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How to create a competitive advantage from your contract workers?

Office professionals chatting with each other

Companies are facing economic uncertainty. They are also experiencing a decrease in available skilled workers. Additionally, there is a persistent gap between required skills and available talent. This is all happening as the workplace continues to rapidly change. 

Companies worldwide are hiring contract workers to gain specialised skills and flexibility. 

As the number of temporary workers continues to climb, we sat down with experts from across Hays to understand: 

  • Why the contract worker is a critical piece of any modern workforce puzzle.  

  • The advantages of contingent talent, including the opportunities that organisations can leverage in change management or the implementation of new technologies.  

  • The steps that organisations should take before embarking on their contract talent journey.  

In this latest blog, we’ve detailed the essential insights from our experts. Watch the full video for a ‘deep-dive' into the world of contract workers.  


What is a contract worker?   

The contract, or ‘contingent’ employee, is an individual who is engaged by an organisation to execute work on a non-permanent, per-project basis. They are “badged” in a variety of ways, from gig workers to flexible labour, agency staff and freelancers. 

As to why they are soaring in popularity, Mike McNally, Sales Director (UK) summarises: 

Companies are hiring more contract workers to save money and be more flexible in a changing market. 

Carl Piesse, who heads up Enterprise Delivery over in Australia, added that the contract worker enables organisations to “scale up and scale down rather quickly”, without the costs and risks associated with onboarding permanent hires. 

Both agreed that contract workers offer organisations enhanced access to niche or specialist skills, which has been a key driving force in their growing popularity. 


How has the concept of 'contract’ evolved? 

Bartosz Dabkowski, Executive Director in our Central Europe and Eastern regions highlights the shift in mentality that has enabled the integration of contract workers. 

“If you shine a spotlight on Poland just 10 years ago, the [contract] labour market was reserved for unskilled, blue-collar workers.” 

There was a shared perception that only employers benefitted from the instability of temporary work, creating an unequal balance of power. Fast-forward to today, however, and the total number of temporary workers has in fact dropped, according to Dabkowski. The value they add to the labour market, however, has increased. 

As the volume of highly-skilled specialists engaging on a per-project basis has grown, the balance of power has readjusted. Dabkowski concedes that there is still work to be done, as organisations still fear that they’ll be seen as “taking advantage” when it comes to accessing talent. 

For Sophie Vernaet, Business Director, IT Contracting (Belgium), the coronavirus pandemic had a sizeable impact in pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. 

“The COVID-19 crisis showed us that actually [contract working] it’s now a global concept, meaning every company can reach out to experts across the globe.” 

Sophie says that in her field (IT), there are more remote jobs now as companies value talent more than location. 

Quote of Mike McNally, Sales Director (UK) 

How can contract labour help organisations tackle the challenges they face today, and prepare for the uncertainty of tomorrow? 

“Skills shortages continue to be one of the biggest challenges facing organisations.” 

For Sarah Stevenson, a Sales Director in our UK business, the surge in large-scale digital transformation projects is “really driving the need to access these hard-to-find skills”. We are partnering with our clients to overcome these challenges by enhancing their contract workforce capabilities, layering in our Direct Sourcing methodologies, for example, as well as enabling access to our carefully cultivated talent networks. 

Maurice Roy, who is part of our team in the Netherlands, also highlighted the impact of digitalisation. Alongside rapid advancements in technology, Roy attributed the changing demographics of the workforce and a shift in employee demands as compounding factors that have encouraged organisations to be more creative in securing access to talent. 

With contract labour engaged as part of a holistic talent strategy, businesses can unlock “the skills and flexibility that is needed” to tackle tomorrow’s challenges. 

What advice would you give to an organisation at the start of their contract talent journey? 

From engaging a small number of consultants to the acceleration of your flexible talent strategy with large-scale contract workforce management, our experts had some vital advice to offer organisations, including: 

  • Capture meaningful data at the very beginning of any journey. Full visibility is vital to find the best possible skills for your specific challenges.  

  • Take the time to build a clear, cohesive strategy with defined metrics and desired outcomes, ensuring input from key stakeholders, including HR and Procurement, is secured early in the process.  

  • Shift your mindset. You don’t want to miss talent simply because they are sourced ‘differently’.  


Kickstart your contract talent journey  

“You have nothing to lose. In fact, you’re gaining knowledge. You have support.” 

For more insights on the growth of ‘contingent talent’, including the value that a workforce solutions partner can unlock in your contract talent journey, watch the full video on our YouTube channel. 

And if you're ready to explore the benefits of outsourcing your non-permanent workforce strategy, get in touch with the team at Hays, today.