The talent market is tighter than ever, skill requirements are rapidly changing, and unemployment is at unprecedented lows in many parts of the world. Not surprisingly, 67 percent of organisations worldwide are having trouble filling open positions, Deloitte reported. At the same time, more and more workers are opting out of traditional employment scenarios and choosing alternative employment options instead, such as becoming contractors, consultants, freelancers, gig workers and even crowd work.
Technology enables talents to operate with fewer parameters while facilitating better ways to match organisations and the talent they need, with platforms for gig work offering options beyond just hourly work, expanding to job titles like lawyers, consultants, designers, and data scientists. It’s logical, then, that organisations are turning to the alternative workforce for many positions beyond traditional roles like IT.
The benefits of alternative workers for organisations are well known. The alternative workforce can reduce costs, provide access to scarce skills when needed, increase flexibility to scale up and down, as well as provide more diverse perspectives and experiences. Effectively leveraging this on-demand workforce can enable organisations to not only put the right people in the right place when they are needed but also adjust easily when those needs shift.
Unfortunately, however, Deloitte found that just over half (54 percent) of organisations either manage alternative workers inconsistently or have few or no processes for managing them at all. Organisations that want access to alternative workers’ skills and experience will have to intentionally cultivate a positive experience and extend the overall workforce strategy to align with these worker segments. The days of managing alternative workers transactionally are over – this is an imperative that HR must take on.
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The best alternative workers will have a choice of options. A simple exchange of skills for money might not be enough to attract them. Top talent will look for an engaging experience in which their opinions and contributions are valued and respected. And, although the big moments matter, the small moments are just as impactful to workforce experience. Meaningful work and opportunities to use one’s strengths, access to tools and necessary resources, input into how work is designed, and balance between flexibility and predictability are all vital for traditional employees and alternative workers alike.
A new value proposition will need to be carefully designed and tailored to enable organisational culture, workforce needs, and the organisation’s brand. It must also allow for the unique needs and aspirations of the alternative workforce. Many organisations have experience with part timers, freelancers, and hourly workers. And part time employees are not typically treated the same as full-time employees. Their experience is not better or worse, but rather tuned to their needs and the value they bring, and this experience can be transferred to the alternative workforce. To get the best alternative talent (not just a person in a role), organisations need to have a strategy that evaluates cost and benefits both from the perspective of the organisation and the alternative workforce. It’s not an either-or proposition, it’s both-and.
In the battle to attract the best alternative workers, organisations will stand out among their competition if they focus on engaging alternative workers by curating an underlying and ongoing relationship with them, even though the employment relationship might not last long. Even a short term worker can be a potential customer, a positive brand ambassador, and a valued member of a team when returning for another gig with the organisation.
Organisations will face some hurdles in this fight. The first is a mindset challenge. Most organisations are approaching alternative workers tactically rather than strategically as ongoing relationships and potential customers in the market. Second, managers and leaders are often confused about the line between legality and risk and might leave behind opportunities to benefit from this workforce segment for fear of crossing that line.
In order to win the battle for the alternative workforce, the time to start is now.
Alternative workforce might be here to stay and it is always better to stay ahead of the talent war. To tap into this workforce segment and position your organisation to reap the benefits, focus on creating an attractive value proposition for alternative workers and intentionally deciding where to use them.
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