Times are hard for many companies. Everywhere you look, there are postings for talent wanted in all types of technology positions ranging from Web Developers, Project Managers, Business Analysts, as well as Engineers.
As you know, your company relies on having the right resources in place to perform the tasks needed to operate efficiently. But without employees there to provide goods or services for your customers, production grinds to a halt, and with it, so does company income and any hope of profitability.
Unfortunately, you have no real control over the job market and candidates looking for work, and when they may or may not come knocking on your door for a job opportunity.
However, you can be prepared for it.
A flexible staffing strategy enables you to overcome these types of obstacles, which are becoming all too commonplace in the current competitive business climate.
With a well-implemented flexible staffing strategy, you will be able to set your company up for success in multiple ways, making it a critical strategy for any organization that needs to have temporary workers.
What Is a Flexible Staffing Strategy?
Before we can discuss the numerous advantages that a flexible staffing strategy may offer you, we need to get on the same page about what flexible staffing is.
Flexible staffing entails many different approaches to hiring non-permanent employees to fill specific roles that your company needs.
For example, employees that you hire from a temporary agency would qualify as flexible or contingent staffing. You needn’t keep them as permanent team members and they’re not on your company’s payroll as employees.
Staff that are hired as 1099 contractors, freelancers hired for individual jobs, and anyone else that isn’t on your company’s official payroll all fit under the flexible staffing umbrella.
Why Use a Flexible Staffing Strategy?
Many businesses have done just fine hiring employees the old-fashioned way, and there is nothing wrong with this approach, so long as it’s working. But today, finding employees is proving to be more difficult than ever, and finding the right people with the right skill set is even harder.
A flexible staffing strategy allows you to circumvent these problems by hiring people on an as-needed basis, or with a contingency that allows you to dismiss them much faster, much more conveniently, and much less disruptively than you would be able to fire a poorly performing full-time employee.
There are many times that flexible staffing can be a lifesaver.
A great example is when you just need a temporary fill-in. Maybe one of your key employees is out on maternity leave and another employee is recovering from a major surgery. You don’t want to replace them, but your business can’t go without that position being filled.
So, you hire a temporary replacement for the duration of the project that is needed to complete the work. Your business won’t suffer from the absence of your employee, and your employee will rest easy knowing their job is waiting for them when they return.
What about all of these recent surges and recessions in business? Many companies are feeling it. Should you just keep hiring and firing teams of employees to meet the demand as it rises and falls?
A much better option would be to hire temporary staff (Consultants) as 1099 contractors that you can easily let go when the demand dies down. Best of all, they may still be around for you to hire on another occasion in the future if/when the demand rises again. Many of the temporary workers such as semi-retired people actually prefer not to work for very long stretches of time and prefer short assignments.
Benefits of a Flexible Staffing Strategy
We’ve discussed a few of the times that a flexible staffing strategy can have some major advantages over simply hiring full-time direct employees, but the benefits of flexible staffing go beyond just saving your company’s backside in a pinch.
Have you ever thought you found the perfect employee with all the right credentials and a killer attitude, just to see them fail miserably and turn out to be the exact opposite of what you hoped?
This is one of the major problems with hiring employees. You’re essentially going on first impressions and the word of other people. With a flexible staffing strategy, however, you can instead hire that potential employee on a trial basis. After a short period of time (usually 6 to 12 months), you can convert them to a full-time permanent employment once they’ve proven to be the exemplary employee you had hoped for, or terminate the contract when the project work has ended or the temporary employee is no longer needed.
Another consideration is the major savings that a company stands to see from hiring flexible help as temporary employees instead of direct employees. Regulations have made it very costly to keep employees on payrolls under reduced workloads, but you can get around a lot of that wasted money by hiring flexible staffing that can work when you need them.
You might also find that some of the best and brightest potential assets for your company might not be available or willing to work as full-time employees. Some of the best workers you could hire might only be available if you’re willing to have them work as a consultant who wants the flexibility to work on specific types of project engagements that fall within their skill set. A big reason for this is the flexibility to pick and choose projects that are meaningful to them that fit their lifestyle needs.
A flexible staffing plan can be thought of as akin to insurance. It makes it much easier for you to fill the gaps in your staffing schedule without going through the costs and hassles of hiring new employees. If you have a good flexible staffing plan in place, then you’ve got at least some level of protection if you’re experiencing staff shortages, as is becoming more common every day.
As technology and culture continue to evolve, companies must also learn to change with the times. Just as the Sears Roebuck catalog went out of the fashion and the giant brick-and-mortar retailers behind them, companies that don’t change with the times will get left behind.
