10 Tips for Having the Right Blend of Flexible Workers in Your Organization

May 15, 2014

The benefits of a well-run flexible workforce can include increased agility, cost reductions, and the ability to tap into diverse sources of talent. The ideal workforce mix provides an organization with significant competitive advantages. In other words, the blended workforce is here to stay.

But what’s the optimal blend?

It can be a challenge to identify the right mix of non-employees that will be effective and efficient for the organization. After all, how do you make sure you have the right number of the right people in the right place at the right time? The right blend of flexible workers varies by industry and individual company. There is not a lot of data on the subject and there’s mounting pressure to get it right.

Different people are usually responsible for managing full-time employees and flexible workers. Most organizations have the direct hire component under control but can’t get a handle on non-employees.

So, how can you get the ideal blend of flexible workers within your organization?

Follow these ten tips to achieve success with your blended workforce. 

1. Analyze and assess

The first step is to take stock of the current situation. A great way to do this is by conducting an analysis of the organization's strategic position. Analyze the organizational structure. Analyze the requirements needed to meet business objectives. Assess the general labor market. Take a close look at employment trends. Ideally, you conduct a gap analysis and forecast labor demand. This will ensure any staffing decisions are based on verifiable data. Create a three- to five-year plan.

2. Use workforce analytic tools

Effectively managing a flexible workforce will require an increased focus on analytics. Information is power, but only when the data is used to make smarter decisions. Analytics and reporting make business planning easier. For example, imagine an organization operating multiple divisions in multiple markets. Full-time employees and non-employees are working on hundreds, if not thousands, of projects. Being able to aggregate workforce-related data across the organization enables the company to look at HR data to track performance as well as data from applicant tracking systems, vendor management, and ERP and HRIS applications.

3. Take a holistic approach to managing your flexible workforce

The worst thing an organization can do is treat its flexible workforce piecemeal. The entire process-- from identification of business needs to sourcing and acquisition of talent to engagement and post engagement-- should be cohesive. Strategic workforce planning must include the flexible workforce as part of the process. Business managers, Human Resources, Procurement, and senior leaders need to be on the same page.

4. Align the goals of the flexible workforce with business strategy

Obviously, you shouldn't be using flexible labor just to avoid payroll taxes or health care and retirement benefits. There should be a solid business case to support your workforce mix. The goals should include cost reduction (or containment) and increase productivity. Your flexible workforce should have the skills to support the organization's business strategy.

5. Break down silos

An integrated approach to managing a blended workforce requires a concerted team effort. Often, procurement manages flexible labor and HR is responsible for full-time employees. Moving forward, this approach will prevent organizations from maximizing workforce flexibility. All business stakeholders must cooperate when it comes to strategic workforce planning.

6. Have a clearly defined process

Every time you need to fill a position or staff a project, you don't need to reinvent the wheel. There should be systems in place to identify available in-house talent as well as what external talent is available. Everybody should know who is responsible for talent acquisition, performance management, and succession planning.

7. Get help if you need it

Some organizations have decided the best option for them is to outsource responsibility for their flexible workforce to a Managed Services Provider (MSP). In many cases, this results in increased operational efficiency, lower cost, and a reduction in risk.

8. Use workforce planning best practices

Although there's not a universal formula for determining the right mix of flexible labor, best practices are emerging when it comes to workforce planning. These include skills-gap scenario planning and enterprise forecasting.

9. Focus on talent

Successful management of a flexible workforce requires a shift in perspective. You'll need to focus on talent and skills, not headcount. Gone are the days where non-employee labor is only used for covering absent full-time employees or filling seasonal hiring needs. Now, flexible workers are tapped for critical roles within organizations.

10. Embrace Total Talent Management (TTM)

To attract and retain the highest quality talent and still remain flexible, organizations must take a new approach to managing the talent supply chain. Total workforce management paints a clearer picture of what’s going on within the business. Not only that, but TTM can offer increased visibility of spend, better performance tracking, and the opportunity for proper succession planning.

Do you have any tips for determining the ideal workforce mix? Leave a comment and let us know.