How to keep your workforce flexible in a time of mixed messages

Colorful pencils tied in knots against a pink background

As a wise man once said, the only constant in life is change. Today’s business climate is certainly fickle — more than 90% of executives expect the fallout from COVID-19 to fundamentally change the way they operate over the next five years. Beyond the pandemic, civil unrest and the upcoming presidential election threaten to shake up the economy and intensify an already challenging fiscal year. 

Despite these lingering concerns, hope is on the horizon. In June, the economy added a record 4.8 million jobs, while the unemployment rate dropped to 11%. 

As the economy begins to stabilize, many business leaders are trading doom and gloom for cautious optimism. Three in four executives believe COVID will create significant opportunities for growth, including 85% of technology industry leaders. But abusinesses ramp up their operations for a fourth quarter push, many organizations are trapped in a state of analysis paralysis. They’re wondering how to pursue new opportunities and keep up with increasing demand in the short term without overcommitting in the long run. 

One thing’s for sure — you won’t weather the storm with a skeleton crew. But bringing on more people than your business can support could capsize your organization. So how do you build a team that can quickly scale up or down according to your business needs without throwing you off balance? 

In my experience, a symbiotic relationship is key. A flexible workforce is the best way to keep a business stable. And vice versa. To this end, reinforcing your hiring ecosystem with contingent workers is a win-win. By capitalizing on the gig economy, you can leverage an array of contractors to help keep your team lean and your projects flowing. 

With your company’s needs in mind, let’s explore a few strategies and talent pools to keep your workforce nimble: 

Fortify yourself for the future by building a talent pool

To assemble your crew of contractors, tap internal teams for referrals and encourage them to share your organization’s hiring needs with their LinkedIn networks. Who knows — you may be just one connection away from a missing skillset. With fewer full-time jobs available in this economic climate, more and more people are jumping into contracting and consulting roles. In today’s hiring market, you have the chance to acquire amazing talent and hard-to-find skillsets that weren’t previously available.  

Stay lean while protecting your most important assets

Instead of burning out your full-time employees by asking them to work overtime, consider bringing on contract or interim talent to augment your projects and get them over the finish line. The future is unpredictable. Building a team you can size up and down will take the pressure off your current staff, keep morale high and stabilize internal priorities. 

Team up with a staffing consultancy 

If you decide to partner with a firm like Horizontal for contract talent, here are some key things to consider:  

  • Do they specialize in the skillsets you need?  
  • Do they have experience in your industry? 
  • Do they have deep client and candidate relationships in your market? 
  • Do they understand what your project goals are?  
  • Do they have case studies to support their expertise?  
  • Do you feel they’ll provide great service? (transparent and consistent communication, creating a friction-free business environment) 

If you need to roll back your team in the future, a flexible workforce strategy is a safer alternative to a fixed-cost staffing model. As we tread toward a future filled with uncertainty and opportunity, many companies feel like they’re walking a tightrope. And that’s where the contingent workforce shines.