Future-proofing your contingent workforce through the COVID-19 Pandemic [Part 1]

It’s nearly impossible to make big, sweeping changes overnight when it comes to managing thousands of contingent workers, but that’s exactly what businesses were forced to do in the wake of the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

Picking up the pieces and developing a plan for the rest of the year and beyond is no easy feat. There are no “best practices” to rely on. There isn’t a playbook to follow. Each business was and is currently being impacted differently, based on factors like industry, geography or workforce mix. And there’s no telling what’s to come in the future. Today we’re kicking off a three-part blog series aimed at helping contingent workforce owners navigate through these unprecedented, challenging times. But our goal is to do more than simply sum up how devastating this pandemic has been or offer up a few generic how-to’s on getting back on track. We’re tackling the issue from start to finish. In this first post, we’re focusing on the now. What needs to happen immediately to get your business through this uncertainty safely and effectively? And what can you do to lay the groundwork for a successful workforce strategy, no matter how the business environment shifts? In future posts we’ll tackle what’s next and what has changed forever in the world of work.

Agility starts with visibility

Contingent workforce program owners are no strangers to the need for business agility. In fact, it’s why contingent labor programs exist in the first place, so companies can tap into qualified talent quickly to meet fluctuating demand or fill a specific skill gap in their businesses. When a crisis hits and you need to act fast, it’s critical to have all of your contingent worker data at your fingertips. In the event of today’s coronavirus pandemic, program managers need to quickly answer four questions about their non-employees:
  1. Who are they? This includes ensuring that their contact information is current so they can be communicated with effectively.
  2. Where are they? Protocols for business operations differ at not only the country level, but also state level and sometimes even by city.
  3. What are they working on? Non-employees work in different capacities throughout their tenure, and businesses need to know exactly which projects they are working on to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.
  4. What access do they have? When businesses switch to a remote model, all workers need to have the right access to equipment, networks, data, etc. to continue doing their jobs effectively.

Right-size your workforce

Shifting your business operations quickly requires the right workforce. The labor needs of organizations are all over the map, based in part on where they are in the world and whether they are considered essential or non-essential. Many industries experienced unprecedented increases in demand, like hospitals, grocery stores and logistics companies. Some industries were forced to shut down immediately, including retail and entertainment businesses like movie theaters. Others had to change their business model overnight, such as restaurants who eliminated dine-in service but continued to offer carry out and delivery. No matter which of these three groups your business falls under, you need to make swift workforce decisions that are best for your organization, and contend with a future that’s still uncertain. Staffing up. Do you know where your talent gaps are and how to fill them in terms of skills and numbers of workers? Do you need to bring on all new workers, or do you have talent in different geographies that can be redeployed to your locations with a greater need? Can you tap into similar workers laid off from jobs in your top markets? Can any of the work switch from in person to remote in order to open up your talent pool? Staffing down. If you find yourself in the position of needing to reduce staff, do you know which workers to terminate? Do you know which mission-critical work is being done by which type of worker? If you need to cut in-person work but can still maintain them in a remote capacity, are they able to do so? Do they have the right equipment and system access?

How your VMS and talent partners can help

We believe there are two things you can do right now to ensure you can meet your business needs with the right workforce. Utilize your VMS more effectively. There are a number of new features and functionality in the Beeline VMS developed in direct response to the needs of our customers during this crisis. Several of them are focused on helping you gain the right level of visibility into your extended workforce to make decisions quickly. For example, many organizations have contingent worker populations that are not currently tracked in the VMS, and are forced to search other sources in order to see all of the contingent workforce details. Resource Tracking can provide you with a global view of all contingent labor. To help companies make the switch from in-person operations to managing a newly remote workforce, new workforce continuity features have been made available to Beeline customers. Workforce Continuity reports summarize worker headcount by geography and, by using remote-eligibility fields, you can quickly see which individuals are in remote-eligible positions. Take advantage of your talent partnerships. If you’re in a position of needing to staff up your business quickly right now, you can’t go it alone. Your MSP and/or supplier relationships are critical to your success. Not only can they help you with the visibility piece, but they can also be an important ally in finding new sources of talent. You should also partner closely with those in HR responsible for your company’s employee populations. Are there any furloughed employees in non-essential positions who can be given contingent assignments? Are there any employees who have a particular skillset that be utilized in a different part of the organization temporarily? Having a full view of the experience and skills of your entire employee and non-employee workforce can help you fill any gaps more quickly. A strong relationship with your employee counterpart is the first step.

What’s next?

Our next post will cover how to prepare for the next 6-12 months. If you’re a Beeline customer, reach out to your Relationship Manager for help implementing new features. If you’re not a customer yet, register for our next live demo to see our new functionality in action.

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