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Flexible workforce strategy ‘underutilised’: Hays

Businesses encouraged to employ temporary/contract staff on a regular basis as a way to tap into new skill sets

November 16, 2010

Businesses are being encouraged to implement a flexible workforce as a way to tap into new skill sets and to help minimise the impact of future skills shortages.

As reported by recruiting expert Hays, such an employment strategy remains underutilised despite the number of organisations employing temporary/contract staff on a regular ongoing basis rising to 20 percent this year, up from 16 percent in 2009.

Hays’ latest Salary Guide, which surveyed 1,800
employers, shows 47 percent of employers use temporary/contract staff for special projects/workloads.

Meanwhile, 33 percent say they use temporary/contract staff either in only exceptional circumstances or never.

Hays Queensland Director Darren Buchanan says a flexible workforce of both permanent and temporary staff is more than just a way to avoid permanent headcount or cut costs.

“The key lies in finding the right balance between permanent staff and temporary employees, because a successful flexible workforce involves more than just using a temporary staff member for a particular project – although this of course has obvious advantages,” Buchanan says.

“A flexible workforce is also about a long-term workforce management strategy, in which such factors as not just project work, but peak demands, annual leave and system updates are considered,” he says.

“Given emerging skills shortages, it’s about the ability to access specific skills and broadening the pool of talent, rather than restricting your search to only candidates looking for a permanent role.”

According to Buchanan, temporary and contract workers can fulfil both short and medium-term needs, with assignments ranging from just a few days or weeks up to many months and even years.

“Flexibility is the key, with the ability to redistribute, increase or decrease resources as the needs of the business change. In many cases, the short term assignment does result in a permanent arrangement as both parties have a chance to see how well they work together,” he says.

However, not everyone actually wants a permanent job, in Buchanan’s view.

“Those candidates attracted to temporary assignments see them as a way to gain a better work/life balance. For some, they provide the flexibility they need to be able to remain in the workforce, while others are attracted to the variety of the workload and the broader depth of opportunities, experience and skills they can develop in temporary assignments,” he says.

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