Charting the Evolving Contingent Workplace

charting-the-evolving-contingent-workplace_blog_staff-management-SMX_RThe use of staffing firms to meet just-in-time and project-based hiring needs across all skills sets and geographies has become an integral part of an organization’s overall workforce planning strategy as companies choose to rely on the flexibility of contingent labor to adjust quickly to changes in the business cycle without having to add and shed permanent positions. As the composition of the workforce becomes more heavily weighted towards contingent positions, contingent work is becoming more project-based, more professional and, where work is performed, more dynamic. Temporary staffing can be used as a just-in-time solution to increasing demand and conversely an organization can more quickly apply the brakes.

With this evolution in contingent workforce strategy, buyers of contingent labor continue to become more sophisticated – as have their expectations for contingent workforce data, analytics and scheduling capabilities. The industry has responded with cutting-edge technology, performance and efficiency strategies. As a result, all staffing clients, even those newer to a managed contingent workforce program, are gaining greater access to these tools and better ability to apply labor in a just-in-time fashion. McKinsey reports that “technology makes it possible for companies to manage labor as a variable input rather than a fixed one. Using new resource scheduling systems, they can staff workers only when needed – whether it’s for a full day or a few hours.”

A recent Staffing Industry Analysts’ article, You Cannot Manage What You Cannot Measure, highlights this trend towards more analytic driven contingent workforce management programs and the changing requirements for HR managers in the contingent world. In the article Joan Davison, Staff Management | SMX President & COO, explains “Given the variety and shorter duration and lead time for contingent assignments, we must track and analyze workforce statistics frequently. A contingent worker can be placed on multiple assignments in a year, so we need to understand their performance and qualifications in real-time to make effective reassignment decisions.” Reflecting on how access to data has changed the way contingent labor suppliers are managed Davison says, “For instance, in the past when a supplier had high turnover in a particular position or department, they were deemed a failure. Today, with the data available, we may find that there is an environmental issue in the department that needs to be addressed or that the job description needs refinement.”

In their study, Aberdeen finds that companies with “Best-in-Class performance” have a “60% higher likelihood of maintaining real-time visibility into all subsets of contingent labor management.” This trend towards improved data management for the contingent workforce seems destined to continue as organizations become increasingly reliant on temporary labor. When asked to rank their priorities for contingent labor management, Aberdeen reports that contingent labor buyers ranked “creating more visibility into their entire talent pool” their top priority for 2011.