Flexible staffing is the answer for modern employers. The benefits your company could see from implementing a flexible staffing plan are many, including better workers, faster assignment of appropriate workers to tasks, monetary savings, and fewer problems with absentee workers or talent shortages in general. You can even use flexible staffing to help hire the best workers who might not fit into a standard work schedule or hire workers on a trial basis to make sure they’re a great fit for your company.
Times are changing, and flexible staffing ensures that your business has the ability to change with them.
The Ultimate Onboarding Checklist for Temporary Workers
Temporary workers must be integrated into the workplace as swiftly and efficiently as possible so that they can begin their assignments in a timely manner. PMI understands that every second is valuable because as we all know, time is money, which is why we’re sharing our Ultimate Onboarding Checklist for Temporary Workers. Human Resources professionals know that an onboarding routine should take between 45 to 60 minutes. This is dependent on several factors including the state that you live in, and the labor laws that apply to your state. This can only happen if you have the proper processes to follow and required documentation prepared ahead of time.
There are five important ‘C’s to onboarding any employee. These can be tweaked for your specific temporary workers based on your company policy and needs.
This part of your onboarding can be done online before your temp begins working. Since it is the paperwork part of the process, it can be quite time-consuming which is why it is best done beforehand. Be certain that all the necessary paperwork for new employees is completely filled out (including Forms W-4, W-2, I-9, and state withholding) well in advance of their first day of scheduled work. This package of documents can be sent to them electrically in the form of a hyperlink to each temporary employee. In some states, such as California, employees must also fill out other documents such as health insurance, workers comp, disability, sexual harassment, and more.
As an option to make it easier for payment to temporary employees, be sure to offer direct deposit payment. Forms are also dependent on the industry. Does your field of business require OSHA compliance? Check your state’s requirements to be on the safe side and compliant with state and federal laws. It is also important that intellectual property and non-disclosure agreements are signed at this time as well, before any work begins.
Does the temporary worker need a parking spot assigned? A security badge? Client assigned laptop and computer password? All of these things should be handled in the compliance part of the process. This is also the time to issue the company handbook to the temporary worker. Give them time to read and sign it. This also helps mitigate any potential lawsuits and keeps employee toxicity to a minimum.
The badge and passes should be waiting at the door when the temporary employee arrives at the building for their first day of work. If the client requires the temporary worker to have security clearance because of the sensitivity to intellectual property that the client possesses, (usually for federal government agencies) then this documentation should be furnished at the time of entry into the facility or in advance depending on the compliance policy of the company.
This is when the work process will be explained step-by-step. Someone should be at the front door or desk to greet the temporary employee as soon as they arrive. The time and exact place should be specified in the documents they received online. Where will they perform their job? Who will they report to? To whom will they inquire when they have questions? How are timesheets entered, submitted and approved? Cover breaks and pay, when and how. If these were not covered in the online information, they are important questions that a reporting manager should be able to answer when asked.
This is a good time to take the employee on a tour of the facility to point out where all the important areas of the organization are, like restrooms, break room, and copy machine. Also, introduce them to key staff members, those they will work directly with as well as those they will work in the near future. This is the beginning of integrating them into the company culture. Encourage them to ask questions and let them know they will be supported and who they can turn to for future questions.
If you really want your temps to blend in, be productive, and be happy, make sure they know where the water cooler and the coffee machine are. Studies have shown that employees who consume coffee are happier, more productive, and have better work experiences and memories at companies than those who do not. As an added bonus, be certain they know when and how long their lunch break is and the location of closest eateries with the best bang for the buck. Maybe even set them up with a team member for their first lunch experience. This will give them a connection – the next step of the integration process.
As your new temp is touring the facilities and learning their new tasks, meeting new employees, and learning about the company culture, it’s important that they feel connected – even though they will only be with you temporarily. Time passes quickly when you are happy. Whether your temporary employee is with you for a week, a month, or multiple years, you want them to feel content to be with you. You never know, you might need them again in the future. So do everything you can to forge a good connection with the new hire by connecting them with the company, other employees, and the culture of your company.
You can do this in the ways suggested above as well as by ensuring that their desk is clear and prepared for them to work. Some companies even go out of their way to provide a welcome package to temporary employees as a way of saying welcome to the team, even if for a short period of time. Invite them to bring in pictures of their family to personalize it. Or have a nameplate (with their name correctly spelled) already on it for them. You can post all the temps photos on the company intranet site with a brief paragraph about each to introduce them to everyone. Or simply post their picture near the water cooler or coffee pot with their name under it. Anything to help them connect and feel welcome with those around them.
