The world of work has rapidly moved from long employment contracts and commutes, to bite-size gigs and work sessions punctuated by walking dogs, picking up the kids and taking a break in a coffee house somewhere. The little legs of employer talent leaders are paddling like crazy under the surface to keep up with all the changes. But how is digital technology lending a hand to help them to manage the new flexible workforce?

Workers want more flexibility, probably

There has been a clear shift toward flexible working in all of its forms in the last 18-months. Employers have turned to hiring contractors to fill gaps in their talent pool. The latest SIA gig economy report estimates that roughly one-third of U.S. workers (53 million) are contingent workers. This structural transformation of the workforce is characterized by shorter employments, multiple employments and side hustles—what we’ve learned to call ‘the gig economy.’

It depends on who you listen to as to whether this is a good thing, or not. There are those who suggest a shortage of well paid jobs is causing individuals to make up the shortfall in salary levels by taking on other employments. To example, the situation in the UK:

Between 2016 and 2019 the number of people working for digital platforms in the UK doubled to 4.7 million, almost one in 10 of the entire workforce.
Seven in 10 workers in the UK are now “chronically broke”, according to a major study by the Royal Society of Arts.
7 million people in Britain living below the bread line – that’s two-thirds of all those in poverty – have jobs, but jobs that simply do not pay enough

Countering that view, is the clear evidence that suggests many young people WANT to have more self determination in their career path. They either want to be a part of their own startup, or they want a job that offers them the scope to work on their own side hustle.

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The United States is the leading country by the number of startups according to firstsiteguide.com with 63,703 startups in 2021, while a new tech business was launched every 30 minutes in the UK between January and December 2020 with almost 20,000 new start-ups registered in 2020.

64 Percent of Britain’s Workforce Wants To Set Up Their Own Business

SME Loans

Half of millennials have a ‘side hustle’

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It would be wrong to assume that workers doing gig working, or earning a living on zero hours contracts, are unhappier than their fully employed peers. 

Research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) as far back as 2013 found that just 58% of UK employees said they were happy with their work-life balance, compared to 65% of those on zero-hours contracts. And, while 38% of those on zero-hours contracts said they wanted more hours, when compared to the average UK employee, they said they were just as satisfied with their jobs.

Like it or not, this new normal has become the ‘next norm’

The phrase ‘self-determination of where I work and when I work’ is the thing that binds the loosely coupled worlds of gig working and hybrid working. Love it or loathe it, employers are beginning to get the message that gig working, coupled with this more fragmented, on demand, hybrid working paradigm is here to stay though, admittedly, not all of them.

According to research done by McKinsey & Co. into the new hybrid working reality, ‘most C-suite executives reporting believing that the primary centre for work will continue to be the office’—suggesting they’re not all locked up. This analysis counters studies into worker perceptions that show over half of workers consistently state their expectation to work from home at least two days a week.

The only conclusion one can draw from the discontinuity between worker and C-suite perspectives on the hybrid trend is, either the C-suite decision makers aren’t listening to their workforce, or—if they are listening—they don’t want to believe it.

Technology to industrialise flexible working

Like most sectors, the talent industry is awash with technology platforms to support employers wanting to improve efficiencies in the way they hire, manage and organize work and workers. While the leading edge of the talent technology discipline used to be centered on the needs of employers to manage their full-time employees, now the major innovations are happening in the on demand workforce space. Why? Because, talent bosses know that an increasing proportion of the work test done by people not directly employed by their business.  This growing cohort of workers isn’t monitored, regulated, or optimized by incumbent systems designed for a world where people expected a job for life, and it wasn’t untypical for someone to walk through an office with a wristwatch that doubled for a long term service award.

So, what technology is available to employers to extend their workforce information systems to cover the needs of a permanent contingent workforce representing anything up to half of their resourcing capacity? Here’s a quick run down.

Software for hiring talent

There are various ways to hire flexible workforce talent, and a Vendor Management System (VMS) is a tech toolkit designed to manage all of them.

The most common hiring approach is a short-term contract. This is the traditional contingent hire model, where a requirer will post a job to indirect staffing vendors who will look to fulfil it. On larger programs, requirers will enrol the help of a Managed Service Vendor (companies like Workspend, KellyOCG, TAPFIN, PRO Unlimited, etc.) to manage their indirect staffing channels and coordinate the management of hires. The role of the VMS is to hire the talent and manage the spend that goes through to staffing vendors, making sure payment terms and contract extensions, etc. are not excessive.

