Workplace flexibility is becoming increasingly popular among the global workforce, with employees preferring temporary, flexible roles over a permanent nine-to-fiver.
As a result, companies are transforming their staffing policies to make more room for flexible staff like part-time employees, independent contractors, etc.
But what exactly is flexible staffing?
And how do you go about managing and hiring flexible staff?
In this article, we’ll first understand what flexible staffing is and the types of flexible staff you could hire. We’ll then cover the advantages of hiring flexible staff and the right ways of bringing such employees onboard.
This article contains:
(Click on the links below to jump to specific sections)
- What is Flexible Staffing?
- 4 Types of Flexible Staff
- 3 Key Advantages of Hiring Flexible Staff
- How to Hire and Manage Flexible Staff
What is flexible staffing?
Flexible staffing involves hiring temporary employees (contingent workers) instead of recruiting permanent staff to meet a business or operational need.
Usually, an employer would hire a permanent employee if there’s a staff shortage. But, it’s a time-consuming and costly affair. There are also several legal restrictions and requirements that an employer and the employee must comply with.
Instead, by hiring temporary staff, an employer’s legal liability is significantly reduced — especially during termination. It may also be cost-effective in the long run.
Now, there could be several reasons why an employer may opt for a flexible staffing solution.
- Filling up an interim staff gap. For example, when an employee takes maternity leave.
- Meeting a seasonal rise in employee demand, like catering to higher footfall during the festive season.
- Starting a small business without investing in permanent employees.
- Hiring top talent who prefers a flexible work arrangement, like parents or college students.
Technically, such employees aren’t on a company’s payroll. They continue to work for the company as long as its needs are met and are compensated accordingly.
Let’s look at the type of temporary employees you could hire.
4 types of flexible staff
Here’re the four types of temporary employees or contingent workers you could hire:
1. Leased employees
An employer may hire or lease out a portion of its workforce to an external agency. Smaller businesses may even hire their entire staff from an agency to avoid investing time and money in the hiring process.
Companies can opt for this flexible work arrangement for a limited period or long-term. Moreover, the staffing agency is responsible for paying the temporary workers in such a work arrangement.
2. Independent contractors
Independent contractors are people or businesses who offer their service to a company under a written or verbal agreement.
An independent contractor doing flexible work is usually compensated per project/task completed. When the required job is done, they begin working on another job for another client.
Moreover, independent contractors are not entitled to other employee benefits like retirement plans, medical benefits, etc.
3. Part-time or temporary employees
You could direct hire employees on a short-term basis for jobs that require fewer work hours instead of the 40 hours per week work schedule.
You could also hire part-time employees or hourly workers for remote work that doesn’t require the staff to be present on the office premises.
However, you’ll largely be responsible for sourcing, hiring, and paying such flexible work talent.
4. Hire via a temporary staffing agency
A staffing agency can help you source suitable candidates for a limited period (less than 12 months.) In return, such agencies charge a commission for their services.
However, such employees are different from leased employees as you and not the agency will be responsible for their payments.
If you’re not sure about having a flexible work arrangement, maybe understanding its benefits can help you make the right call.
3 key advantages of hiring flexible staff
Allowing workplace flexibility and hiring temporary staff can help you in the following ways:
1. Resolve the issue of rigid staffing
Skill gaps and losing employees can cause significant disruptions to business processes.
To prevent losses, companies are continually trying to rehire permanent employees for different vacancies.
However, hiring permanent employees requires a significant commitment in terms of finances, productivity, and time. Moreover, identifying and acquiring the right talent is still one of the biggest challenges for employers.
A more viable solution is to bring temporary staff on board. This way, you can quickly access their talent and stop engaging with them when the business requirement is met.
So, instead of being caught up in a disruptive cycle of hiring and layoffs, you can work on a more holistic solution that helps improve business processes. This can eventually help reduce the workload of your core employees as well.
2. Overcome business challenges quickly and effectively
No matter how well you plan your operations, there will always be unexpected economic conditions (like a pandemic) that can negatively affect your business.
Having a flexible staffing arrangement can help you build resiliency against such external factors and ensure your company’s longevity.
Firstly, flexible staffing allows you to adjust your contingent workforce according to new requirements or business challenges. So, you can hire more employees during peak sales periods and conversely shrink your workforce when the workload decreases.
But there are also other lasting benefits of having a flexible staff, like:
- Affordable access to specialized work skills.
- You only pay when you need the talent.
- You get time to assess your human resources if you plan to hire them full-time in the future.
- You can transition your core employees from mundane day-to-day tasks to more value-adding activities.
- You can nurture positive relationships with employees and staffing agencies without a long-term commitment.
- You can easily substitute bad hires with the right talent.
Additionally, over time, you and your agency can build a community of flexible staff to fulfill talent requirements as and when they arise.
3. Leverage remote work
Allowing remote work during the COVID pandemic helped companies realize that they don’t need employees to be physically present to get things done.
To ensure retention in such uncertain times, several companies introduced a flexible working policy offering flextime. It gave a worker the flexibility to choose when to start and finish work each day.
Meanwhile, other companies offered a compressed workweek to let employees complete the standard 40 working hours in less than five days.
Similarly, employees realized the perks of remote work, like:
- Increased productivity.
- Better work-life balance.
- Cost-saving from telecommuting.
- Flexibility to meet personal commitments without taking leave.
