As the world begins the long road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have a lot to think about. Should they remain virtual? How will they facilitate a smooth return to the office if they decide to bring people back?
Furthermore, now that the viability of fully remote workforces has been proven, new opportunities have opened up for incorporating contingent workers into business strategies. Contingent labor can offer significant flexibility and less risk to companies across the spectrum, which are key factors in successfully restoring productivity.
By the third quarter of 2020, our business saw the demand for contingent work increase by 9 percent above pre-COVID levels. By the end of the first quarter of 2021, that figure had risen to 15 percent above pre-COVID levels. The pandemic forced many companies to realize they could shift from full-time employees in brick-and-mortar offices to total talent pools that included nonemployee remote workers. While this trend was well on its way before the pandemic, COVID was the accelerant that fueled a permanent strategy shift for employers globally.
Ask any C-suite executive to define a contingent workforce, and the typical answer will revolve around temporary workers coming in to complete routine or low-level tasks. This perception is quickly changing. Highly skilled workers in all areas of expertise are making up a greater percentage of the contingent workforce. An Intuit report found 80 percent of large US corporations plan to increase their use of flexible workforces, with contingent workers making up over 40 percent of the total workforce. In addition, 62 percent of enterprises perceive contingent labor as a vital component of their overall workforce, according to research firm Ardent Partners.
Acknowledging this changing landscape could provide employers with increased access to talent expertise and improved overall value over time.
The Value off Contingent Workers in the Post-COVID Era
The skills and talents of contingent workers can bring significant value to your company. There should be a system in place to help them hit the ground running and bring their expertise to bear as soon as possible. Such a system requires both support personnel and the right technology.
Cost savings are chief among the benefits contingent workers have to offer. According to research from Staffing Industry Analysts, 84 percent of companies have experienced cost savings with managed services programs (MSPs), and 76 percent have experienced cost savings with vendor management systems (VMSs). Routing spending through the appropriate system, such as MSPs and VMSs, can save a company significant money. For example, saving 10 percent on an overall spend of $1 billion puts $100 million back into the company budget for other needs. MSPs and VMSs can also assist with compliance issues, tax concerns, and benefits management, possibly preventing further unexpected costs.
Without the need to address the costs of long-term employment, getting the expertise in the door can become a much simpler process — though it often comes at a significant premium in the short term.
With the technology in place to accommodate a contingent workforce, the workplace also becomes more adaptable. Organizations can respond more quickly to economic changes, including staffing adjustments, and organizational changes, including growth planning and long-term strategic proposals.
Contingent Workforce Strategy Starts With the C-Suite
Planning for these shifts must start at the top. Having a solid plan in place, including the option of transitioning some percentage of the contingent workforce into permanent employees, sets the stage for both the worker’s and the company’s success. A company’s contingent workforce strategy could even be approached as a pilot plan, with the freedom to try new ideas and explore different situations until settling on the best processes for the organization.
Once those processes are in place, contingent workers can save an organization millions. Those savings come through the realization of a competitive edge, more reliable access to the right talent at the right time, the mitigation of risk, and other benefits.
Ultimately, the C-suite is responsible for bringing the correct groups to the table to ensure a successful contingent workforce project. Internal leaders at all levels of the organization, external vendors, and other partners should be part of the conversation. These groups can bring expertise and experience to the planning and execution of a contingent workforce effort. With input from all stakeholders, a contingent workforce program can drive a company’s success through the pandemic recovery and beyond.
Kevin Akeroyd is CEO of PRO Unlimited.
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