Overcoming Challenges of a Liquid Workforce

The last 5 years saw a rise in contract and freelance workers. This has been partly accelerated by the fact that the world has been living at the mercy of a raging pandemic. Experts predict this trend to continue into the near future, not only to cut costs but also as a means to increase flexibility and productivity. At the same, businesses that are focused on long-term business strategies will also continue to hire full-time employees. Both these trends are predicted to exist side-by-side along with re-onboarding and re-skilling due to the constantly changing market.

There is going to be an increase in diversity in terms of type of staff hired at a company, i.e. freelance/contract and permanent. Companies who are experiencing this phenomenon for the first time will have a comparatively hard time adjusting to this dynamic while organizations who have already been practicing this flexible or liquid style of the workforce will have a greater and richer mix. These changes also have a couple of implications on HR policies, programs, and technology. HR will have to consider various viable strategies to attract and retain freelance and contract-based temporary staff while also hiring permanent staff to increase agility and adaptability. These include but not limited to Employee Engagement, Learning and Development, Performance Metrics, and benefits for full-time staff and temporary staff.

Employee Engagement

Every employee’s reaction towards WFH has been varied. Most did not enjoy it at all citing reasons such as increased workload for their displeasure. Of course, some people enjoyed it as well because of the flexibility it provides. WFH has also increased feelings of job insecurity. The increased job satisfaction among those who found pleasure in WFH can be attributed to increased employee engagement and well-being. Nevertheless, some employees would prefer to come back to the office, or in some cases where there has been new recruitment, they would like to visit the office for the first time to experience the culture, banter, and relatedness to the organization they work for. Continued separation of the workers, regardless of whether they are freelancers or permanent staff, will negatively influence their employee engagement.

HR departments have an important role to play in understanding how exactly their employees have been affected through engagement tools and company surveys, as the above issues dictate how each employee’s experience will be being employed under you. HR needs to define employee experience and company culture that is best suited for the current scenarios that incorporate not only the permanent staff but also temporary freelancers and other contracted staff as well. Added to this task will also be responding to differing feedback.

Learning & Development (L&D)

With WFH and other forms of hybrid workspace poised to continue well into the future, where does that leave L&D is an important question to consider. This is because it is one of the first practices to be de-prioritized, or even scrapped, as soon as a company hits a crisis. Studies have repeatedly proved that employee training and skill development is the second most important factor in workplace happiness. The most important being the Work itself. Therefore, if you are an organization that has allowed L&D to take a back seat so far, it will be a viable option to consider prioritizing it a little bit. This should be done for the benefit of your remote staff and be open for your temporary staff as well. Furthermore, re-training your employees to meet the changing demands of the market is going to be in service of your company’s long-term strategies and goals.

Performance Evaluation

Performance Evaluation or Measurement is closely linked to Development, as employee performance will directly reflect on your ROIs for L&D. How will you measure performance and communicate goals with the flexible workforce as consistently as you would with your permanent employees? Being treated and measured fairly and equitably within the peer group is key to employee motivation, which translates to performance. Similarly, constant feedback and correction wherever required and checking in with your employees' performance against their goals will also contribute to driving performance.