It’s important to establish clear communications with the temp, whether it is with their mentor, their immediate supervisor or other employees around them. The more of a connection they have, the more they will feel part of the company as a whole. This will provide for better integration and communication within the company.
Depending on the type of temporary assignment and duration, some temps become permanent full-time employees after a specific period of time (usually in 12 months or longer). So it is always best to treat them as though that is a possible eventuality.
Make sure your temps are aware that they are welcome to ask questions at any time, that it is an ongoing process and that there will always be someone available to answer their questions. Be certain that in the clarification process, they were directed to a specific person who would always be available at any time to answer their questions.
Smooth and quick onboarding is an important part of integrating a temp into your company so that they are comfortable and work as a productive and valuable part of the team. With a little preparation and some good management, it’s as easy as five C’s. There’s no question, your employees will be content and so will your company.
Independent contractors can be a real asset to your business. They can take up the slack when your workload is especially heavy yet it’s not a problem to release them when the workload slows down or when a particular job is completed. They also can often save your company money in that you don’t have to pay benefits, worker’s compensation, payroll costs, and all the miscellaneous expenses that come with an employee.
Once you’ve decided independent contractors are the way to go, you need to know you’re following all the latest rules and appropriate labor laws. Rest assured, they haven’t changed…….much.
The Department of Labor tried to implement an ‘Economic Reality’ test that would have made independent contracting determinant on whether or not a worker was economically independent of the employer. That’s a pretty easy determinant. It would have made life a lot easier for all the businesses that use independent contractors. It almost passed. Unfortunately, in March, the Biden Administration’s Department of Labor delayed that initiative, and then finally canceled the ruling. So the rules determining independent contractor status are still as ambiguous as ever.
You also probably heard the debate in California primarily concerning Uber drivers and their independent contractor status. It was similarly considered in other states. Simply put, it had to do with a National Labor Relations Board memorandum which determined Uber drivers to be independent contractors not employees under the National Labor Relations Act. Individual states can classify Uber drivers and others as employees but it is much harder for them to do so.
Because of these state powers to reclassify workers separately from the National Labor Regulations, it is essential that you become aware of your state’s individual classifications and always consult with your attorney or financial advisor concerning independent contractors.
An independent contractor is:
You do not withhold taxes. They are responsible for all of their own taxes.
They bill you for their pay and therefore cannot claim unemployment.
They have an end date when the job is complete.
Technically, you can tell them what to do, but not how to do it (because they are their own boss).
They provide their own tools and supplies for the job.
The independent contractor has the opportunity for profit or loss.
There are considerations that must be maintained when hiring an independent contractor. For example, you must always have a contract in place. Without one, your company is vulnerable. Not only to pursue litigation for poor performance related issues, but also to taxing authorities, labor and employment, and insurance companies. They all expect contracts in place that state your contractor is not subject to withholding and benefits. The contract also protects you from the contractor later claiming they were an employee.
This contract should also clearly outline the scope of the work expected, the start and completion dates, and the compensation to be awarded. It’s helpful if the place the work is to be accomplished is also stated. For example, if you are hiring an IT or Engineering professional, you may provide office space for them. If you’re hiring a blogger or a speechwriter for example, it’s more likely they will work from their own home office or space.
Consider the ethics of treating similar workers differently. If you have window installers who work hourly and hire independent contractors who are piece workers or are paid one set price for the entire job, you begin to run into the problem of the independent contractors taking breaks or leaving the job whenever they want. That is their prerogative. You have no say over that. Remember, you have the right to tell them what to do, but not how to do it. Even if you explain this to your hourly employees, they will not fully understand it and they will not feel justified in it. They will try to take the advantages they see the independent contractors taking. You may experience some pushback or resentment from your employees as a result.
Better to hire the independent contractors for an entirely separate job. Keep them separated rather than encourage any sort of insurgence. Peace among the troops is management’s first responsibility.
Yet, don’t let this consideration stop you from hiring independent contractors because they may be exactly what you need to push you through a temporary surge in work or help you with an important project that needs to be completed or delivered in a timely manner. A great example is getting approval for project funding and quickly finding out that you don’t have enough software developers or engineers to build that sophisticated web portal or do some simulation modeling work. The last thing you want to do is find yourself scrambling to find qualified contractors to get this work done. Advanced planning to qualify contractors is always a good business practice.
Independent contractors that come ready to hit the ground running are just the ticket. Just be certain they also come with contracts.
