Everyone agrees that employees are a key business asset. But companies often fail to consider all the different ways they can go about acquiring and utilizing talent.

When companies decide that they need a new machine for their factory, they look at a range of options. What kind of equipment do they need? Should they buy it outright and if so, would it be better to use cash or borrow from the bank? Maybe leasing would be preferable, or perhaps hire purchase. Whatever the decision, you can be sure that management will consider all the options.

How many times have you heard people say that “employees are a company’s most valuable asset”?  Well they are certainly expensive to acquire and mistakes can be costly. Yet all too often, the default job specification is office-based and full time, despite the fact that there are many viable and potentially more appropriate alternatives. So why don’t companies give the same consideration to all the options when hiring staff that they do when buying a fixed asset?

Well first because they may not be aware of those options. And secondly, even if they are, they probably haven’t looked at it strategically. They don’t know how to identify the correct solution to a specific need and they don’t have a framework within which to construct a workforce that combines several different employment models. An agile approach may just be the answer.

Why kind of roles lend themselves to more agile alternatives?

Flexibility comes in many forms. Of course, with some jobs, the old-fashioned permanent / full-time structure is unavoidable. Typically, these are roles that are:

  1. Ongoing
  2. Time bound
  3. Tied to a location

Take the example of a receptionist. The job is ongoing rather than temporary and the employee needs to be physically present in the workplace during set hours. Two people could job share – one working mornings and the other, in the afternoons, for example – but that’s about the limit of potential ‘flexibility’. The same applies to factory production line staff; working from home or varying their working hours each day is not an option.

However, many roles do lend themselves to a flexible approach because they are not subject to one or more of those three constraints. Flexible employment options encompass more than just allowing members of staff to work fewer hours. There are, several varieties of temporary employees that can be brought in when required, including:

  • Freelancers
  • Self-employed consultants
  • Interim workers

And these workers can be office based or work from a remote location.

What needs can flexible workers meet in your business?

There are several scenarios in which a combination of flexible workers makes commercial sense, including:

  • Individual projects

Perhaps your company is launching a new product or going into a new market; you might need a specific set of skills for a finite time period and then as you move through different phases of the project, you can hire the appropriate specialists on a freelance or consultancy basis without having to take them on full-time or perhaps you need specialist skills on an ongoing, but sporadic basis, so it doesn’t make sense to bring in a permanent staffer.

  • Fluctuating demand scenarios

You might be in a seasonal business or one where demand for a particular product or service is uncertain. With non-permanent workers, you can ‘flex’ the size and nature of your human resource overhead, allowing you to align costs with revenues.

  • Specialist support

A growing business might need to up-skill in specific areas. For example, beyond a certain point, you might feel the need to upgrade your financial function from a Bookkeeper to a Financial Director. But you might only want (or be able to afford) to bring a higher-level individual for a couple of days a week. This is possible with an outsourced or consultant approach.

Finding people for these roles?

Are the people out there ready and willing to work in ways that meet these needs? Most definitely. There is a large – and growing – pool of talent that you can tap into if you are prepared to think more flexibly. In 2016, the ways in which people want to work are highly diverse.

Millennial workers – born between 1980 and 2000 – value flexibility very highly. They don’t feel the need to tie themselves to one company where they will stay for years, climbing the corporate ladder. They like working for more than one company at a time and will be just as comfortable working from home as in an office.

Mothers and fathers value part-time hours and remote working, whether they are employed or self-employed.

At the other end of the demographic scale there are also older workers with decades of experience who also want flexibility and variety. Employing them for a day or two a week could bring enormous benefits to your business.

If you are prepared to think flexibly it will significantly broaden the talent pool in which you are fishing. And the wide range experience levels and skill sets means you can tailor your temporary hires to your requirements, tying into your business strategy and creating agility – something that in today’s uncertain markets, is essential.

Written by Colin Bradbury for Workpond.

Workpond is a talent and recruitment consultancy. Combining its specialist knowledge of the labour market with its deep understanding of how businesses operate effectively, we help build agile teams that will deliver strategic objectives efficiently and affordably.

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  • Oscar Waterworth

    This is an awesome post!