Managing contingent and flexible workers

Forming an increasing component of our workforce, contingent and flexible workers present employers with both challenges and opportunities.

September 21, 2016
Written by
Izzy Andrews
Published by
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Managing contingent and flexible workers

The link between flexibility and productivity has long asserted. So why now is the need for organisations to develop a strategy to manage flexible and contingent workers becoming so important?

Necessity is the Mother of invention

The makeup of the global workforce is changing and as it changes organisations will need to develop effective strategies for managing flexible and contingent workers. It is predicted that by 2020, Millennials will make up 50% of the total, global workforce and their preference for being able to work when they want, where they want, is well documented. In addition, unlike other generations, they are willing to change jobs to get that opportunity. If organisations are going to recruit and retain the top talent from this generation they are going to have to establish and promote flexible work practices.

Until the Millennials are ready to take the reins, Baby Boomers and Generation X will make up the majority of the workforce and hold the most knowledge and experience. Keeping those workers engaged needs to form a core component of workforce strategy. A recent US survey showed that 88% were currently disengaged, hampering productivity and retention. Flexible working is an important mechanism to foster engagement in both groups.

Pressures upon productivity has required organisations to use more strategy in deploying resources. One of those strategies is the use of contingent workers. This “worker on demand” model enables employers to limit overheads, whilst still completing required work.

Technology as the Enabler

Flexible working is more of an efficient and feasible reality now than it ever was before. The growth of cloud based platforms, mobile enabled technology and faster and accessible internet has meant that work teams no longer need to be in the same country, let alone the same office. Workers can be recruited, mobilised and managed remotely.

Why does it matter?

Contingent workers have been a part of our workforce for years. Why, all of a sudden do we need to manage them?

There are two main implications for the increasing proportion of flexible and contingent workers in the workforce. The first is that some organisations will deploy an effective strategy to utilise these workers. That is, through the smart application of technology they will create an environment that is appealing and fulfilling for the best candidates. As a result, these organisations will attract the best talent and reduce their turnover costs. Thereby becoming more competitive.

Secondly, as contingent or flexible workers increase in number, remaining compliant becomes more complicated. How do you categorise them, what are the tax implications, are they qualified, do they have the correct licences? And the list goes on. When you start dealing with large numbers of these workers for single, intermittent or short term transactions, the costs of compliance increase substantially. The potential risk is a total loss of the productivity gains to increased compliance costs.

Now what?

This trend is happening and the most successful organisations will be the ones that move with the change and handle it in a proactive manner.

Organisations should take the time to plan and align their workforce management strategy with overall business strategy, goals and objectives and include contingent and flexible workers in their considerations. For example, evaluating whether role types would be best filled by contingent or full-time workers and the implications for knowledge retention and succession planning by making such a decision.

There are numerous tools on the market that make workforce management easier. The growth of cloud based platforms has meant that organisations no longer need to invest heavily in enterprise centric solutions. Low cost, subscription platforms enable organisations to manage their workforce, whether they be contingent, flexible, remote or otherwise. Increasingly these platforms are fully integrated, offering organisations a solution to find, engage, allocate work to, pay and review workers.

The beauty of these platforms, is reduced administrative burden with increased quality of output. However, their effectiveness does depend upon the platform and how well it is used, so the selection criteria should be clearly defined in line with organisational objectives.

Increasing numbers of flexible and contingent workers presents an enormous opportunity for the organisations that are able to engage with and manage them effectively.


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