The Value of Contingent Workers During Times of Crisis

There have been a number of recently published articles about how the COVID-19 pandemic has led to job losses for many Americans and forced organizations to transform their businesses to accommodate remote and contactless work. And while news of the negative effects of this virus seems to be ever-present, these unprecedented times are not totally devoid of opportunity for both job seekers and employers.

Contract workers have long played an integral role in industries all across the nation. A pre-coronavirus study showed that there were over 57 million freelancers in the US who drove more than $1 trillion in income last year. Contract work presents great opportunity for individuals who have niche expertise, are between jobs, or those who don’t want to work full time.

As companies in all industries reassess their operations and retool their organizations to meet the changing business models and workplace environments that are necessary to move forward, contingent workers offer several distinct value propositions that should be considered and are especially desirable during times of uncertainty. Here are a few benefits to consider:

Quickly Meeting Demands

Contract workers can enable a company to meet its current demand quickly. When assessing the needs of your organization’s customer service department or supply chain, contract workers can help you scale up quickly to meet large increases in volume. While sales may be down for many companies, those operating in the health and wellness sector, remote business and online education solutions, and in-home entertainment have experienced massive growth. Contingent workers can help those companies quickly meet customer demand with minimal disruption to business functions. And contract-working arrangements also allow for more flexibility for both parties. A temporary contract can run its course with both parties amicably parting ways; it can be extended by any number of months or years; or sometimes the contract can transition into full-time employment if that’s the desire of the employer and consultant.

Lower Costs

Hiring permanent employees often comes with a great expense, including additional payments for benefits, tax obligations, and expenses related to hiring and onboarding. Since contract workers aren’t classified as full-time staff, your company has fewer obligations. When contracting through an agency, the agency can also handle all of the related paperwork, which can reduce your workload additionally. It’s a win-win scenario since you get the work done that you need without many of the associated expenses. Since the current crisis—and many other crisis scenarios—force companies to work more efficiently with fewer resources, the lower costs of contingent workers can be a tremendous advantage.

Getting the Right Skill Sets

While many people operate under the assumption that contract workers are a great resource when you need general tasks completed, the reality is that many contract workers come with highly specific skill sets and expertise that can match your unique needs and even enhance your current processes. Contract workers placed through a recruiting firm have been thoroughly vetted by the agency, so you know exactly what their previous experience is, as well as what certifications they may hold. This process can help your organization narrow down the field of candidates to only those who match your requirements, providing a quick way to get the perfect people.

Increasing Flexibility and Adaptability

Perhaps one of the biggest lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is that employers must be more flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances and market demand. Because contract workers can be put into action quickly with minimal obligations from the employer, the use of these working arrangements can ensure that your operations remain ready to meet any new challenges that emerge throughout the economic recovery period. This small difference can make a huge impact in light of the unique circumstances of this global economic crisis.

Enabling Remote Work

In many instances, contract workers are already highly familiar with remote-working arrangements, meaning that they understand the challenges that arise from it, and how to successfully address these challenges. From this perspective, contract workers have a unique advantage over many other employees with experience in a more traditional work setting. In today’s climate, with many companies implementing long-term social distancing and remote working policies, experienced staff who understand how to successfully navigate these workflows can ensure that smooth operations are maintained with minimal disruption as the company transforms its business-delivery model.

Bridging Skills Gaps

The current pandemic has forced many companies to take a hard look at their business models and value propositions. This deep-dive analysis is also leading many to conclude that they must undergo a serious transformation in order to remain competitive in today’s uncertain market. But transformation won’t come easily for many of these organizations that find that they need employees with skill sets that are vastly different from what they’ve needed in the past. Right now it’s a highly experimental stage where knowledgeable consultants can play a major role in filling the skills gaps, offering fresh insight, enhancing workflows through niche expertise, and helping educate teams on new tools and technologies.

Testing the Waters

Another great benefit of hiring contingent employees is that it can help you to identify great candidates for full-time employment should your needs change. It can serve as a trial run; you get to see the worker in action, while they get a feel for the company’s culture and determine if longer-term employment might be compatible with their career goals. These short-term contracts offer both parties an opportunity to test the waters before committing to the necessary requirements to make them a permanent employee.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed a lot about current working patterns and exposed the ways they may be forever altered. Most current data indicate that employers are considering a shift toward more remote work that will last long after the pandemic, and we have every reason to believe that the economic recovery period for many companies will be long and arduous. And while the future remains uncertain, companies and individuals that remain strategic, creative, and adaptable will be in the best position to find opportunities, even in the most unstable times.

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