External Workforce: Driving Business Agility in an Unstable Economy
3 min read
For the past year or so, the world economy has been unstable. While some financial experts are still calling for a recession, the US is actually moving towards entering a “bull market” - which is investor speak for a period of time marked by rising stock prices and Wall Street optimism.
Yet despite the positivity, there’s no doubt that the market remains uncertain, putting businesses in a position where they must be agile to survive.
One strategy gaining significant traction (even before economic instability kicked in) is the utilization of an external workforce, also known as a contingent workforce management strategy, a solution that offers flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and resource efficiency.
This blog is a deep dive into how businesses can effectively leverage an external workforce strategy to improve business agility, organizational flexibility and gain a competitive edge no matter the strength of the economy.
Understanding the Concept of the External Workforce
In essence, an external workforce strategy involves hiring contingent workers outside of your company for specific projects or a predetermined period of time. This group can include freelancers, contractors, consultants, as well as temporary workers (who are typically on the payroll of staffing agencies).
While your traditional employees are like the roots of a tree, solid, permanent and foundational, an external workforce behaves more like the branches. Flexible, adaptable and highly agile.
This increased agility allows organizations to greatly improve their business flexibility, accessing top talent when required and seamlessly scaling up or down for new projects and demand as necessary.
The External Workforce is a Catalyst for Business Agility
The employment landscape is shifting. More and more companies are embracing the external workforce model, and for good reason. Particularly when it comes to an unstable economy, agility is a key ingredient to success.
A highly-strategic and well-managed external workforce allows businesses to adapt quickly to market changes and opportunities. Here’s how:
1 - Speed and Responsiveness
In today's fast-paced business world, speed is the essence of the game. An external workforce can help businesses act swiftly, responding to changes in the market in real time. No need to go through the lengthy process of hiring and onboarding new employees. Businesses can instead engage the external workforce to deal with sudden market changes or new projects.
2 - Adaptability to Market Changes
Markets can be as unpredictable as a rollercoaster ride. But with an external workforce, you can hold on tight and adapt. Need to venture into a new area of business? Engage experts from your external workforce. Facing a sudden surge in demand? Scale up your external team. The adaptability afforded by an external workforce can keep you afloat amidst the tides of change.
3 - Resilience in the Face of Uncertainty
Uncertainty is the only certainty in business. An external workforce can boost your company's resilience in facing these uncertainties. Instead of getting caught in the headlights, you can mobilize your external workforce to tackle challenges head-on, whether it's a sudden market shift or an unexpected business hurdle.
4 - Innovation and Problem-Solving
An external workforce brings diverse skills, perspectives, and experiences to the table. This diversity can spark innovation and creative problem-solving, equipping businesses to navigate complexities and carve new paths in the business landscape. It's like having a think tank at your disposal, ready to ignite fresh ideas when you need them.
5 - Operational Flexibility
Operational flexibility is a key aspect of business agility, and this is where an external workforce shines. Need to ramp up operations for a busy season? Or maybe scale down during a lull? An external workforce allows businesses to adjust their operations as needed, seamlessly and efficiently. In the face of an unstable economy, this operational flexibility can be a lifesaver.
Other Business Benefits of an Extended Workforce
Cost-Effectiveness: An external workforce offers your business more bang for your buck, reducing overheads and offering greater financial flexibility.
Access to Top Talent: An external workforce provides an opportunity to tap into a larger pool of talent. That means, instead of fishing in a small pond, you're casting your net into the open ocean, where you can catch a much wider array of skills and expertise.
Mitigate Business Risks: By complementing your internal team with an external workforce, you can mitigate the associated with having all your eggs in one basket.
Access to Global Talent: With an external workforce, the world is your oyster. You're no longer limited by geography, opening the door to a pool of global talent.
Enable Innovation: Sometimes, an outside perspective can do wonders for innovation. External workers, with their diverse experiences and fresh perspectives, can bring new ideas to the table.
To Realize These Benefits an External Workforce Must be Managed Effectively
An external workforce can bring a wealth of benefits, but to extract the most value, effective management is crucial.
Management of an external workforce involves a multitude of aspects. Firstly, it's about setting clear expectations, defining the scope of work, deliverables, and deadlines from the get-go. From there it’s about maintaining visibility and control over contingent workers so that your business has the data and insights it needs to deliver continuous improvement.