitive influence I have found them to be immeasurably helpful. They are built in “Champions”. They get the role of ownership. They get the importance of leadership visibility. They understand solutions and the need to describe end states.

They, surprisingly, put more skin in the game than the real employees.


I realize this is an antiquated word. It is still in the dictionary though.

Barely facetious.

Even people with incredible tenure wax and wane about what they really want to be doing or who they really want to work for. So it is hard to leverage loyalty.

What you can do is language end states and the future with the expertise of individuals. To stick it out and, better, to participate because that view actually looks pretty good, is a form of loyalty (weak for the true meaning of the word, but fairly strong for change).

Responsibility and Accountability

Is arguably a mess in organizations.

People are usually not measured against the things needed for change. Performance management is an after the fact measure (although there is a lot of pretending with “self designed performance goals”). Change is not after the fact.

Also go back to our stat above. If 50% of the stakeholders are not employees then who is really responsible and accountable for anything above the task level?

It gets even more muddled in the organizations where everyone with any kind of a leadership role has a supporting contingent worker (rather than the old fashioned version of loyal employees). Who is responsible the worker or the leader? Can you count the number of times you have seen leaders pass responsibility, and the work, to the contingent worker?

As a change practitioner it is hard to pinpoint who is supposed to do what. Knowing that is pretty crucial to facilitating the process toward end states.


Change Management, at least for the long engagements, has a new component- redundancy.

As a practitioner I often need to make sure two people can do the same thing, because there is a real possibility one of them will be gone soon. They could be grabbed by the competitor (happening A LOT in the last couple of months). They could be laid off. They could be “org. designed” into another role far, far away. They could just get fed up and quit. They could envy the contingent worker and become one themselves (elsewhere).

I actually like this transience factor.

My own approach to change weighs heavily on expertise. People should be acknowledged. People should be rewarded. People should have a chance to do what they do well and be recognized for that. Conveniently when that happens people participate in change. (In those situations resistance fighting is just so old fashioned).

Part of the change process then is defining competency, role and expertise for things that need to happen to get to end states. Then those parameters can be used to pull people in to the change process. If someone leaves the parameters can be reused.

There are many times when it just needs to be this particular person for one reason or another. But, thanks to contingent relationships, many, many roles, tasks and jobs have been commoditized. Defining the commodity makes it easier to fill gaps.

Take away 50% of the employees and replace them with transient, solutions oriented, psuedo-loyal contingent workers and you have a different workplace and a different environment. When it comes to getting to end states this can be surprisingly helpful.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,