Embracing the contingent workforce

When deployed strategically, the contingent workforce can be a productive and profitable asset, experts have said.

During a recent roundtable discussion, experts from recruiting firm KellyOCG noted that HR must drive the integration between flexible and full-time workforces, or risk being left behind.

They shared that businesses in the region have increasingly begun to leverage on the contingent workforce, and are starting to strategise the integration of this talent pool into the overall people structure.

A recent report by the firm, titled the Workforce Agility Barometer, found that a lack of available talent was an issue affecting half of C-suite leaders in Singapore. A similar proportion expected to introduce or increase their reliance on project-based and contract arrangements (53% and 46% respectively). Given that many contingent workers choose “free agency” due to the flexibility it provides, 64% of organisations also expected to maintain or increase flexible work arrangements as well.

It was pointed out during the roundtable session that in Singapore, flexibility in the workforce is not so much a “good-to-have” as it is unavoidable.

“Given the average time period for full-time employees to stay in organisations in Singapore is about two years, this means that there is little difference between a contingent worker and a full-time employee,” said Tatiana Ohm, Vice-President and General Manager, SEA at KellyOCG.

“HR needs to embrace this change. An organisation’s culture needs to transform in line with this development, and provide full-time employees with the same level of flexibility enjoyed by contingent workers in order for them to stay,” she added.

Teresa Caroll, Executive Vice President at Kelly Services, noted that HR leaders need to drive the subsequent workforce planning to meet the challenges of this new landscape, or risk being left behind.

“We have found that many innovations in HR were driven by business operators, rather than HR, because they needed those solutions to complete their business planning. For example, they were the ones who went out and started using contingent labour, independent contractors, and automation,” she said.

“If the business has to get the work done, and HR is not bringing the solutions, business will find it [without HR]—and HR will find themselves left behind in terms of knowing what’s going on,” she said.

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