Introduction:

At this point in time amidst the global crisis the most important addition to every organization is the term “Blended workforce”. This term blended workforce has become the most efficient solution for flexible staffing methods. Before we dive deep into creating a blended workforce, let us understand why this type of staffing can become the preferred choice for employers, more than ever before.

Most companies mostly rely on a permanent workforce. This creates a disadvantage for firms that are looking into constantly improving their businesses with newly skilled employees and talents. Also, as businesses get complex, firms need employees with niche skillsets to solve their problems. With the help of a blended workforce, firms can create the most relevant employee pool with varied skillsets that consist of permanent, contract and temporary workers all under one roof.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, millions of workers have been made redundant and businesses are incurring huge losses due to revenue collapse. This generates short-term restructuring costs and future hiring cost when the activity will pick up again. Besides, instead of adjusting the workforce to a reduced activity and leverage the benefits of freelancing, most companies had no choice but to make full-time employees redundant, as this type of contract becomes too expensive for the current situation.

Had these businesses known about the benefits of a blended workforce, they could have built a more flexible basis with a mix of long-term contract employees and freelancers. Such a blended workforce offers tremendous flexibility to absorb economic shocks and a better access to niche skills that long-term employees are less likely to have. All this can be made possible by creating a workforce strategy that combines internal (permanent employees) and external workforce (freelancers, contractors, etc..).

Rise of blended workforce:

According to a study conducted by PwC, 77% of CEOs explained that talent gaps have impeded their organizations growth this past year. This is driven by the difficulty in finding talents with the right skills. Therefore, a blended workforce is seen as a strategic advantage in the war for talents. Using this type of workforce, allows companies to hire highly skilled employees from freelance platforms and then work with them on a regular basis. As firms build their own pool of freelancer, it solves experience gaps that can be found within their employees.

For e.g. with a blended workforce, a project leader can quickly add part time employees to his/her resource team rather than spending several months trying to hire a full-time employee that has the required skills and experience. Contingent workers can provide new ideas and direction for a project while stimulating productivity.

Managing a sustainable blended workforce:

Communicate a clear vision of the blended workforce you are creating:

The type of blended workforce strategy and vision your organization adopts will drive the performance for sustainable workforce.

Before firms build a blended workforce, they should determine the right strategy to engage their blended workforce:

  1. Incremental:

With the help of this strategy, the organization relies heavily on their full-time, permanent workforce. The firm will add external assistance only when required. Hiring an outside talent and their engagement to the business is seen as a temporary solution. The organization makes very little investment in hiring agile talent and they tend to work on an ad-hoc basis.

2. Strategic:

Here, external workforce is seen as a strategic addition. The firm will regularly be using contingent workers but mostly for specific and strategic projects. For e.g. Uber collaborated with robotic experts at Carnegie Mellon to develop self-driving cars. Organizations are getting more dependent on these agile talents and combining them into their workforce to reach their goals.

     3. Transformational:

In this approach, outside talents and the firm will work together to create the vision the firm has in mind and will split after the task or project is completed. This type of workforce can be witnessed in the entertainment industry.

There are instances when the firm and the external talent collaborate on a continuous basis. For e.g. Firms like Goldman Sachs will work closely with these external talents on a variety of tasks, from investment advice to administration. Transformational strategy is seen as a collaborative relationship among the external talent and the firm for shared success.

Use blended workforce as an advantage, not as a tactic:

To manage a successful blended workforce, we must consider it to be a strategic capability instead of just a tactic. By strategic capability, we mean strengthening your organization with a well-designed plan executed by people working together to align with the organization’s blended workforce vision.

Start by developing a strategy that could help your firm leverage a blended workforce: identify key issues and resource gaps that exist within your workforce. Use one of the 3 business strategies to align them with your vision.

Establish a strong partnership with the trusted talent platforms and talent pools to create a robust organizational process that support your vision, onboarding, management and measurement of talent. Create an organizational culture that is naturally collaborative and welcomes external talent’s expertise. This would help the organization to establish a blended workforce with a competitive advantage.

 Need for strong leadership skills to manage blended workforce:

Building and managing a blended workforce is different from building and leading a blended workforce. There is no training material available for managers to educate them on how to manage blended teams. Agile talents are independent workers and they expect to be treated as colleagues not as subordinates.

It is important to treat internal and external talents with the same respect and value. Giving them regular feedback on performance to develop and improve their skills. Often managers treat external talents as second-class citizens and do not value their engagement, feedback and developmental support to the project.

The core capabilities to lead a sustainable blended workforce is like those required to lead a traditional workforce. With empathy, focusing on aligning goals, setting clear expectations on individuals, proper communication and continuous measurement is the key to successful leadership for blended workforce.

Focus on outcomes and performance management of blended workforce:

When an organization embarks on a journey to try something new, they should focus on defining and aligning their desired outcomes.  The firm must define the overall business goals and measurement to gauge success. Measurement should not be limited to individual performance, but measure teams and partners as well.

Therefore, it is crucial to track outcomes and performance at four levels:

  • At organizational level:

How well are you leveraging blended teams and agile talent?

  • At project level:

How well are outcomes being delivered?

  • At the partner level:

How well are different talent providers doing?

  • At individual level:

How well are individual agile talents performing?

As an organization increases its dependency on these agile talents, it is important to keep score on how internal and external talents have performed within the organization. The engagement of a blended workforce should be measurable and understandable.

Make decisions about blended workforce based on their cost and performance. Build an effective blended workforce by selecting talents based on value (output/cost), not just cost.

Create a value proposition to work in your brand:

Freelancers are interested in five things:

  • Interesting work
  • Fair pay
  • Appropriate working conditions that fit their needs,
  • Chance to work with talented and welcoming colleagues
  • Opportunity to grow and develop professionally through work while maintaining their professional edge.

To get the best talent in your organization, you need to provide an interesting value proposition to attract the freelance talent. Offering a contract will not be enough as freelancers have nowadays a plethora of choices in front of them.

Brands should establish a mutual satisfaction over long term with the external talents, so they can remain in the organization’s orbit. To convert the best agile talent to full time employees, brands should create a compelling value proposition that will attract the best external talent to their organization.

HR managers role in blended workforce:

HR managers consider blended workforce as an insignificant option. They are more focused on traditional methods of hiring full-time employees. From an HR perspective, agile talent and blended workforce is viewed as a competitor to HR and to employees. We believe that HR managers should take the workforce as an advantage that will allow them to meet the strategic needs of their business and helping their core employees to be more successful.

HR managers can leverage freelancers and blended workforce to meet organizations goals quickly. Full time employees should consider this injection of external expertise to learn new skills and techniques, improve their innovative thinking and introduce new methods in their organization.

Conclusion:

The increasing demand to utilise agile talent and blended workforce cannot be ignored. With the help of freelance and independent talent platforms it has become much easier to access and collaborate with them as technology advances. The current COVID-19 situation has proven to firms that there is a need for a blended workforce and agile talent for flexible workforce. This trend will be adopted by other firms in the near future.

Organizations should embrace this blended workforce and use this as an opportunity to transform their workforce. Blended workforce is a solution to creative talent management and can manage these talents virtually or directly.  As the war for talents getting fierce, leaders should see blended workforce as an opportunity to build an effective workforce.