Another consideration to keep in mind given the current landscape of how consultants are being hired is the option of remote or hybrid work (a mix of onsite and remote). Many companies that don’t need to have a contractor onsite are opting for the remote option. This does come with some risk however. If you need to hire an Engineer that needs to be in the plant performing time studies for example, the remote option would probably not work.
As with all things in life, there are some grey areas with independent contractors. That is, the extent to which you reimburse workers for their business expenses. If the contractor has to make a special trip out of town to perform onsite work at another location, do you compensate for time and gas? Technically, such things should be factored into the contract. Reimbursements could be reviewed in a classification dispute. Yet, a generous company, and a small contractor, should work these things out for the sake of maintaining a mutually beneficial working relationship.
Another very important grey area that you will notice left out of the bulleted points above is payment. There is no IRS rule that say you cannot pay an independent contractor by the hour. However, it blurs the line between employee and contractor. And this is one of those things that can raise a red flag. There are different types of engagement arrangements that a company can make with a contractor. A ‘milestone’ based engagement, “a project fee’ engagement, and an hourly (Timer & Materials) engagement to round it off. Depending on your specific needs, it may be necessary to come up with a creative compensation alternative. For example, if your contractor comes to the job without the proper tools, you could provide them and then charge them back, subtracting the cost of the tools from the contract. This way, you are no longer providing the tools to the contractor, rather, you are selling them to him. And still staying within the IRS Independent Contractor Guidelines.
Independent Contractors will always be necessary to effectively manage your business. More and more so as COVID changes the structure of the professional working landscape as we know it today. It is important to understand and follow the rules necessary in successfully using them in your business.
Eight Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Technology Consultant
Technology is constantly evolving and it affects almost every aspect of today’s businesses. In order for your company to stay on the cutting edge, you must keep up. That means having good IT consultants who can keep your business at the cutting edge of current technology. When it comes to the mission-critical task of hiring a good consultant, you can’t afford to make a mistake. Here are the top eight mistakes to avoid:
Failing to Identify Your Needs
There are numerous reasons for hiring a Technology Consultant from upgrading your current enterprise system (or modules), maintaining or modernizing your legacy systems, updating software and hardware, or just having a qualified resource to help train your staff or work on short term projects. No matter the need, finding the right Tech for the job first requires identifying exactly what you need him/her for.
Too Little Manpower
If the work you need is extensive and you’ve hired an independent contractor, there may not be enough manpower to handle the job. That could either create a situation in which the work goes on far too long with no end in sight or simply does not get done at all. Neither situation is acceptable. It’s important to hire a company that has enough manpower to handle the size of the job.
A consulting contractor can handle the job if it is within their means. Some small companies can also handle some very large jobs as well. Just be certain the size of the company suites the size of the job.
Area of Expertise
It’s important that the person hiring the consultant understands what the company needs well enough to conduct the interview with pointed questions. Does this consultant have the expertise to do your specific job? Technology consultants cover many different areas of expertise. Their resume may not pinpoint your job. Therefore, interview questions must be specific in cases like these. Do you, as the interviewer, have the specific knowledge required to garner whether or not this consultant can do what he or she needs to be able to do for your company? Are you asking the right questions? Is someone else within your company in a better position to be interviewing for this contract?
Get it in writing
Be certain you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. Be certain the entire scope of work and job is outlined within the contract. What will the consultant be providing? Some consultants set up hardware, software, or complicated systems and then leave without training anyone to use it. Be certain that having someone on your team trained is part of the service and that it is specified in writing as part of the contract with the IT consulting firm. This is a critical part of your contract.
Since the IT consultant will have access to some of your most sensitive data, be certain this contract also includes a confidentiality agreement as well as a right to all Intellectual Property created during services rendered.
Make Sure the IT Consultant is Not Trying to Sell You a Product
Your Technology Consultant should be focused on what is best for you and your company – not on selling you a particular product because he/she gets a kickback from that company. Ask them outright if they receive a commission for selling you a particular software. Be certain that your written agreement with the IT consultant specifies that they are not engaged to sell you a particular product, that they do not represent any one software or hardware company. Only in that way can you be certain that the tech has your best interest in mind.
Failing to Speak the Same Language
In addition to making sure someone within your company is trained to continue using the software or hardware or system that the Technology Consultant has put into place, be certain that someone within your company, someone who has been involved in the interview process (see #3) understands exactly what the consultant is doing. They don’t have to understand how the tech is doing what he’s doing, only why he is doing it. If you’re in a role that requires oversight of specific software, hardware or systems, you should understand this information. Anyone within your organization that will have direct involvement working with a particular software or system should be involved in hiring this consultant to be certain communication is open and fluid.
