The benefits of a flexible workforce

By Carl Stephen

Published on 14-04-2016

Contracting talent strategy

The Australian workforce has changed significantly due to vast and complex factors. According to the Australian Public Service Commission this is largely reflective of the changes in the ‘average’ Australian. In 1911 the average was a 24-year-old farmer. 50 years later it was a 29 year-old-male in an office environment and in 2011 it a 37-year-old female employed part-time as a sales assistant. This fact alone is significant, add to this the impacts of globalisation, changes in legislation, technological advancements, 24/7 connectivity and skills shortages and it is easy to see why there is persistent pressure from all angles for greater flexibility to meet demands.

"Flexibility is no longer a benefit but a necessity"

Carl Stephen, the contracting lead for our Supply Chain team discusses some of the benefits that his clients are realising by including interim talent as part of their broader talent strategy.

1)    Business agility and project execution

Disruption and rapid change has become a constant occurrence in the new business model. Organisations need to be agile in their response to market demand and change in order to maintain competitive advantage. We have seen huge transformation projects within companies that have largely been driven by access to flexible talent. Our partners have been able to scale up or down on resources based on real-time needs with limited process and policy restrictions. This can result in faster growth than would have been possible with a permanent talent solution.

Case Study: Capital Expansion Program

One of our partners is undertaking a large expansion program to integrate new products into their portfolio and increase the capacity of their existing site. The expansion program requires a significant, temporary workforce increase, especially across engineering roles.

Six Degrees has partnered with the business to provide ongoing resource support in the form of talent pipelining, fixed term and contingent contractors and project resource strategy consultation. Our client has experienced smoother project delivery as a result of having appropriate resources available at the right time, with the flexibility to expand and contract based on needs and project lifecycle.

To date this has represented a significant cost saving and allowed greater workforce control, compared to the cost of engaging an engineering consultancy.

2)    Tight budgets

In today’s economic climate our clients are being required to do more with less. Many have experienced a freeze on recruitment meaning their full time head count cannot increase. Businesses are therefore forced to look for alternatives to manage the workload.

I have found there is a misconception around the cost of a contract solution versus a permanent solution. Many clients believe that a contract option is more expensive given the higher rate per hours for most contractors, however when considered holistically it is often a cost effective solution.

Our clients are realising the benefits through the following savings:

  • Reduction in administration associated with payroll such as WorkCover and liability.
  • Decrease in recruitment fees.
  • Increased productivity due to reduction in the time it takes to fill a role - one to two weeks versus one to two months for a permanent executive role.
  • Alternative to management consultants who can charge in excess of $3000 per day.
  • Drain on internal resources such as HR and recruitment teams.
  • Ability to convert fixed cost to variable costs.
  • Reduced training cost.
  • Reduced absenteeism caused by stress and burnout of long-term employees.

3)    Access to skilled, specialist talent

If an organisation is willing to provide flexibility, then there is an opportunity to access a wider talent pool. This is particularly attractive for roles that require a specialist skillset on a short-term project, or someone capable of managing project teams. Often this talent can bring skills that are lacking in your current team but are only needed for a fixed period. This is particularly relevant for small to medium businesses who do not have the luxury of employing specialist talent on a permanent basis.

Our clients have utilised interim talent to:

  • Prepare for, or close out gaps as a result of quality, safety or regulatory audits.
  • Scope and/or deliver continuous improvement/operational excellence programs.
  • Deliver plant improvements to achieve specific performance improvements.

4)    Diversity is high on the agenda

Diversity is high on the agenda for many organisations and is a key driver, especially for technical industries which have traditionally been male dominant. To be competitive businesses need to provide flexibility for parents returning to work or those wanting to start a family. This may include short-term contacts, the option to work from home or job share.

It is also worth mentioning that parental leave can  easily be replaced in the short-term by a fixed tenure or contingent worker, often there is uncertainty surrounding a new parent returning to work and exactly what their working arrangement will be, contingent workers  remain flexible to assist in those periods.

In my experience businesses that adopt these solutions as part of a broader talent strategy are able to retain talent that is in high demand and attract the best talent in the market.

Carl IMG_2201

Carl Stephen

Consultant, Contracting Supply Chain & Procurement

Carl recruits contract roles across all industries within the supply chain and procurement disciplines. If you would like to find out more about contracting please contact Carl on 03 8613 3519.