But, how does flexible staffing come into the picture?
As remote work has become the norm, hiring flexible staff for remote work positions can help companies attract top talent irrespective of their geographical location.
You could easily hire hourly workers or freelancers sitting miles away and not be bound by the legal formalities of permanent hiring. Likewise, employees can enjoy a flexible work schedule without signing long-term contracts with companies.
Offering remote work with a flexible work option can also help you access and retain talent consisting of students, parents of young children, or older experienced employees who don’t want to work full-time.
Certainly, the perks of having a flexible work environment are hard to ignore.
But, how do you know that you need flexible staff for a position?
And how do you bring them onboard?
Let’s find out.
How to hire and manage flexible staff
Here’re the four things you need to do to hire and manage a flexible staff:
A. Create a flexible staffing strategy
The advantages of having a flexible workplace can be different for different organizations.
A flexible staffing strategy can help you identify the specific HR needs of your organization and how you can align flexible staffing with your business objectives.
To do that, you as an employer need to ask yourself a couple of questions:
- How will a flexible staffing arrangement help you fulfill the immediate talent needs of your company?
- How can flexible scheduling help you reach specialized talent you couldn’t contact otherwise?
- Which tasks are suitable for contingent workers, and which roles should remain permanent?
- What are the legal, financial, and HR requirements of maintaining such staff?
- Is the requirement of a flexible schedule immediate, or you’ll need it later?
- Can workplace flexibility contribute to your long-term business goals?
- What kind of temporary employees will suit your needs the most – freelancers, independent contractors, or a staffing agency?
- How will you build and manage relationships with your temporary staff and agencies?
You can create an internal team of key stakeholders to brainstorm and answer these questions in detail. Once you have all the answers, the next step is to hire flexible staff to fill up the identified positions.
B. Attract and retain flexible staff
Traditional hiring requires you to build and nurture formal relationships with individual employees. But with flexible staffing, you can easily create a talent pool via contractors or staffing agencies that bring their own set of nurtured professional relationships to the table.
However, you’ll still need to attract and retain your human resources.
To begin with, your HR department will need to work on these two crucial aspects:
1. Identify unique needs of temporary workers
To attract and retain temporary staff, you should be able to meet their employment needs.
Here’re some of the benefits flexible job seekers are looking out for:
- Opportunities to build relevant professional experience to kickstart their careers.
- Exposure to on-site training.
- Referrals and recommendations from supervisors.
- Association with major brands in the industry.
- Access to prospective permanent positions.
- Trying out different roles to decide their career path.
- Flexible hours to attend school, raise children, or care for family members.
2. Position yourself as a flexible talent brand
When you hire temporary staff, your company can be identified as a “flexible work brand” based on the experiences and opportunities you provide.
To attract qualified employees, you need to further position yourself as a brand that offers excellent flexible work opportunities.
For example, you could offer training and growth opportunities as a part of employee engagement. You could also have an employee assistance program to prioritize temporary staff’s physical and mental well-being.
Taking such small steps can help you nurture professional relationships with your staff and ensure that they’re open to future assignments.
C. Get a staffing agency onboard
Sometimes, it can be difficult for you to determine what kind of flexible staff is right for your organizational development. You also need to assess if the employee’s needs align with your business needs.
That’s where a staffing agency steps in.
Whether you want to downsize or acquire talent for a new business need, a staffing agency can give insights into the flexible scheduling market. It can also help you leverage its labor relations and expertise in specific industries.
Some agencies even develop expertise across multiple sectors to become a holistic staffing solution for organizations.
Here’re a few things that an agency can take care of:
- Connect you with talented workers quickly and efficiently.
- Interview and vet talent as per the company’s needs.
- Fulfill formal recruitment requirements.
- Optimize staffing best practices for remote work.
D. Use an employee management solution
While agencies can bring in top talent, you may still want to track individual employees’ performance. After all, you need to assess whether flexible scheduling is viable for your company or not.
Moreover, if you hire temporary hourly workers, you need a tool to track their billable working hours. This is also to ensure compliance with federal and state laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act.
For all of that, you can use a productivity management tool like Time Doctor.
It’s one of the most popular employee management software solutions used by major companies, like Verizon and Ericsson, and SMBs, such as Thrive Market.
Here’s how Time Doctor can help you measure the performance of your temporary workers:
- Time tracking: Track flexible hours spent by a freelancer or part-time employee on individual tasks and projects. This way, you can also manage their overtime pay. Staffing agencies may use it too to track their leased out employees.
- Work schedules: Set up a work schedule or shift according to the terms of your flexible arrangement.
- Productivity reports: Access comprehensive real-time data on work hours tracked, web and app usage, attendance, or employee activity summary.
- Payroll management: Make direct payments to staffing agencies or employees by integrating with Gusto, Wise, and PayPal.
- Idle time tracking: If you’re billed by the hour, you can also set up automatic alerts on a temporary employee’s computer. The tool notifies a user when the computer stays idle for too long.
- Chrome extension: Integrate time tracking with project management apps like Trello, Zapier, Slack, and Asana. This makes it easier to track what your staff is currently working on.
Opting for a flexible staffing approach gives you tons of benefits.
It lets you quickly access the best talent, limit your financial commitments, and mitigate the negative impact on your bottom line during an economic downturn.
You can use the information we covered here to understand if a flexible workforce is right for your needs and how to go about hiring and managing them with ease.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.