Is flexible strategic staffing the new normal?
There’s a change taking place in the way businesses staff their operations. Permanent staff are increasingly sharing their workspace with temporary employees as companies embrace the flexibility and access to ‘skill sets on demand’ that interim workers can offer. David Jones, Senior Managing Director Asia Pacific at Robert Half, explains this new normal.  

Permanent employees will always form the backbone of an organisation. There’s no question about that. But in a rapidly changing and highly competitive commercial environment, success can hinge not just on having the right people but rather having the right people in the right place at the right time. And that calls for flexibility.

This sort of flexibility can be achieved by expanding a core group of permanent employees with interim professionals. The benefits are manifold. It allows organisations to respond more quickly to changes within their own business and the broader market, and provides access to the required blend of skill sets as and when they are needed.

The value of planning ahead

A key starting point in embracing flexible strategic staffing is the development of an overview or timeline of the organisation’s workload throughout the year.

This helps to identify the need for interim employees in line with the ebb and flow of business demands or the scheduled commencement of new projects, and offers greater control over human resources budgets. It also ensures access to skilled talent when, and for how long, it is needed.

But flexible staffing is not just about cost cutting and efficiency.

Planning ahead for the use of interim employees can also underpin healthy employee retention rates among permanent staff. It can mean fewer worries about redundancy cycles, which is good for morale, and it reduces pressure on existing staff by immediately deploying extra talent when workloads are high.

The nature of interim talent is changing

These days, however, the use of temporary employees extends well beyond managing seasonal peaks or accommodating short term staffing needs such as bridging the gap between the resignation of an employee and finding a permanent replacement.

Businesses are rapidly appreciating the workplace value of interim employees at management and even senior executive level. Correspondingly, the type of employee hired on an interim basis is also changing.

No longer the chief domain of junior to mid-tier staff, interim employees are just as likely to be senior managers or seasoned executives who bring substantial experience and a well-defined skill set to an organisation.

94% of business leaders plan to use interim managers

In fact, independent research conducted by Robert Half found 94% of New Zealand’s Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) plan to work with interim managers throughout 2016 – often with quite specific goals in mind.

As a guide, almost one in two (48%) interim managers are hired to effect a business transformation. Almost four in 10 (38%) are hired for project management, and 26% of interim managers are employed to ensure business continuity.

As testimony to the value they deliver, 92% of businesses gave interim managers the thumbs up for cost effectiveness.

More than just measurable benefits

What can often be overlooked is the ability of interim managers to bring additional, less quantifiable, value to a business. This includes factors such as a fresh perspective, experience that may span multiple sectors and industries, and the benefits of knowledge transfer and even mentoring to fixed staff. It all adds up to something much more than an extra set of hands on deck during peak periods.

Along with established businesses, interim managers can also play a critical role in new or start-up enterprises. As an external expert with an objective view, interim employees at this level can (re)evaluate the challenges and growing pains faced by the organisation. They can be on hand to implement new processes and innovations to run the business more efficiently, or offer the experience needed to suggest cost effective restructuring measures.

As with all temporary employees, if a business likes what it sees in an interim employee, the option is always there to offer a permanent role. And that’s when flexible staffing can be at its best. It gives hiring firms the equivalent of a no-obligation trial period to secure a high calibre employee, who you know ticks all the boxes.