The future (of work) is flexible

The future (of work) is flexible

In a previous post, we talked about the megatrends that will shape the way we work. Topics like urbanisation, the “Silver Society”, and increasing individualisation are forging a labour market that is more flexible, but why is it important, and just what exactly does “flexible” mean when it comes to working?

The “flexibilisation” of labour is multidimensional: that is, it affects governments, business, and individuals alike. On the macro side of things, governments will need to adapt to new demands created by a changing economy, namely through the support, enablement, and implementation of appropriate programs and legal regulations. An example of this might be accommodating for increased mobility of commuting workers and improving transportation infrastructures between regions.

On the micro side, the focus will be to meet the needs and interests of both the employer and the employee to adequately accommodate the unpredictability of business fluctuations. You may have noticed that there is an increasing trend for companies to be leaner, more agile, and more competitive—these are all responses to the increasing flexibilisation of labour.

Finally, for workers, the flexibilisation of labour empowers them to take control of their personal scheduling, work environment, and workload. Depending on a person’s life circumstances, flexible work may be a temporary or even a permanent solution to earn income, maintain personal freedom, and secure financial independence.

Forms of flexibility

Flexible work can manifest in a variety of forms. An article published by Peter A. Reilly in the European Journal of Work and Organisation Psychology identifies five types of labour flexibility:

  1. Numerical
  2. Functional
  3. Temporal
  4. Locational
  5. Financial

Numerical flexibility is adjusting the number of employees based on the needs of the employer. A good example of this is seasonal work and fixed-term contracts. Numerical flexibility has actually quite a long-rooted history in the gastronomy, hospitality, and construction sectors, but as megatrends like digitisation and connectivity continue to change the landscape of work, we can expect to see increased numerical flexibility in other industries as well. In fact, the rising prevalence of hiring on-demand as well as the outsourcing of online-related work is a form of numerical flexibility.

Functional flexibility is the extent to which employees can be assigned to different roles. The job rotation model is a traditional example, where employees take on different tasks depending on their scheduled shift or the demands of the business. More recently, companies focusing on optimising delivery and reducing overhead costs are driving a newer trend of hiring “full-stack employees”, or employees skilled across a spectrum of functions rather than a specialisation. This is based on the principle that lower levels of specialisation have positive effects on the flexibility of an organisation, allowing companies to deliver faster.

On the employee side, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions cites a direct relationship between functional flexibility and long-term skills retention, and that “making optimal use of the employee’s capacity to perform different tasks is positively related to skills development and decision-making”.

Temporal flexibility is the variation of the number of hours worked and the scheduled time off work. Over time, flexible working hours, and part-time work are all examples of temporal flexibility. In Switzerland, as more and more women join the workforce, the proportion of part-time employees has risen to such levels that Switzerland now ranks second in Europe (behind the Netherlands) as the country with the highest percentage of part-time employees. As you may guess, the family is given as the most common reason for undertaking part-time work.

Other data from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO, 2015) reveal that 44.6% of employees in Switzerland enjoy some form of temporal flexibility. Interestingly enough, those with a tertiary-level education are more likely to work flexibly, indicating that the flexibilisation of work is something felt across all industries and skill levels.

Locational flexibility includes forms of work where the employee finds him- or herself outside of the normal working location. Traditional examples include business trips, but the most well-known example today is indubitably working from home. A more common occurrence is working on the commute. Increased mobility among today’s population plays an active role in the decentralisation of our work. Think about it: how many people do you know have mentioned working from a café, a co-working space, or (perhaps somewhat cliché) on a mountain or by the beach?

Finally, financial flexibility is the adjustment of wages and benefits to reflect the supply and demand for labour. Sales commission and year-end bonuses are the most well-known examples of this.

While you may not be familiar with terms such as temporal, functional, or locational flexibility, chances are you’ve encountered one or all of the examples above in the workplace before. As you can see, there are advantages of flexible work for both employers and employees—the magic happens when both sides benefit at the same time from the working relationship.

About the author
Viktor Calabrò is Founder of Coople. He is also co-author of the book Flexible Workforce and was named Swiss Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young in 2014.

Dealing with shallow talent pools – Breakfast Round Table

Dealing with shallow talent pools – Breakfast Round Table

It’s the return of the breakfast round table discussions; where we invite industry leaders to share their experiences amongst peers. Last time, we focused on tackling staff turnover – which proved to be a hot topic amongst attendees due to the highest ever recorded levels of employment in the UK. This time, we focused on how shallow talent pools are affecting business operations from; setting standards, getting flexible and training and development.

Shallow talent pools – how to do more than stay afloat

Attracting the best people into your business is becoming increasingly tough. Talent pools are shrinking, meaning more competition for skilled staff according to 70 percent of business leaders surveyed by the Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA).

To compound the issue, National Statistics UK tells us that 2018 saw seven per cent fewer EU national workers join the UK. The result? A market where everyone is chasing the same talent.

So, how are these challenges impacting businesses and what can you do to overcome them? We invited leaders from the leisure, hospitality and marketing sectors to share their insights at our latest breakfast roundtable at London’s Sky Garden.

Setting standards

The message that came through loud and clear throughout the discussion was that it’s increasingly difficult to find people with the right skills. There is agreement that the quality of applicants has decreased over the last year. With roles to fill, many businesses are concerned that they may need to lower their standards when it comes to hiring.

In an attempt to buck this trend and find the right talent, businesses are switching up their approaches to recruitment. Some are utilising their employee network, offering commissions for referrals. However, this can fall short as many juniors do not have a wide enough contact base or are not open to retention-based referral fees that involve a three to six-month wait before they pay out.

Shallow talent pools are causing businesses to shake up their approach to hiring. “We look in unorthodox places like churches; places where the community are. We also use Facebook and have found some good quality candidates,” said Elijah Braik, Head of Recruitment and Training at Ronin International. Many are also finding success with smart on-demand job platforms, like ours, which match employers with talented staff, with the right skills, in the right area.

Getting flexible

Another core trend in recruitment is the growing demand for flexible working. In fact, 30 percent of companies are now hiring temporary labour across all job levels, according to the SIA Talent Study 2019. This is because employees aren’t just looking for a pay packet anymore, they are motivated by improving their quality of life. This means avoiding lengthy commutes and selecting lifestyle-appropriate working hours. It’s also worth noting that many workers are not looking for fast track promotions, instead wanting to avoid the pressure and stress that comes with increasing seniority.

This has a huge impact on hiring. “It’s hard to strike the right balance between offering people the flexibility but also covering all of the shifts with the highest of quality, so there is pressure to get people to work,” says Maureen Kaudha, Head of Operations at Casna Group.

Some organisations state that they need to hire double the volume of staff to enable flexibility but, with the shallow talent pool issue, sourcing quality people can be tough. Here again, many hospitality, leisure and office-based businesses are looking to platforms like Coople which are focused on making flexibility work for everyone. By providing access to talented staff who can work across a range of shifts we can alleviate many of the issues caused by the trend towards flexible working.

Training and retaining

Once a business has the right people in place, the next struggle is to retain staff. In our discussion, it became very clear that culture has a huge role to play here. Businesses need to make their people feel valued and empowered – this is the key to keeping them on-board. Tactics vary from perks and benefits to senior stakeholders investing time into staff visits. However, the crux of what needs to be achieved is creating a supportive culture where employees know that the business is invested in their happiness, wellbeing and development. As a company, we give staff what we call an ‘indulgent card’ for discounts on food, drink and hotel stays. We also work as a family unit to retrain our staff, creating a strong support network around them,” said Nicci Dodd, Fullers.

While there is no doubt that shallow talent pools present a major challenge for businesses, the good news is that there is plenty that can be done to alleviate the impact and find the right people to deliver great customer experiences. A lateral approach to hiring combined with offering people the chance to develop their skills, learn from new experiences and take on responsibility will be critical in holding on to the best talent. Businesses can’t afford to settle for second best; the people that work for them certainly won’t.

Work 4.0: what is it and why does it matter?

Work 4.0: what is it and why does it matter?

It seems that the future is all that anyone wants to talk about these days. No matter the industry, “the future of _____” is a topic to be sure. In the automotive industry, companies are off the road to perfect self-driving vehicles. In the food industry, scientists have begun experimenting with lab-grown steaks in an effort to make agriculture and aquaculture more sustainable. In the world of finance, revolutionary technology brought by blockchain, in the words of KPMG, “poised to change the future of accounting, payments, trading, and collateral management.”

The future of laboratory, of course, is no exception to this course of discussion, In recent decades, the development of new communication tools and the exponential increase in the amount of data and information has also opened. A term which you can no doubt have come across is Work 4.0. While it may sound like a software update, it extends beyond the screen you’re reading this from. But just what exactly is Work 4.0? Simply put, the Concepts of New Work, Industry 4.0, and Work 4.0 all describe how to do it. However, to better understand what the future might hold, we need to take a look at our past.

Work 4.0: how did we get here?

The transition from hand production to machine production beginning in the 18th century-more commonly referred to as the Industrial Revolution marks a keystone chapter in human history. With the introduction of new production systems using water and steam, the physical power of machines has been learned. This newfound knowledge has achieved many aspects of daily life, and as a result, the world saw an unprecedented rise in population.