Becoming Dependent on Your Technology Consultant
If you or someone trusted in your organization does not train in what the consultant is putting in place within your system, the consultant can build in complexities that will require you to call on them frequently at their regular hourly rate (which could be astronomical and eternal). Additionally, they could custom-build something into the system. Be certain that your contract gives you full ownership of any Intellectual Property conceived during the project.
An unsavory Technology Consultant can hold your systems hostage as was exhibited with the Colonial Pipeline recently. Ransomware is prevalent. Generally, it’s not as blatant as a consultant who has been inside your business – but it can be. Why take the chance? There have been numerous instances of highjacking associated business bank accounts and draining the funds. It can take months or even years to recover these funds – if ever. And often the perpetrators never get caught. Don’t let this happen to you. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you are working with a reputable company and consultants.
Know your consultant. Looking at this person’s resume is not enough. Your Technology Consultant will have access to some of your most sensitive data. Be certain that he has had this responsibility before. Know that he has completed past projects on time and with exceptional results. You can only be certain of this by having his employer verify this information. You can also so do a separate background check for internal purposes as well.
Hiring a Technology Consultant is a big responsibility. Don’t let it intimidate you. The consultant or consulting company is there to help you. By selecting the right consulting company and avoiding these pitfalls, you can make this a win-win for both parties. Remember, working with the right consultant could make the difference between success or failure for your company.
PMI provides a broad range of business analytics and business intelligence services to enable corporate decision-makers to increase their bottom line. The PMI Difference stems from a deep rooted philosophy of helping our clients achieve success at ever level of their organization. The relationship that we establish with our clients is not that of a vendor and customer, but rather a trusted partner that they can call when the need arises.
PMI’s business analytics and business intelligence services involve extracting patterns from large data sets by combining methods from statistics, operations research, and artificial intelligence with database management (Data Gathering, Warehousing, Querying, Reporting and Dashboard Development).
PMI’s process follows six phases:
PMI’s team members and technical staff draw from decades of experience in statistics, forecasting, operations research, optimization, and simulation and database management. We deploy a large set of analysis and modeling techniques for every client. PMI can solve your unique problems, and here’s how:
We really do understand technology: Unlike most staffing companies, we have an IT department with Web Developers, Business Analysts, Project Managers, Data Scientists, etc.
We have 192 skill and competency tests that we perform to further screen candidates: This eliminates any unqualified candidates.
Turn-Around time: Resumes in your inbox in 8 to 24 hours.
NO Third Party consultants. We just don’t use them. All our consultants are on our W2: You don’t have to worry about contractors not getting paid, VISA issues, etc.
Over 300+ consultants in various IT roles: Web Developers, Business Analysts, Enterprise Architects, QA Analysts, Project Managers, Network/Systems Engineers, etc.
We have placed over 1000 people in various IT roles across the country: 40+ years of IT Staffing/Consulting experience is what we bring to the table.
Innovation: PMI leads the industry in IT Staffing innovation with productivity and process improvements in everyday operations of screening, interviewing, and qualifying candidates.
Advanced Screening and Recruiting Process: We have a 13 steps recruiting process unlike any other staffing firm in the business.
Let’s say for the sake of argument, you’re happy with your current IT Consulting/Staffing vendors. The next question would be, how are you measuring their performance, success on delivery, and value to your organization? Let PMI share with you the following list of principles, laws, or guidelines that has helped design and implement effective technology strategies and approaches for our customers.
Skill specific candidate testing: In order to ensure a candidate has the skills he says he has; we test him/her. These can be written tests, role-plays, simulations, or for example asking a Web Developer candidate to write a code snippet or asking a Business Analyst candidate to explain the key components in a Business Requirement Document (BRD). These tests will not necessarily be elaborate, but they will able to differentiate the candidates who have the necessary skills from those who don’t.
We include our technical personnel in the interview process: Having the final candidates interview with others in the company (especially those working at client sites in similar roles) provides additional perspectives on the candidate. Those additional perspectives greatly increase the odds of finding the best candidates.
Competitive Rates: The very best is always in high demand, and we realize that if we don’t literally “fight” for a top shelf candidate, you don’t get the best candidate in the market. That’s why we maintain a low profit margin to stay competitive and pass on low rates to our customers.
Speedy Response: Making fast hiring decisions is essential whenever a candidate in high demand decides to make a job switch. We normally respond with a resume profile to our customers within 24 hours.