The flexible workforce

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when the idea of the flexible workforce of temporary employees was equated with just replacing absentee workers. Today, that idea couldn’t be further from reality.
More companies, from the smallest to the largest, are embracing the "just-in-skills, just-in-time" human resources model to enhance productivity and gain the all-important competitive advantage.
The flexible workforce has become a key organizational tool, growing from just under 1 million in 1990 to 2.4 million today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Clearly, this management tool is here to stay.
What have been the principal drivers in the growth of the flexible workforce? The overriding reason companies use temporary workers is to keep their workforce responsive to the marketplace. In fact, 81% of companies cite this as the reason they use temps.
To stay competitive, companies need to keep pace with changing business dynamics and productivity demands. They also need to meet the call for higher quality. To do so successfully, it is essential that they focus on their core competencies and consider outsourcing some functions.
That’s where staffing services can help. Of course, companies will partner with staffing services to supply temporary workers. What may not be as obvious is that they often count on them to fulfill other human resources functions, freeing them to concentrate on core competencies. Today, many businesses ask staffing services to manage strategic challenges such as cost containment, headcount control and usage oversight, wage management, productivity enhancement, and turnover management.
Let’s look at each of these challenges. First, businesses can use a staffing company as the recruiter and human resources manager for temporary and/or full-time positions. The staffing company assumes responsibility for activities such as recruiting, interviewing, skill evaluation/verification, background checks, and drug testing. For temporary employees, the staffing company also handles payroll, benefits, training, and performance evaluation.
As for headcount control and usage oversight, staffing services supplement companies’ core staff with temporary employees who meet the demands of peak production periods, whether they are cyclical or due to new initiatives. Good staffing services deploy their pool of qualified workers quickly and easily. Staffing companies should also be able to provide accurate and timely reporting of headcount, and, if desired, quality control of multiple staffing partners.
Wage management can drain a company’s resources away from core competencies. Staffing services relieve clients of these responsibilities by managing time capture; issuing paychecks; paying statutory taxes, workers’ compensation and insurance; and assuming paycharges. A full-service staffing company should also be able to create customized invoices and usage reports.
Many clients of staffing companies look for assistance in productivity enhancement. Typically, staffing services provide general and customized orientation to temporary employees, training them in safety and the skills they need to succeed at the client’s work site. The best staffing companies include tuition reimbursement in their benefits package and encourage their temporary employees to train for the next step in their careers, supporting professional growth and productivity.
The result is that these days, the flexible workforce is much more highly skilled and sophisticated than it was in the past. Customers have every right to expect professional performance and high productivity from temporary workers, and if they choose their staffing partner carefully, they will get it.
Companies often cite turnover as an impediment to productivity. It’s true that repeatedly training employees due to turnover is very costly, so many companies turn to staffing services to eliminate much of this challenge.
Lisa Rands is regional vice president of Adecco in Milwaukee. She can be reached at (414) 278-7900.

May 28, 2004 Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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