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Better, Faster, Happier Teams Part 2: Use These Flex Workforce Best Practices

Better, Faster, Happier Teams Part 2: Use These Flex Workforce Best Practices

UPDATEDSep 19, 2023

By Kristi Gooden, Principal Customer Success Manager, Kantata

This is part 2 of a 3-part series from experienced resource management practitioner Kristi Gooden focusing on how professional services organizations can help their teams work better, faster, and happier; read part 1, focused on skills mapping, here.

The professional services industry is more unpredictable than ever and it’s up to each organization to determine the best way to stay agile in a time of constant change. For many, taking advantage of a “flex” workforce can help expand and contract resources and skills to match frequent changes in demand.

A flex workforce utilizes contract and part-time resources to supplement business needs, ensuring your organization can better react to times when demand suddenly decreases or increases. When businesses lack flexibility in their workforce – their teams are too big for incoming demand, for example, or they can not take on new work because they do not have enough capacity – these fluctuations can cause financial strain.

Embracing a flex workforce is no longer a matter of preference, it’s a necessity to keep your organization running. But how can you ensure that your workforce is doing their best? Understanding and implementing flex workforce best practices is a major step toward building better, faster, and happier teams.

How Does a Flex Workforce Make Your Team Better, Faster, and Happier?

Today, businesses are quick to associate flexible work with increased employee satisfaction and higher retention rates. But how does flex work actually improve your employee performance?

First, using a flex workforce can improve talent retention by minimizing burnout, which often comes from the monotony of work and the toll of being consistently overutilized. By tapping into contract workers to fill emerging needs, businesses ensure that they are not over reliant on forcing employees to take on an unhealthy workload – though it is important that your business has the processes in place to ensure that working with external resources doesn’t add work for your employees (through rework and administrative overhead) instead of reducing it. 

In addition, drawing from a flexible, dispersed workforce improves diversity and inclusion because it pulls from a larger potential pool of resources. With this increased access to potential talent, a flex workforce supports the growth and development of both talent, through increased exposure to new ideas, skills, and best practices, and the business as a whole, through increased value realization and company profitability.

Every business will go through peaks and valleys, experiencing skill imbalances in their teams – this instability is part of the nature of project-based work. But embracing a flex workforce will help your team be able to better deliver the work at hand no matter what the market throws at you.

Remember that simply providing the ability to utilize flexible schedules and remote work isn’t enough to guarantee improvements, nor is going out and sourcing a high volume of contract workers to accommodate a sudden spike in demand. Like any change to a business, flex workforces need strong management and continuous reviews and refinements to understand what is and isn’t working. Employee and contractor feedback as well as process refinements will help keep you focused on fostering better, faster, happier teams.

How to Source and Develop Your Flex Workforce

The big question is, where do you source your flex workforce?

Consider working with third party recruiters and systems to begin creating a database of contractors. By better understanding your peak-load periods or skills imbalances in advance, you can leverage contract workers who possess those skills in a timely manner. In addition, having recruitment systems in place and integrated with your resource management system will help you be able to reach outside your employee base for recommendations and automated staffing.

Once you have a reliable method for sourcing your resources, you’ll need to develop them to be effective in your company. Even the most skilled workers will need to be trained in how they can be best used for your specific needs.

Remember to incorporate third parties into your skills inventory and take steps to develop capabilities in your contractors that have been proven useful and are likely to be used long-term. In addition, improve resource forecast accuracy to better drive contract worker planning and usage. Timely usage of the flex workforce on tasks that best suit their skills will mean a more effective team that only grows more useful in the long run.

Flex Workforce Best Practices

There are certain processes that every resource manager should use to make the most of their flex workforce.

It can be easy for organizations to lean into a flex workforce because of market demands without putting a real plan in place. Resource managers should define their goals and strategy for their flex workforce to create alignment between leadership, delivery teams, finance, and human resources. What are the systems, projects and management practices that need to be in place for your full-time, part-time, and contract workers? Are those different for remote or hybrid workers? With goals in mind for your flex workforce, you’ll need to have a plan to measure performance against those goals.

Timely and actionable data is a major driver for success, helping managers understand how their team members are performing in real time and providing insights that can no longer be gained from face-to-face interactions. This data will also help your company create more accurate forecasts, which can mean the difference between proactive and reactive staffing and will keep you ahead of changes in demand. Ideally, this should be based around a “peak load” plan – that is your flex workforce should be modeled in such a way that you are able to effectively staff up to accommodate your peaks.

Remember to incorporate good people strategies that make sure your flex workforce’s needs are supported, with a special consideration for onboarding contractors, which is often overlooked by companies who are more focused on ramping them quickly into the work. Just like you would with a new employee, make a plan for tech set-up, training, communication responsibilities and feedback loops, and onboarding to your company and culture, the client, project, and team.

Of course, even fine-tuned practices will need to change over time, so remember to set regularly scheduled intervals to review and adjust organizational policies and processes for your flex workforce. In addition, ensuring that there is strategic alignment between resourcing, human resources, and third party contract workers will keep projects on track, team members happy, and payroll accurate. 

Understand and Make the Most of Your Flex Workforce

You may understand the transformative potential of a flex workforce, but do you have the systems and processes in place to turn that potential into results? Get the insights you need to make the most of your team’s skills with the new report in the Resource Management Institute’s Survey Series, “Skills Tracking and Management,” which details the skills management trends that are both positively and negatively impacting organizations’ performance.

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