The concept of flexibility has never been as important for the world of work as it is today. Businesses are realizing 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 recognizing 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.

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 labor market can help your business access skills and experience that are difficult to source through traditional hiring.

The lack of available skilled workers looking for full-time jobs is driving a 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 Center. 

con: potential lack of engagement

Flex workers are undeniably a valuable source of skills, but they’re not a permanent member of your organization. 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 organization, and are they committed to helping you achieve it? These are valid questions to ask.

If key stakeholders within your businesses harbor these concerns, there are steps you can take to minimize 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.

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 in flexible 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 organizations 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 gives 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 organizations similar to your own in the past. Reference checking tools like Checkster can make this job easier.

You can also minimize risk by working with an experienced staffing partner offering in-depth knowledge of your sector and the local labor 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 report with a list of stats that underline the relevance of the flexible workforce with insights and research from a range of  sources.

about the author
SOFIE M

sofie maervoet

vp global concepts staffing

Sofie is one of the staffing leaders in Randstad with a track record in process optimization, training and coaching. She started her career as a staffing consultant in Randstad Belgium in 2002. Later, she joined the team in Randstad Switzerland as concept manager until she joined the global concept development team in 2018.