Since March 2020, when many businesses sent their employees home to work, employers nationwide have experienced a host of unique challenges. Supply chain issues and quarantine requirements have affected every sector of the economy. No business has escaped the necessity of adapting to rapidly changing customer needs and wants. While much of our lives have returned to a semblance of normalcy, markets worldwide are still fickle, and investors are wary.
For business owners, this volatility necessitates developing an employee base that can quickly respond and adapt to changes that will likely come. A scalable workforce makes more sense now than ever before.
What is a scalable workforce?
A scalable workforce is a flexible workforce that employers can quickly scale up or down in response to market fluctuations, customer needs, or increases in workload. Companies who employ this staffing model eliminate the problems associated with being over or understaffed and future-proof themselves against unforeseen changes. They assume that sudden changes are coming and prepare their response before they happen.
A scalable workforce typically consists of a mixture of full-time permanent employees working alongside part-time employees, freelancers, contingent workers, temps, and contractors. The combination that works best for each company will depend significantly on the industry and skill set requirements necessary.
What are the benefits of having a scalable workforce?
Establishing a scalable workforce takes time and effort, as well as the support of management at every level of the organization. Before beginning, it is best to understand how you stand to benefit from this staffing change.
Leverage a Larger Talent Pool
Your full-time permanent employees remain the backbone of your organization. Their knowledge of the business and its customers is invaluable. However, technology makes it easier than ever before to avail yourself of contractors from different geographical locations and with unique experiences. Their tenure with your teams, even for a short time, can bring a new perspective to existing challenges.
Top-tier subject matter experts can be expensive to keep on staff full-time. However, hiring them temporarily to work on a project can be an excellent resource for your organization. A professional recruiting firm can assist you in identifying leaders in your industry willing and able to consult with you. A standing partnership with recruiting experts is crucial to finding the right talent when you are ready to scale up your workforce. Their contacts and industry knowledge can streamline your talent search.
Reduce Your Operating Costs
Keeping your business in the black during times of market volatility can be extremely challenging. Continuing to pay salaried employees when business is slow can quickly cut into your profit margins. However, if you choose to adopt a scalable workforce model of staffing, you can cut the number of employees on the permanent payroll to reduce your fixed costs in the following ways:
- Only those employees who are fully engaged in completing necessary tasks will be salaried. Contract and temporary employees receive pay only when there is work for them to do.
- Since only permanent employees receive full company benefits, you reduce the total amount the organization spends on benefits, including medical, dental, and 401k matching.
- Telecommuting allows you to conference contractors and subject matter experts into meetings without providing office space, equipment, and supplies, thus reducing your costs.
Provide Employee Support
A sudden or sustained increase in an employee’s workload can quickly lead to fatigue and burnout. Overtasked individuals are less productive and may search for a job with more flexibility, time off, or support. A scalable workforce allows you to prevent excess overtime and workplace fatigue proactively.
Winning an exciting new contract does not have to mean long hours at the office for everyone for the next six months. With contractors and temps waiting in the wings, you can provide immediate support to your team. Your core team leads and managers can direct less seasoned employees to keep the project on schedule with less stress. With a scalable team, you have the flexibility to seize opportunities when they arise.
Deliver Projects Faster
Delayed gratification is not a popular concept. In our fast-paced world, we are used to having everything at our fingertips. If your bid for a project includes a lengthy timeline, your customers may search for a competitor that can do it better or faster.
While many delays in business are unforeseeable or unavoidable, every employee is limited by the number of hours in the day. The only way to increase the amount of work your team can complete in a workweek is to increase the number of employees working on the project. An established network of independent contractors you can call on to help complete projects faster can give you a leg up on the competition.
What are the steps to establishing a scalable workforce?
- Get Everyone Onboard – Establishing a scalable workforce for your business requires marked operational changes if your current workforce is primarily full-time employees. Making such a shift successfully will require management’s buy-in at every level of the organization. Begin by having conversations with members of the board and upper-level management to determine the feasibility of this business model.
- Develop a Plan – With the help of team leads and middle managers, determine which positions require the knowledge and consistency of a full-time, permanent employee and which jobs can be filled temporarily as needed. Keep an eye out for positions where the amount of work varies by season or from one project to another.
- Begin Recruiting – HR professionals are great assets for filling permanent positions. However, building a network of contractors, temps, and experts, will be simpler with the help of an employment staffing firm. Look for one with an extensive list of contacts that is knowledgeable about staffing in your industry. They can not only help you identify the best candidates when you have openings, but they can help you navigate the legal side of managing a scalable workforce.
- Stay Engaged – For many employers, temporary employees come and go. As their time with the company is limited, they have few training opportunities and little involvement with the company. With a scalable workforce, skilled temporary workers are your lifeblood. While they are working with you, keep them engaged in the office. Learn what their ambitions and goals are and, where appropriate, offer training and learning opportunities. These actions will make your organization an attractive option for them the next time you need additional employees, temporary or permanent.
A scalable workforce may not be the perfect solution for every business in every industry. However, for many, it can provide a way to keep business profitable regardless of what the rest of the economy is doing.