In 2008, the recession prompted many companies to downsize their workforces. Though the economy has improved, companies are still gun shy when it comes to hiring full-time employees because it can be difficult to justify the expense when the need for help will likely be short-lived.
At the same time, many companies are investing in new systems and processes to improve efficiency and productivity. They need talented and experienced people to help them implement these systems, but only for a short time. That’s why contract employees are getting more attention.
“Project-specific workers have the experience to meet the needs of a company’s short-term objectives,” says Beth Thomas, executive vice president and managing director of Consulting Services at Sequent. “This just-in-time talent is often the solution when there’s uncertainty that a project can sustain a full-time hire.”
Smart Business spoke with Thomas about how project-based workers are filling a vital need in today’s workforce.
What industries have the greater need for project-based employees?
New market realities have many companies changing their business models, systems, processes and customer targets. With that change comes the need for experts who have helped companies achieve similar goals.
These changes are impacting companies from all industries and of all sizes. Retailers, for instance, are in the midst of a transition to an omnichannel model, which has them trying to achieve a channel-agnostic customer experience that’s consistent regardless of whether a consumer interacts with them online or in a physical store. This huge change requires significant resources to implement.
There are many transformations being undertaken by companies today. Some are looking to improve their internal processes around HR functions such as on-boarding programs, employee engagement and creating better processes around the employee experience. But the biggest is new systems implementation that looks to improve the customer experience through technology. These changes require project managers, tech support, quality assurance and testing, change managers, training and development personnel, and communications and HR thought leaders, many of which are not part of a company’s full-time staff.
Why might project staffing be a better answer for companies than hiring staffers?
Trying to execute enterprise-wide changes internally can be difficult as it diverts attention from the core competencies of employees and the company to a short-term project. Also, there are a lot of challenges finding good employees. Many companies might not have the resources to conduct a productive search in a market that’s hungry for top talent. Employees are expensive, so some companies prefer project-specific options because that allows them see if a person is a great culture fit or not.
Culture fit is increasingly important. Between 40 and 70 percent of employees report that they are unhappy at work, which can negatively impact productivity. People who are hired on a temporary or contract basis enjoy working on a variety of projects. When they’re at work, they’re fully engaged and can be very productive employees who don’t get caught up in office politics and culture challenges.
What challenges do companies typically face with project staffing?
Companies need great talent, but it’s becoming an employee market again. There is, however, a large contingent of unhappy employees who are disengaged or actively disengaged who are holding companies back from making meaningful improvements. Project-based staffing offers twice the engagement to help companies be more successful and get the return on their project’s investment they’re hoping for.
There are staffing and HR consulting companies that can help businesses find just-in-time talent for their projects without the commitment that comes with full-time employees. Going this route mitigates the burden of finding a qualified candidate and offers access to people who are ready to work, allowing a business to maximize that resource. It’s an arrangement that offers the benefits of a highly experienced employee without the risk that comes with a full-time hire.
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