New frontiers in workforce management

Putting together the right sourcing model to deliver the optimal workforce mix is a very complex process.

John Nurthen, Executive Director, Global Research, Staffing Industry Analysts

Understanding the best balance between your employed and non-employed workforce is a conundrum that many companies fail to grasp. As the only research company focused on the sourcing of employed and non-employed labour, Staffing Industry Analysts surveys employers globally each year and, on average, the non-employed portion falls somewhere between 15 and 20 per cent of the total workforce. For some companies, the proportion can be as high as 90 per cent.

While the employed category is generally well-understood (and increasingly part of sophisticated strategic workforce planning initiatives), the non-employed category is a rather neglected cousin, managed in silos and often used as a last resort rather than as a proactive solution to deliver flexibility, improve quality or lower cost.

So what do we mean by non-employed workers? There are many different types, for example temporary workers (employed through a staffing agency or part of an internal pool), independent contractors, consultants, remote freelancers sourced via online staffing platforms and outsourced workers (both on-site and offshore). And now, non-employed can also include non-human options. Automation of the workforce through artificial intelligence and robotics is already influencing labour demand.

Weighing up these various options and determining what type of talent is most effective in delivering a particular work output from a cost-quality-risk perspective is hard enough, but is made much more complex given lack of co-ordination and visibility among HR, procurement, finance and line management. To make matters worse, vendor services and technology for the employed and non-employed parts of the workforce have, so far, developed mostly separately.

Most executives would acknowledge that coping with skills shortages in future will be crucial to their businesses’ ongoing success, so it’s not surprising that this disjointed approach to talent management is undergoing change. A more joined-up approach is referred to as total talent management (TTM) and means sourcing, managing and incentivising the total workforce in a more proactive and holistic fashion, not just the employed part.

Staffing firms and others have been developing TTM solutions to address this need over the past few years but uptake is tentative and this still remains very much at the cutting edge of workforce management. Yet the business drivers and potential rewards are compelling. Getting this right is going to be fundamental as skills shortages bite and global competition increases.

For more information, download the report Total Talent Management: Towards an Integrated Strategy for the Employed and Non-Employed Workforce: