Companies need flexible approach towards staff management: Manpower

Written by Sajan C Kumar | Chennai | Updated: Nov 6 2009, 01:37am hrs
Forceful enough to change the employment landscape forever, the current economic crisis has taught some hard lessons to employers about the need to transform their talent acquisition strategies in the face of growing global competition. As the business environment begins to improve, employers are poised to respond quickly to a rapidly changing marketplace and growing disconnect between where labour is needed and where it is available.

Manpower Inc, a world player in the employment services industry, forecasts that companies need to adopt a more strategic and flexible approach to workforce management in order to reach their goals and better manage risk in the post-recovery world. Key to this approach will be a growing reliance on the four types of non-permanent or contingent workers, who come under the brackets of temporary employees, outsourced workers, contractors and consultants. These recommendations and findings form part of the Rules of engagement: Harnessing the potential of the contingent workforce, a white paper and survey released by Manpower Inc.

Manpower predicts that in order to take full advantage of opportunities in the recovering economy, employers will need to move away from viewing contingent workers as a practical resource to cover maternity leave, meet seasonal demand or keep permanent payrolls in check, and towards viewing them as a valuable strategic asset. According to Manpowers research, the most common reason worldwide for employing contingent workers is to meet peak seasonal demand and nearly one in five employers do this. Only 14% of employers across the globe now turn to contingent employees to derive greater strategic value.

According to the survey, more than 60% of employers worldwide do not view contingent labour as critical to business success. Manpower foresees a new executive mindset in the post-recovery world, with forward-looking companies turning to a dynamic mix of permanent and contingent workers, increasing their flexibility for a competitive advantage. Therefore, the demand for specialist contractors and outsourced workers will rise, especially in knowledge-driven areas where technology allows talented people to work from anywhere in the world. As more and more companies understand how to leverage a contingent workforce to gain strategic value, that percentage will only grow.

Contingent workers can indeed improve a companys talent level, strategic options and productivity. Employers should not assume that contingent workers will perform like company veterans after just a few hours on the job. Making sure contingent workers perform up to expectations, the employers should find the right person, with the right skills, matched to the right job. And making that match can be a challenge. Whether an organisation is hiring its contingent talent directly, or sourcing it via an employment services firm, having a proven process in place for assessment and selection is critical, says the survey.

The second requirement for maximising contingent workers ultimate value, and for retaining the best individuals, is engagement to the degree which workers are committed to the company and its business goals and overall strategy. Companies looking to fully engage their contingent workforce must understand how to successfully integrate, train, manage and encourage these workers.

Studies have shown workers who stay engaged are more productive and more likely to recommend the workplace to others. And engaged contingent workers are more likely to stay or to accept a repeat assignment, and more willing to accept a permanent position at the company. Perhaps most important to the pending recovery, engaged workers improve the bottom line. Conversely, disengaged employees erode the bottom line and drag their colleagues down with them. One study estimates this cost to the bottom line to be more than $300 billion in lost productivity in the US workforce alone.

Manpower research suggests that contingent workers typically feel more loyal to the host companies where they are working than to the employment agencies that pay them. Thus, keeping contingent workers motivated should be easy, so long as the host organisation integrates them successfully into the workplace, works to keep them committed throughout their assignment, whether it lasts a week or a year and demonstrate to them that they are contributing to the companys overall performance. Organisations should develop customised, flexible strategies to accommodate different segments of the contingent workforce, just as they would with their permanent employees.

Successfully engaging contingent workers rests largely on integrating them fully into the workplace, and keeping them integrated. Loyalty matters and making contingent workers feel like outsiders is no way to promote it. According to Manpower, every company should work to improve induction and orientation processes for contingent workers.