The Value of a Flexible workforce (Part 2)
John Harland FRCSA(Life)– Director ERG Recruitment
The challenge for the Recruitment and Labour Hire industry in New Zealand, particularly under a Government with strong Union ties, will be to explain and impart an understanding of the benefits of the flexible workforce market. Evidence so far would suggest that this is going to be a long difficult process. It was said during the last recession that “to harness the power of the flexible workforce, the Government must ask itself whether this powerful group is getting the support and recognition it needs to lead us out of the current economic mess. It could be argued that the increase in self-employed workers (sic contractors) should be commensurate with a better understanding of the flexible workforce market. However, the evidence of recent years suggests that amongst many decision makers that is sadly not the case. This statement is even more relevant today.
Administrative burdens and restrictions introduced by Governments designed primarily to protect “vulnerable workers” is applied on a universal basis which may not be appropriate for all sectors of workers. Whether by choice or by circumstance, more people are choosing to enter the flexible workforce. As a group, they are flexible, adaptable, and quick to seize opportunities, and I believe they will be more important than ever as an essential force on the road to economic recovery. Not everyone requires the “security” of a permanent position but then “security” as we have seen many times is perhaps not what it is portrayed. Businesses restructure, re-size, make workers redundant etc, on a regular basis for sound business reasons but in reality “security” is a rather tenuous concept.
It was interesting to note the recently published list of the top 10 Covid19 wage subsidy recipients. In the top 10 were Labour Hire Agencies, AWF and Adecco. This highlights to me the contribution and importance of the Labour Hire industry in keeping people employed and businesses viable. I also know that by far and away most of these workers would be on above minimum wage contrary to what some people and organisations would like people to believe.
In a statement issued on 3 February 2012, Jeffrey A. Joerres, Manpower Group Chairman and CEO said "Employers must master flexible work models which enable them to tap the right skilled talent, even remotely located, in a moment's notice. The pressure to drive productivity while volatile market conditions vacillate is intensifying. Companies that cannot quickly tap the right talent to execute their business strategy inevitably lose their competitive edge." How prophetic is this statement today! Companies need to be more flexible and agile to react to the current environment and ensure survival.
Undoubtedly businesses will need to be cautionary when making investment in growth and staffing levels and manpower requirements will be a critical component in these decisions. However, the Recruitment Industry has an obligation to (and will) continue to lobby governments and increase their understanding of the flexible workforce. To ensure that a regulatory environment does not become so overbearing as to destroy its evolvement the Recruitment and Workforce Management industry will take an active role in educating and working with businesses to ensure that the workers who could be regarded as “vulnerable” are not exploited and we will offer a genuine solution to workforce management which improves productivity, creates jobs and adds value to the recovery.
The Covid19 Pandemic will undoubtedly bring the focus of businesses to the challenges of retaining or re-employing talent and remaining competitive. Key workforce trends such as:
Those companies that address and find solutions to these challenges will attract talent that competitors can’t access thereby creating a competitive advantage.
- The aging workforce
- The retention of women in the workforce
- Retention of the voluntary workforce – those people (mainly highly skilled) who have been made redundant, their company has not survived, or have left due to poor work/life balance
- Access to a broad labour pool
- And when borders reopen, the impact of globalisation on the workforce.