Even as the nature of work changes with an expanding global economy and increasing impacts from technology, the past six months have presented unexpected and dramatic challenges. Because of COVID-19, companies find themselves at various stages of ramping up or down — so they need an agile, scalable talent strategy to meet these demands.
Some companies, like providers of delivery and educational services are in greater demand, while businesses like restaurants, bars and museums have needed to adjust their business models. The unpredictable nature of the current situation and potential for even greater disruption provides the perfect opportunity for companies to prepare their responses to these situations. Having technology that supports an agile model gives those companies ways to quickly adapt their workforces.
Companies that used large numbers of traditional W-2 workers, but laid off those folks, are apprehensive about making long-term commitments because of the liability and risk, so looking to the extended workforce is becoming a much more attractive option.
“As companies adjust to the evolving market conditions, many now find they have to adapt the way they deliver their products and services, and a contingent workforce can help them tap into new sources of talent to address those changes quickly,” said Tish Gross, Vice President of Sales at WorkMarket, an ADP company. WorkMarket provides a freelance management system (FMS) platform that allows companies to organize, manage and pay freelancers efficiently while maintaining compliance.
The question then becomes: How do companies effectively manage this new workforce? Freelance management technology like WorkMarket can be the solution. Without purpose-built technology, it can be difficult to onboard these contingent workers quickly, engage them to meet demand and manage them alongside a full-time workforce.
The benefits of engaging at the task level
Another shift that’s becoming more prominent is a focus on engaging to complete tasks. Companies are looking beyond a job description, breaking projects into individual tasks, then engaging talent based on those needs.
“The nature of work is evolving,” Gross said, “requiring more agile teams composed of people with just the right skills, brought in at just the right time.”
“A company may have contractors with varying levels of skill and experience, plus W-2 employees in more senior roles. With an extended workforce, costs and speed-to-market can be optimized for each assignment by breaking the job into tasks and assigning out each task to the right resource at the right cost,” Gross added. “This approach reserves the most experienced talent for the jobs that need their attention most, while enabling companies to more quickly address simple and routine tasks with more cost-effective contractors.”
However, when engaging workers to complete tasks, there is a lot of complexity — from identifying the right worker for the task, to verifying availability and routing work, to contracting, collecting deliverables and paying.
Traditional workforce management technologies focus on W-2 workers and the lifecycle from recruitment to retirement, including onboarding, payroll, benefits administration, performance reviews and the like.
They don’t often work well for managing a large pool of workers who are engaged periodically on short-term assignments. That’s why implementing a freelance management system is essential in helping companies tap into a contingent workforce on-demand to improve flexibility, agility and cost-controls. A freelance management system can help organize, manage and pay an extended workforce — compliantly.
A modern strategy for managing today’s workforce needs an FMS
Procurement departments are often tasked with cost savings as a primary objective, and engaging an extended workforce can be an excellent approach to controlling labor costs. If companies have an existing contingent workforce in place, they may be using a vendor management system (VMS) to manage their relationships with staffing agencies to engage that workforce. But VMS technology is designed to manage the contingent worker experience via vendor interactions, rather than engaging workers directly.
When companies need to directly engage a freelance population, purpose-built technology can be an integral part of the overall workforce management strategy. Being able to reach workers directly saves money and gives you more control over the process.
“A freelance management system, like WorkMarket’s, is designed specifically for managing large pools of contingent talent,” Gross said. “Our FMS technology is a better option for companies that need hundreds or thousands of freelancers, often for frequent, short-term assignments.”
FMS platforms also support robust talent pools, where companies can invite their known and trusted workers, onboard new talent, vet workers and organize them into groups suiting their business requirements. The talent can then be accessed immediately through searches based on parameters, including skill sets, availability, geography, worker reviews and licensure/certifications. Companies can quickly filter workers, communicate directly with appropriate freelancers and route assignments immediately through a mobile application, thereby dramatically reducing the time to market.
FMS platforms provide direct and immediate communication between workers and clients, supporting check-in and check-out, communication throughout the assignment, uploading of work and documentation, invoicing and payment.
Data from the tool also helps business leaders recognize peaks and valleys in demand, track worker performance such as on-site arrival time or completion of deliverables, and track worker certifications and compliance.
Having an FMS can improve visibility across the company, which increases satisfaction among managers, customers and workers. When contingent workers like the company they engage with, that business becomes a client of choice and has the chance for better outcomes with those workers.
The digital transformation of how work gets done
One factor not to be overlooked is the digital transformation of how work gets done. Freelancers (and other categorizations of non-employee workers) are choosing to work remotely, relying on workforce management platforms accessed by their computers and mobile devices to find work and complete jobs.
According to a recent study from the ADP Research Institute, “Illuminating the Shadow Workforce: Insights Into the Gig Workforce in Businesses,” “more than 70% of 1099-MISC gig workers say they are working as independent contractors by their own choice, not because they can’t find a ‘regular’ W-2 job.” And the overall non-employee workforce continues to grow.
Despite the demographic changes, many companies have yet to implement an end-to-end technology experience, making these workers feel less included.
“When we think about procurement’s role in connecting the contingent worker experience, there are ways to mirror a traditional employee experience so freelancers and contractors feel more connected to the success of the companies they engage with,” Gross said. “Figuring out ways to share corporate culture and offering equivalent onboarding processes can be a good start to building a team culture. FMS technology can become the bridge, offering connectivity, communication and visibility.”
Freelancers have more choices about which clients they take on, so companies need to provide a positive experience and think about their “talent brand” not just their “employer brand.” That includes fast, responsive communication, clear processes and expectations, and timely payments.
“Today’s freelancers are taking more control of their work choices,” Gross said, “which means businesses have to provide an experience that meets worker expectations. WorkMarket’s technology helps business leaders reduce the manual processes so they have fully vetted, qualified workers ready at any time. The agility provided by FMS technology is helping procurement departments successfully transition to a more blended workforce, while protecting margins and improving customer satisfaction.”