While using agency workers on a short-term basis has supported many businesses during the pandemic, it is now becoming clearer that the ability to effectively plan long-term will not return any time soon. Market conditions change on an almost daily basis and we are all struggling to keep up. Many business owners and HR managers are taking the opportunities of enforced closure to take a closer look at their human resource strategies and come up with solutions which will not only withstand the gradual return to business as usual, but also stand the test of time.
When demand uncertainty is high, the right staffing strategy can make or break a business. If you staff for low demand, you might miss out on much needed revenue. If you do the opposite and demand is low, costs can quickly become prohibitive.
Now is therefore the time for businesses to think about short-term workers for the long-term. There are three important things a business needs to get right to make this work:
1. Think about flexible staffing as a core strategy, not just for emergencies
Most businesses prefer to have regular workers to rely on – workers who understand their brand, products and processes. This can be achieved with flexible workers. It just requires consistency.
Flexible workers are not B-employees. They are ambitious and talented people with personal and career goals that can be achieved more easily with flexible schedules. All you need to do is set up adequate processes to onboard and manage them in a way where they can perform at their best.
By building up a larger pool of preferred workers who work in your business part-time but regularly, you can keep up the quality and retain knowledge while increasing your flexibility significantly. Such a pool can easily be built on digital staffing platforms, where businesses can hire workers and make them favorites if they are a particularly good fit for their team. Building a relationship with these workers over the years also increases the chances of them being available during peak times that occur during certain seasonal periods such as Christmas.
2. Don’t compromise on quality when hiring, set your workers up for success
Hospitality and retail businesses, for example, rely heavily on the interpersonal skills and attitude of their workers. Other sectors have different criteria. By building a pool of qualified candidates who you have personally tested, you will be ready for all eventualities. Using a digital platform can save you additional time during the recruitment process because you are able to not only see workers’ CVs, but also previous experiences and the ratings of other employers on a simple interface.
Once you have made your hires, ensure flexible workers receive the same essential training that you would provide to new full-time hires. Providing a high-quality on-boarding process will set your workers up for success, so assume that you will re-hire these workers and that your investment will pay off. To give you maximum flexibility in the short-term, flexible work strategies rely on longer-term commitments.
3. Don’t overload your own team with admin and payroll
From day one, flexible workers automatically have a legal right to minimum wages and social security. The minimum wages can be especially very complicated because you need to consider the location and age of the worker, as well as their working times (minimum wages, for instance, differ for weekends and nights). Before hiring, you also need to make sure you do all the relevant right-to-work checks.
If you pursue a flexible work strategy, it is worth spending some time on deciding whether to hire directly or work with a staffing agency. One benefit of using an agency is that you outsource the HR risk. You pay the agency like any other vendor and you are not responsible for any of the above. The agency will track working hours in detail and you avoid the admin cost of running a potentially complicated payroll. Another benefit is that agencies can give you guidance on competitive wage levels, which is especially relevant during peak season.
The downside? You need to pay an agency fee. However, you can avoid retainers and flat fees by choosing one that charges via a multiplier on each hired hour. It is worth doing the math because an agency fee can still work out cheaper than doing payroll in-house.
Flexible staffing is a powerful tool, provided it is used correctly and organizations behave ethically towards those they hire. More than half of the businesses that Coople recently interviewed have implemented a strategy for hiring agency workers. Can you afford not to?