March 30, 2020

What are some advantages for firms hiring contingent workers in times of crisis?

The gig economy has taken over traditional working ways. Last year, the Centre for Future Work reported that for the first time, over half of Australia’s working population are in non-permanent roles.

Individuals now prioritise diversity of experience and working formats over (perceived) job security. However, that said COVID-19 will drastically affect the workforce and this is already happening in unprecedented ways. Before our eyes, we are watching the closure of the service industry and other offerings that are deemed non essential. These measures, we have seen in other countries, are now being exercised in Australia in a bid to stem the Coronavirus outbreak and preserve our nations’ health.

With economic downturn combined with future uncertainty, organisational leaders can take advantage of the contractor workforce market and tap into the most skilled and experienced talent as and when required for the business’ needs.

Demand for specialised talent in Australia will continue to increase. The need to be agile will only rise for workers and organisations alike. Although it appears that businesses have a choice in hiring a permanent staff member or contracted in expertise the reality is more complex as skills continue to become more highly specialised, those that continue to rely on their full-time generalists will be left behind.

Pros and cons of hiring contract workers

Through first hand experience of embracing the gig economy in recent times, many organisations will have a good understanding of the key advantages and disadvantages of hiring independent contractors. Here’s a quick reference that captures the main points – both for and against.

For the worker, the main pros are:

  • the enjoyment of a full variety of experiences yet without the need to commit to a set employer.
  • higher rates of pay
  • a potential heightened work life balance

The main downsides are:

  • lack of job security with associated benefits employees receive, such as paid annual leave and superannuation
  • downtime between work gigs is a common recurring factor, especially in tough times with job market uncertainty

For the hiring organisation the main pros are:

  • quick access to highly skilled individuals
  • reduced costs in hiring for an isolated project, particularly when budgets won’t allow for a full-time rate employee
  • expanding your worker database can also help extend your services and geographic reach

The main downsides are:

  • contractors may leave mid-project for something that suits them better
  • potential for reduced loyalty to the company
  • potential for inconsistent workmanship

How can organisations minimise risk with managing contingent workers?

Onboarding and managing contingent workers is a challenge due to their partial, and sometimes unpredictable, participation in employer operations.

The lack of an integrated workforce management strategy, managerial behaviour, poor data management, inadequate technology and compliance can expose companies to operational business, financial and reputational risks.

In an earlier blog from Kineo last year What is a contingent workforce and why is it on a sharp incline? Kineo urged HR leaders to look towards technology and appropriate systems to address the pitfalls and focus on the benefits that come with effective management of the contingent workforce.

With increased compliance needs, along with robust intuitive technology, contractor management systems are an essential tool for handling onboarding programs, induction and ongoing management of contingent workers.

In times of need, how do we keep people accounted for, safe and fast track the onboarding process?

Where some industries are experiencing a sharp decline with the effects of COVID-19, others are literally booming – take certain manufacturing areas (think of those trips to the supermarket only to find empty shelves where day to day products have been panic purchased in unprecedented volumes). Some employers will need to hire extra staff quickly to handle unexpected demand.  Volunteering is also heartwarmingly on the rise as we all join hands (without touching) to minimise the impact of hard times.

For compliance and risk management purposes, contingent workers require a certain amount of training in Work Health and Safety (WHS) policies and procedures. Organisations may baulk at the cost and logistics involved, yet it’s a critical element of your responsibility to your workers. Current approaches for some industries will also need to change to meet new economic growth needs.  Take for instance, corporate industries where the majority of office workers are now operating from home and the implications of heightened levels of isolation on their mental health.

Contractor management systems (CMS) and online learning would solve many of these problems. Elements of the onboarding and initial compliance process can also be automated to help fast track the process.

A CMS enables a contingent worker to train when and where they choose, learning material can be tailored to the specific needs of each role or individual, and records worker course completion and results, ensuring mandatory training is delivered and completed to a satisfactory end.

In this blog we’ve explored the importance of gathering information and evidence as well inducting and training your contingent workers. These elements form part of the whole Sitepass experience that includes verify and permit and monitor site access and safety.   Depending on your industry and operations these aspects could be equally, if not more crucial to your business operations.  If you’d like to have a no strings conversation about how Sitepass can meet your individual business needs we’d be delighted to hear from you.

Take ‘Coronavaction’ with the safety of your workers and demo Sitepass today.

Sitepass offers a complete workforce management solution for businesses and individuals to connect and manage compliance, risk and onboarding.