The Second Industrial Revolution continued to contribute to the rise of mass production with the help of electrical energy. Inventions such as the conveyor belt facilitated new technologies as well as the telegraph and railway networks, which in their turn contributed to the surge in movement among people-another keystone chapter for mankind.

The third revolution of work, known as the Digital Revolution, saw the replacement of mechanical devices and analogue electronics by digital technology. The sweeping changes brought on by the Digital Revolution include the widespread adoption and use of the computer, cellular phone, and the internet.

Up to now, the use of machines has been limited to helping humans in a physical capacity, through either power or agility. However, we are beginning to use the machine’s intellectual capacity, with the most prominent example of this being the self-driving car. And so here we are at Work 4.0, the fourth and latest revolution in the world of industry and laboratory.

Predicting the future of work through megatrends

Work 4.0 is not an airy, futuristic concept. Just like the previous previous revolutions that preceded it, Work 4.0 wants to embrace many aspects of our daily lives. There are many hypotheses we can make about what the future of work will look like by observing today’s megatrends. Coined in the 1980s by the American John Naisbitt, megatrends are long-term developments which have a global character, and whose momentum and influence over several decades.

Among the current megatrends identified by the Zukunftsinstitut, the following will have the largest impactin the way we work.

  • Digitisation: In a 2018 report by McKinsey, it is estimated that 20-25% of all tasks in Switzerland may be automated by 2030. However, signalling a need for reskilling in the workforce.
  • Connectivity: Along with digitisation, connectivity is one of the most influential megatrends of our time. Social media, instant messaging, and apps are setting a new standard for how to interact, connect, and collaborate with others. One of the challenges is to navigate through the new code of conducts of Work 4.0.
  • Urbanisation: As more people flock to urban centres, cities are becoming powerful players in their own rights in the global economy. Concentrated areas like Silicon Valley have single-handedly been responsible for disrupting some of the world’s longest-standing business models. (Uber or Airbnb, anyone?) There is no doubt that in the future, urban areas will play a huge role in shaping the way we live, think, and work.
  • The “Silver Society”: “Around the Globe”, “The Globe of the Silver Society”, “The Society of the Silver Society” surprisingly-work.
  • Individualisation: With increased, connectivity, mobility, and longevity, we, therefore, see a trend toward greater individualisation. Those who are younger are discovering and embracing their freedom of choice: the freedom to decide where they live, what they consume, and how they work.

As these megatrends engender a new workforce that is more mobile and more flexible, it’s up to companies and policymakers to redesign the existing business models and policies to usher in this new era of work.

About the author

Viktor Calabrò is Founder and Executive Chairman of Coople, Europe’s largest on-demand staffing platform. He also co-authored the book Flexible Workforce and what was named Swiss Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young in 2014.

Tackling staff turnover in 2018 – Breakfast Round Table

Tackling staff turnover in 2018 – Breakfast Round Table

Tackling staff turnover in 2018 – Breakfast Round Table

The UK staffing industry has never been so competitive with unemployment at its lowest since 1975, total pay which grew 2.8% in the three months to January 2018 and according to a recent RSA report an estimated 12% increase in UK flexible workers in 2017 (employed staff who work on a shift-by-shift basis), suggesting that minimising staff turnover has never been more important.

Whether it’s in the hospitality, events, office or logistics sector, the time and costs associated with replacing staff is at its highest due to the increase in demand combined with a slower UK workforce growth, meaning tackling staff turnover in 2018 whether for full time or flexible workers, will have a significant impact on a business’s success.

With this in mind, Coople invited staffing leading experts and some highly established UK clients to a breakfast round table at the Sky Garden in London to discuss how each organisation is witnessing and managing staff turnover.  It was a great opportunity for each individual to share their own insights, ideas and initiatives they have developed to tackle their staffing pain points.

The event commenced with an overview of staffing industry trends with Kathleen Henehan from Resolution Foundation and an overview of the gig economy with Adam Pode from Staffing Industry Analyst.

These contributions laid the foundations for our roundtable discussion about the recruitment pain points which impact companies today:

  • Employee turnover rates are crucial when trying to keep a level of consistency in delivery. Evidence from across the OECD suggests that training and progression routes not only builds longer tenure but also firm-level productivity. However, the amount of investment employers are willing to spend on staff given the natural high churn rates is up for debate. A case from one of our clients suggested that with a well-structured onboarding programme combined with some training, they see their staff turnover rates reduced with consistency in the delivery of the service maintained, whilst limiting spend on expensive training days.
  • Getting the balance right in the team structure between the roles and responsibilities of full-time and flexible staff can also lead to improved staff retention. One of Coople’s upmarket restaurant clients explained how on-boarding general managers in multiple locations is key for them. Having clarity on the roles of full-time compared to flexible staff has helped them maximise their workforce’s output.
  • Automating the recruitment process was acknowledged by all present as a key area to drastically reduce time and money spent on finding the right talent during key business hours. The need for a more effective recruitment process, whether internal or external, is particularly evident during peak seasons where businesses are already stretched and need more experienced staff. By embracing a more integrated approach, businesses systematically saw an increase in speed of responsiveness and were able to free up their most valuable resources during peak seasons giving them a competitive advantage.

Tackling staff turnover breakfast roundtable September

With the huge success of the roundtable discussion on how to tackle staff turnover, Coople will be organising a follow up breakfast roundtable in September, where clients will be invited to share and present their own initiatives in more detail as well highlight some of their results, whether good or bad.

Overview of the contributors

Kathleen Henehan 

Kathleen joined the Resolution Foundation in 2017, working on post-16 skills and education. Prior to joining Resolution Foundation, Kathleen worked at Universities UK, where she focused on graduate employment outcomes and learning and teaching policy. She has a PhD in Political Science from the London School of Economics.

Adam Pode

Adam joined SIA in June 2009 with overall responsibility for research for EMEA & Asia-Pac. Since then he has examined and written about the staffing industry from Australia to Zambia. Developed forecasts that the market uses to plan its strategy. Advised numerous companies from around the globe. Calculated the size of the Global Gig Economy, and spoken at numerous industry events.

Embracing the digital world of work

Embracing the digital world of work

The digital world of work is here and organisations are having to adopt a flexible staffing strategy.

According to Deloitte’s 2017 survey on The Rules of The Digital Age, 81% of businesses that responded found “talent acquisition and management” as the second most important challenge they faced. From the on-going digitisation and automation of recruitment processes to managing work-life balance as well as the need by workers for increased flexibility, businesses across numerous industries must find new ways to efficiently cope with a complex set of ever-changing needs.The digital world of work is here and organisations are having to adopt a flexible staffing strategy.

Taking a flexible, on-demand staffing strategy can have a direct impact on a business’s overall performance, especially when dealing with peaks and troughs in demand, which can result in companies being either “understaffed” or “overstaffed”. The hospitality, events, retail or even office sectors are no different and all experience such fluctuations when it comes to their monthly personnel and business requirements. However, despite these facts, the majority of organisations in these sectors have retained a rigid staffing model, preventing them to reach their “Powerzone” – the optimum balance of personnel resources and business requirements that allows them to reach maximum return and save on staffing cost inefficiencies.

To ensure businesses are able to call upon flexible staff to deal with their variable peaks in demand, at Coople we have a devised a “Just-in-time” model, which allows employers to bring in various layers of flexible staff at any one time. With a “core team” and “support team” making the majority of a business’ full-time staff, we have observed a need for our clients to rely on a variety of flexible teams to ensure they can deliver the best quality of service to their customers without incurring excessive costs.

Built with key employees who are tightly bound to the company and have a permanent contract, the “Core & Support team” typically consists of the senior management team and core managers. Employees belonging to the “internal flex workforce” tend to have a permanent working contract but are part of a wider staffing pool which can be used for variable assignments that change depending on seasonality or other demand fluctuations.  The “extended internal flex team” on the other hand do not have a permanent agreement but tend to know the company well and are key in training and liaising with the “external flex team”, ensuring these flexible workers are in sync with the organisation’s culture and modus operandi.

Having a flexible and layered “Just-in-time” staffing approach has enabled a number of Coople’s clients to deal with a wide set of staffing challenges – from busy lunchtime breaks to bad weather and staff sickness. Ensuring each team is strongly linked to the organisation’s “core team” and its culture, this on-demand approach enables businesses to deploy their flex-teams at very short notice (hours/ minutes) to deal with unpredictable and ever-changing business needs.

By building a pool of workers on the Coople platform, employers are able to create a shortlist of their favourite workers for them to re-hire instantly, making the hiring process frictionless. Beyond flexible work requirements, companies are also looking at digital tools to help them better manage their entire staffing needs across planning cycles, uploading their own staff to analyse and better identify staffing needs.

This data-driven planning and recruitment approach is already changing the way companies work, by allowing them to easily and efficiently tackling their staffing needs. By using intuitive digital tools such as Coople’s on-demand staffing platform businesses can look to optimise both profitability and customer satisfaction at the same time with minimal overhead and admin time spent on managing recruitment, payroll and other related tasks.

