Raising the new contingent workforce to the top of the HR agenda

The definition of what a contingent workforce means for businesses is changing. There is a difference between the traditional idea of ‘contractors’, ‘freelancers’ and ‘temps’ to the on demand, independent workers who are available for skilled, strategic projects today. Lumping them all in together is an oversight that threatens to misinterpret the way that the world of work is developing to understand a new contingent workforce.

That is why I have asked John Douglass, an international HR Management Professional, to share his thinking on the subject. Here are John’s thoughts.

As an HR expert for your company, are you also a business leader?

As HR leaders we consistently find ourselves addressing new and varied workforce challenges as part of the business planning process.  Our roles as business leaders have evolved as we provide other C-Suite members with more effective tools to manage a leaner, more flexible and responsive workforce.  We have always worked hard to develop relevant HR policies and procedures, and we'll continue to do so, but in recent years we've increasingly been responding to the demands of a competitive global market; we have come to understand in no uncertain terms that everything we do – all of our HR objectives – must be aligned with the company’s annual business goals and longer-term strategic planning.  Each year we coordinate closely with the Chief Executive, Finance, and line-of-business leaders to develop a workforce plan that is compatible with core budget, business, and strategic plans.  We strongly urge those of you who have not had a role in this planning process to make your case for future inclusion.

The changing contingent workforce

Many of us are with companies that have survived recession (most recently, following the 2008 financial crisis), when we were no doubt were deeply involved with difficult decisions related to downsizing/rightsizing/re-engineering a contracting workforce.  Some jobs that weren’t eliminated were filled with temporary, part-time, and temporary/part-time employees on the company payroll - that part of the contingent workforce we call "temps".  As you know, temps are normally used to replace those on leave and/or those who serve as supplemental seasonal help, but with reductions in force they are used to effectively reduce the size of the full-time equivalent (FTE) workforce. 

More recently, as companies got through the recession and discovered promising options in the global economy, they quickly began to realise that their workforce profiles needed to be leaner, more elastic, and responsive to global competition. Business leaders have lately been stressing the need to deploy a workforce that is sized and shaped with emphasis on business growth rather than contraction. In a competitive pricing environment with a growing workforce, the evolving “contingent workforce” has become more important as a supplement to the traditional group of permanent employees.  In addition to the temps hired for transactional and customer service activity, a second group of freelance or independent consultants has emerged to tackle temporary assignments for planning and analysis, policy development, and managerial roles. 

The contingent workforce now

Recent studies of the American workforce have revealed that 30 million people classify themselves as independent consultants, and that this number is projected to grow to nearly 40 million by 2019.  These consultants are highly skilled and educated, and have become more available in the past 10 years while economic growth has been tepid at best.  It’s reasonable to assume that similar trends exist in the UK and European markets.  Companies have been doing their homework; simple cash flow analysis shows that in most cases the fees paid for the independent consultant, or larger groups of consultants, to take on short to long-term assignments will cost less in net present value terms than hiring professionals for permanent employment.  As part of the contingent workforce, this group differs from traditional “temps” in that they are not on the company payroll.  They manage their own time and resources and are accountable/paid for achieving previously agreed deliverables. 

To remain competitive through growth and mature phases of their business cycles most companies will experience at least one organisational transformation involving significant change in one or more functional areas.  Larger companies with substantial financial resources are accustomed to hiring major global consulting firms to help them through the transformation.  All too often senior managers are disappointed with the results rendered by what they view as B or C teams presented by many of these firms.  They end up feeling that their own internal talent, coupled with perhaps one or two external subject matter experts, may have gotten the job done as well, or even better, for far less expense.

Right place, right time, right consultant

So now you ask, “How do we most effectively grow and manage this independent component of our contingent workforce? How do we best go about finding enough of the available ‘independent consultants’ who are reasonably priced and a good fit?”  Like most parts of contemporary life, technology is bringing us closer to the solution, disintermediating and disrupting the traditional way of doing things. The world of work is no different. The rise of a contingent workforce made up of independent consultants is coupled with new technologies making them on demand and accessible for companies around the world.  

Talmix uses such a technology, its online platform offers access to a global network of over 27,000 carefully screened, highly educated and experienced expert consultants available for virtually all organisational areas.  Whatever your temporary assignment requirement, e.g. for IT conversion, supply chain management, and/or job evaluation and salary structure development, Talmix can provide a shortlist of better qualified candidates in a week (or less).  And these expert consultants will be operational for however long you may need them to successfully complete the assignment/project. 

Talmix is far more than just another alternative search firm, it is the home of independent business talent. Their mission is to unlock the power of the independent workforce for its clients. The online platform is designed for you to search for the required talent, but it’s also a new way to manage this critical part of your contingent workforce. The Talmix team understand that not all client requirements will be straight forward; some may be complicated and/or highly technical; they have the network of specialists that will allow them to present to you the right professional, or a small team with the right mix of professionals.  They do so quickly and effectively to enable your company to meet the increasing demands of the global market.

It might be time to start considering what the future of work looks like for your company. As your talent acquisition team evolves to incorporate a more flexible contingent workforce, encourage them to take a step forward to discover an online platform that speeds up and fine-tunes the search for and management of independent consultants for your varying needs.

John Douglass is an international HR management professional with 30 years experience working in human resources. He has worked across America, the Middle East and Asia on the full scope of strategic and tactical managerial roles. John is an HR generalist with substantial strength in human resources systems/technology (HRIS), total compensation and rewards, and performance management. He excels in the growth phase of the business cycle and can build the full scope of HR functions from the ground up. He has industry experience in commercial banking and financial services, petrochemicals, oil and gas, engineering & construction.

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About the Author

Dorothy Mead

Dorothy is VP Marketing & Brand at Talmix. Passionate about the changing workforce and the future of work, she is driving market share for Talmix globally.

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