How to create a flexible workforce and boost productivity

By Robert Half on 31 March 2020

As more businesses continue to face ambiguity in light of recent global events, priority projects are shifting and workers are taking on extra responsibilities - which can overwhelm even the most ardent professionals.

One way to combat burnout and missed deadlines is to consider boosting the company’s productivity by hiring a flexible workforce. By using a fluid mix of full-time and temporary employees, your company can adapt to all types of business cycles.

The benefits of a flexible workforce

Once considered a perk or a bonus, alternative work arrangements like temporary or contract workers is the new normal. But, according to a report by Deloitte, while many companies participate in flexible workforce arrangements – increasingly so – many don’t do so in a strategic way.

What does this mean? Many companies are looking to fill positions as needed, rather than looking at a flexible workforce as a viable long-term plan.

This however is not taking advantage of the long-term benefits of such a dynamic workforce: research suggests that it not only enhances business performance, but employees engaged in such a position tend to be happier, take less sick days, worked longer hours, and were more satisfied overall with their work.

A happier, healthier, more engaged employee is a company’s best public relations asset, and are up to 13% more productive than those who are not. More importantly, as business needs change, companies that engage with flexible employees are much more agile, and better able to weather the change by adding or reducing to their workforce as needed.

How to engage a flexible worker

Identity business needs

The first step: Make a solid distinction between immediate and longer-term requirements — as well as those you’re unsure about. For some situations, hiring full-time employees is best. For others, there may be alternative approaches.

Determine whether the circumstances will clearly be ongoing, are temporary or if you’re uncertain. Consider upcoming projects and how workload peaks and valleys might look now and in the future. This helps you determine the blend of full-time and temporary staff you need.

Clarify requirements

Next, determine the skills and experience candidates must have and how long you’ll need their assistance. For example, if you’re looking to hire a temporary professional to cover for an employee on leave, it’s important to have a specific time frame in mind.

You can also engage interim workers as a first step toward making a full-time hire. This approach allows you to evaluate an individual’s job performance firsthand and assess their fit with your workplace culture before extending a longer-term job offer. You can then transition them to full-time status if they show promise and the ongoing workload warrants it.

Arrange a trial project

It may not make a lot of business sense to conduct lengthy, in-depth interviews with each new flexible worker. Regardless, traditional qualifications are less important for temporary workers than ability to get the job done.

Assigning a small trial run when engaging a new employee is a good way to test the waters. Pay particular attention to deadlines and whether or not they are able to deliver high quality work in time. Take note also of the amount of feedback or corrections their trial requires, and how they respond to such criticism.

Think long-term

It may seem counterintuitive to think long-term when hiring temporary workers, but building relationships with flexible workers that are able to be engaged on an as-needed basis means being able to fulfil business needs quicker and easier.

Showing interest in their growth and training, in settling their invoices on time, involving them with the rest of the team, and exposing them to the company culture are all ways employers can continue the relationship beyond the immediate business need in order to maintain the relationship into the future.

Working with a recruitment company

A specialised recruitment company can help you assemble a flexible workforce fast by providing a selection of full-time, temporary and project-based talent to meet your needs. A recruitment agency focused on the parts of your business where you need help increases your odds of finding the best people for the job.

A flexible staffing plan can help your company thrive through times of uncertainty and stability alike. In any economic cycle, don’t overlook opportunities to continue strengthening your core staff. Designating a percentage of your workforce as contingent prepares your firm for whatever developments come next.

If you’re looking for staff to help your business grow, Robert Half can help.

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