The gig economy done well: a better staffing model for your business

The gig economy done well: a better staffing model for your business

Welcome to the gig economy –  a new world of work where businesses are increasingly seeing the need of having a highly flexible workforce to match the rapidly changing economic and business environment in which they operate.

The number of skilled independent workers entering the gig economy is on the rise with an increase of 21 percent of part-time workers from 2012 to 2016 in the UK (Labour Market Statistics 2016) and forward-thinking employers are reaping the benefits in terms of both customer satisfaction and efficiency.

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy is all about organisations enlisting workers who operate on a flexible basis in order to better manage their ever-changing weekly, daily and hourly business needs.

Picture a world where experienced workers can complement your full-time team whenever there are peaks in demand, unplanned absences or one-off events such as product launches, conferences, weddings, concerts. Highly qualified flexible staff can be requested with 4 hours’ notice, complete a job and then walk away to work for other companies when their services are no longer needed. Employing workers on a flexible basis allows them to better suit meaningful work around their personal needs, and to work with a number of different clients at the same time to achieve their desired work-life balance. Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it?

How big is the gig economy?

In short: bigger than you think, and growing rapidly.

More people than ever are realising that they don’t have to lose the perks of full-time employment when trading for flexible work. The increased independence, control and job satisfaction associated with voluntary flexible work is making it a popular alternative to permanent positions. A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute revealed as many as 162 million people across Europe and the US do some kind of independent, flexible work; around 20-30 percent of the working-age population.

According to the UK Labour Market Jan 2017 Bulletin, there are currently 8.4 million part-time workers in the UK and this is expected to increase by 26% over the next four years. This organic increase is being driven by the need for flexibility from today’s evolving workforce rather than by the fact they can’t find full-time employment – 78% of existing part-time workers are doing so out of choice according to the bulletin.

Businesses are also reaping the benefits from flexible employment, helping them optimise their staffing needs, increasing worker satisfaction and reducing costs. They do this by dynamically adjusting their staffing levels to match business and customer demands. The gig economy spans a range of sectors; and has fueled the transformation of the transportation (Uber), retail (Argos) and even the food (Ocado) industries. This new model is also being applied to staffing, reflecting the need for both worker and employer to have more flexibility.

Why is the gig economy appealing to workers?

Once upon a time, a full-time position with a reputable business representing lifetime career security was the dream. Nowadays, people seem to love the control and flexibility that comes with being their own boss and having more choice about which work they want to do and when. They can also access multiple sources of flexible work assignments that provide them with the necessary income level and security.

How can businesses benefit from the gig economy?

For employers, the benefits of temporary staffing are equally bountiful.

Having the ability to hire additional staff flexibly around business needs allows companies to optimize staff levels according to fluctuations in revenues. It’s simply about gap management and optimising staffing needs to maximise profitability and capture the full revenue potential.

Employers can also hand-pick individuals, from novices to experts depending on their needs, filling any skill gaps by using a more dynamic and job-specific approach. Gig workers also bring a wealth of market intelligence and can invigorate existing operations with new methods and ideas.

The temporary nature of their work means flexible workers are highly motivated and eager to prove their value to new employers, therefore consistently producing high-quality output.

The best employers in the gig economy treat flexible staff like valued members of their team, whilst respecting their independence. Something the on-demand staffing app Coople refers to as “the gig economy done well” – the idea that offering flexibility shouldn’t be at the detriment of full-time employment benefits, such as holiday pay and national insurance contributions. This approach will not only attract the best talent but retain a loyal pool of flexible workers who feel invested in a company or service provider.

Enlist the right partners & infrastructure

Seamless and straightforward staffing management software solutions are an absolute must to make sure flexible staff are efficiently onboard, managed, deployed and paid correctly.

Employers should also partner with appropriate talent suppliers and services to ensure the efficient matching of supply and demand, whilst offering quality staffing. Providers such as Coople look to take the hassle out of staff management, enabling employers to have a better overview of their workforce and react to their varying needs at a click of a button whilst on the go.

The gig economy can be a win-win

While engaged on a temporary basis, gig workers share many of the same needs as permanent employees. They want to work for great companies and fill their CVs with meaningful and enjoyable work, inside productive teams.

Great contractors will be in high demand and enjoy plenty of choices about which projects they’ll accept or decline. Employers need to come out on top when workers weigh up options and ask, ‘which one should I choose to accept?’

The gig economy is all about building strong relationships built on mutual gain. Treat skilled independent workers well. After all, they might be the backbone your business needs to grow.

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