Today's businesses have a wide range of options at their disposal in terms of how they structure their workforce. Gone are the days when permanent workers would make up the vast majority of staffing, as today's organizations require greater flexibility than this strict model of personnel management can provide.
As a result, recent years have seen the rise of the blended workforce, as a growing number of people have taken on 'alternative work types'. Indeed, growth in the gig economy means there are now more than 57 million people taking part in alternative working arrangements in the US. This accounts for more than a third (36%) of the adult working population.
Companies that are committed to reaping the benefits of the latest business practices and shifting lifestyle choices of many employees are therefore moving towards the use of a blended workforce model, which draws on the services and skills of this growing group of individuals.
What is a blended workforce?
A blended workforce is one that makes use of the varied options of employment, ranging from permanent full- and part-time staff, through to contractors, consultants, agency workers and more.
In many businesses today, flexibility is essential to meet the changing needs of customers and, as a result, there is a growing need for individuals in different roles. Companies can maintain their core business through the use of permanent employees, while supplementing their ability to meet customer needs through the use of other employee types.
For example, a manufacturer who receives a large product order may wish to increase their use of temporary staffing to supplement their permanent workforce for a short period of time. The uptake of more short-term contractors alongside permanent, long-term staff means companies can be more agile in their response to rising and falling demand for their services. By scaling up and down in this way, the use of a blended workforce also delivers increased cost efficiency by only committing the required resources to fulfil current needs.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
In moving away from the restrictions of a permanent, full-time workforce, companies are better able to develop scalability to become more agile, while also incorporating different viewpoints that add to the diversity of their teams.
Agility is an essential factor for the modern business, as it ensures they are able to adapt quickly to changing markets and customer needs. Indeed, McKinsey leaders of organization design Wouter Aghina and Aaron De Smet explain that embracing change should be the mindset of any agile business, with the power to foster adaptability and flexibility at the core of today's most competitive operators.
Meanwhile, a diverse organization is one that draws on the different viewpoints of its staff to engage in higher levels of innovation and to come up with new solutions to the challenges faced. By embracing the more diverse nature of a blended/liquid workforce, this creates opportunities for companies to tackle problems in a new and inventive way.
That said, companies considering the use of a blended workforce should be aware of some potential drawbacks. These include an increase in costs due to the higher rates associated with hiring non-permanent workers, as well as difficulties in integrating these individuals into permanent teams.
What are the keys to success in a blended workforce?
Ultimately, any organization that adopts a more blended approach to workforce management will rely on clear communication to ensure all parties are aware of their responsibilities and understand their role in the wider delivery of products or services.
Key to this is a clear delineation of individual responsibilities and supporting a more collaborative business culture. All employees, regardless of their status, should have a clear understanding of who they report to, what is expected of them and how their role fits into the wider team.
When blended workforce management is applied correctly, companies can ensure they gain a much-needed boost to their agility and effectiveness, but the challenge of overseeing and empowering individuals to operate effectively in this more complicated structure should not be underestimated.
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