The concept of flexibility has never been as important for the world of work as it is today. Businesses are realising how much they have to gain from incorporating flexible staffing and contingent talent into their HR strategies, with the benefits ranging from cost efficiencies to quicker access to specialist skills.

Workers, meanwhile, are increasingly recognising the professional, financial and lifestyle benefits that can be gained from freelancing, contracting and ‘gig’ working.

There has been plenty of research conducted and statistics produced to illustrate these trends and show the growth taking place in the flexible workforce.

If you’re looking to step up your use of contingent workers and thinking about how this approach will fit with your business, it’s worth considering some of the pros and cons of hiring flexible talent.

An illustration of different people

the relevance of flex workers.

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pro: access to specialist skills.

One of the biggest recruitment challenges many modern businesses face is identifying and acquiring the skills they need in the mainstream labor market.

Three-quarters (75%) of HR professionals experiencing recruitment difficulties say there is a shortage of skills among candidates, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Talent scarcity is particularly acute in certain key sectors, such as engineering and technical segments. The COVID crisis has driven up unemployment and increased the number of people looking for work, but businesses will still find it difficult to acquire the skills they need in specialist areas. 

Research conducted in the EU has shown that existing workforce skills fall short of what is required for employees to ‘carry out their jobs at their highest productivity level’.

The ever-growing pool of freelance and contingent talent available in the flexible labour market can help your business access skills and experience that are difficult to source through traditional hiring.

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The lack of available skilled workers looking for full-time jobs is driving the demand for temporary, contract or freelance workers. As a result, staffing agencies are cultivating contingent talent, popularly referred to as “gig workers,” to meet the booming demand.

Joanne Estrada
global head of contingent workforce solutions for Randstad Sourceright’s Talent Innovation Centre

con: potential lack of engagement.

Flex workers are undeniably a valuable source of skills, but they’re not permanent members of your organisation. It’s therefore understandable if you have some concerns about their overall engagement with the business and what it’s trying to achieve.

Do your contingent staff understand your long-term vision as an organisation, and are they committed to helping you achieve it? These are valid questions to ask. 

If key stakeholders within your businesses harbour these concerns, there are steps you can take to minimise the risks of flexible staffing.

For example, it’s important to make sure you’re avoiding common mistakes when onboarding your contingent workers. If you get this stage of the process right, you’re more likely to see positive results in the long run. 

Another effective measure to engage your contingent workforce is to work on building lasting relationships with flex workers, potentially with a focus on bringing them onboard permanently, if that’s something both parties would be interested in.

Another effective measure to engage your contingent workforce is to work on building lasting relationships with flex workers, potentially with a focus on bringing them onboard permanently, if that’s something both parties would be interested in.

pro: cost-efficiency.

Achieving maximum efficiency in human capital cost will always be a key goal for most HR departments, and engaging with the contingent talent market when you have immediate skills needs is a good way to achieve it.

It’s well-known that hiring a permanent employee is a considerable financial commitment, with costs like advertising the role, onboarding, training, salary and benefits to take into account. Companies also lose money and productivity while positions are left unfilled.

Bringing inflexible workers can help you make optimum use of your HR budget by ensuring you’re only paying for the skills and services you need, when you need them.

This can prove particularly important if you have short-term requirements - if you need specialist skills to complete a one-off project or additional staff to meet a seasonal spike in demand, for example.

A report by North Highland and the Economist Intelligence Unit showed that cost savings is the most common reason for organisations to use contingent talent.

Many companies could benefit from the short-term cost efficiency of contingent staff in 2020, as they look to get back to business and plug skills gaps caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

con: less control.

Temporary hiring is a good way to acquire the skills you need quickly and keep your human capital costs under control, but some HR managers might have concerns that using flexible staff will mean they have less control over their workforce.

Traditional recruitment and induction of permanent staff give you the time to engage and build relationships with employees. You can work with new recruits to ensure they’re familiar with how the company works and what will be expected of them in their role.

While the onboarding process for contingent talent will certainly be different, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sacrifice control. It’s important to make sure any temps and contractors you hire will fit in well with your company culture and working methods. One way to do this is by looking at candidates’ work history to see how they’ve performed for organisations similar to your own in the past. Reference checking tools like Checkster can make this job easier. 

You can also minimise risk by working with an experienced staffing partner offering in-depth knowledge of your sector and the local labour market.

pro: moving with the times.

The way people and businesses work is changing all over the world. If you want to keep up with fast-moving trends in talent acquisition and workforce expectations, you need to be prepared to change how you find and hire workers.

Research has shown:

Companies that don’t evolve and keep up with these trends are at risk of being left behind.

Randstad has compiled a list of stats that underline the relevance of the flexible workforce with insights and research from a range of sources.

download the list
about the author
Alex Carson
Alex Carson

Alex Carson

randstad general manager professionals victoria

Alex Carson has been part of the Randstad business for the last 14 years. Having initially joined the Randstad UK business in 2007 after graduating, after 7 successful years he relocated with his wife to Melbourne and joined the Australian business. Over the journey, Alex has recruited and managed teams across a diverse range of sectors and disciplines including both public and private sector clients.

In his current position as General Manager in Victoria, Alex is responsible for Randstad's Victorian Professional businesses that incorporate our Construction, Property and Engineering, Public Sector that includes both Local, Federal and State Government, Banking and Financial Services, Accounting and Finance as well as our Manufacturing, Operations, Transport and Logistics Business across Victoria.

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