Modern hiring arrangements like Direct Sourcing, micro task portals and Statement of Work extend the potential of Vendor Management Systems to optimize staffing.

Direct sourcing

Direct sourcing tech tools allow firms to source hires direct by leveraging their own job boards and social channels to capitalize on desires for people to work for their brand. Naturally, the bigger and more desirable your brand, the more potential you have to leverage direct sourcing.

Statement of Work (SOW)

Statement of Work (SOW) contracts focus payments to hires on the milestone outcomes they are required to achieve, instead of paying for hours worked. Software helps to streamline the creation and iteration of contracts, manages posts, and coordinates responses, etc. to take the pain out of offering a Statement of Work contract. One of the advantages of SOW is that it helps place the burden of project management accountability on the provider of services, instead of placing the burden of project management duties on the requirer.

The latest developments in Vendor Management Systems have seen platforms embrace remote hiring, recognizing that over half of information workers these days are primarily home workers.

Software for managing indirect staffing vendors

When hiring contingent talent, larger employers face a practical challenge of managing a significant number of staffing vendor relationships. Posting jobs, making sure vendors get paid, checking for credentials, monitoring costs, etc. all takes up valuable time in procurement teams. Vendor Management Systems streamline these activities and do their best to take the human-out-of-the-loop to minimize costs.

There are a number of AI use cases built into Vendor Management Systems and Talent Portal platforms like Simplify VMS that make it simpler for businesses to leverage AI. These include:

internetapps

Software to re-enforce compliance

Compliance has grown in importance over the past decade, with greater scrutiny over workers classifications, data privacy and other such factors. Technology can lend a hand here too by making sure robust background checks are completed (often completed these days using AI-driven online scripts), and that vendors and hired workers have appropriate bonafides and insurances in place.

Software for bringing transparency and sourcing metrics to steer strategy

We live in a data driven world, with fresh insights being generated every time someone clicks a mouse, posts a review, or makes a payment. The talent industry also relies on useful insights to make the right decisions. One of those crucial issues is how much to pay for jobs to be done. Set a price too low and vacancies stay unfilled, but price too high and firms risk necessary overspend on their talent sourcing activities. Effective market insights are critical to steer pricing decisions.

There are other decisions to be made too, such as whether it makes sense to work with a larger number of niche staffing suppliers, or reduce the number of vendors and rely on larger, more multi-disciplined vendors to fulfil requirements. Such decisions rely on a constant flow of insights, and modern software platforms are well equipped to harvest this type of data, presenting it in personalised views for systems users that make decisioning simpler.

Final thoughts

I caught up with the Matthew Wagner, VP and General Manager for the EMEA region at SimplifyVMS, one of the software leaders in flexible workforce management, and I asked him how talent technology is adapting to better serve the future of work. Here’s what he had to say.

“The current market for talent is ferocious. There are more vacancies than ever and a slowing pipeline of new talent, with shortages amplified by the baby boomer generation exiting the market. Modern technologies like AI, Machine Learning, RPA, Mobile apps, etc… are bringing a superior user experience—not only to client side users but also to suppliers and workers. In order to hit business goals, companies are focusing on bringing that better experience to workers as this is the key to attracting the best talent and retaining them.”

About SimplifyVMS

The digital tech that runs flexible working for businesses around the world. 

Simplify is a technology company operating in the contingent workforce and service procurement market. Our savvy team of technologists create unique and agile solutions that enable human resource, procurement, and talent sourcing professionals to maximize profitability, optimize their non-employee labor programs, and gain visibility into their extended workforces.  To find out more, get in touch.

About the Author

Ian Tomlin is a management consultant and writer on the subject of enterprise computing and organizational design.  He serves on the SimplifyVMS Management Team.  Ian has written several books on the subject of digital transformation, cloud computing, social operating systems, codeless applications development, business intelligence, data science, office security, customer data platforms, vendor management systems, Managed Service Provisioning (MSP), customer experience, and organizational design.  He can be reached via LinkedIn or Twitter.