talent situation



talent situation

I make a point of visiting with my largest clients at least once a quarter. Before the pandemic, these were face-to-face meetings typically over coffee, sometimes an appointment scheduled a few weeks in advance, sometimes an unscheduled drop-by, depending on the preference and availability of my counterpart. For the past two years, these have been Zoom meetings, and we’ve had plenty to talk about in the world of staff hiring and retention!

A recent client “visit” offered a unique opportunity to address staffing from a strategic perspective. When Ilene’s face first appeared on my screen, I suspected from her serious look that this call would not be the usual exchange of pleasantries along with her forecast of staff needs for the next few months. Within a few minutes, she pivoted our conversation by confiding, “We are not going to meet our 2022 staff targets unless we completely rethink our staffing approach.”

From the long list of job orders we had received and filled for Ilene’s company, there were ordinarily three types of positions available:

  • Full Time: These are sometimes referred to as “permanent,” which of course nothing is!
  • Part-Time: Regular positions, but for less than 40 hours per work.
  • Temporary: Full or part-time, but typically for a limited duration, as short as a few days or, in some special cases, longer than a year. Such positions usually do not offer any health insurance or other benefits.

In recent decades, we developed a few hybrids of the above based on the evolving workforce:

  • Full-Time Temporary: The staff are legally full-time employees of my recruiting firm, but assigned to the client with no fixed end date. In many cases these persons receive the same benefits as those working at our client firm; the only differences are the company name on their paychecks and we are responsible for discipline and performance reviews. As we are a woman-owned company, this approach provides an additional advantage for some clients.
  • Temp-to-Perm: The employee is on our payroll for 3 to 6 months. If they are successful as a temp, they are switched to our client’s payroll at the end of what is essentially a probationary period.
  • Job Sharing: This is filling a position, possibly over multiple shifts, with multiple people who may work 4 to 8 hours each.

After we reviewed these classifications to determine if they addressed her concerns, Ilene explained, “It’s become much more complicated than that! With the pandemic coupled with the resulting labor shortage and widening skills gap, we won’t fill all our openings if we predetermine a job’s classification. We must become more agile.”

When I pressed her to explain further, she described the following new situations:

  • The Disincentive of Temporary Work: Those with full-time positions are understandably reluctant to accept a temporary or a temp-to-perm position, even if it’s an increase in wages and a career advancement. This may be a function of needing health insurance or not wanting to pay for COBRA. Or it may be a deciding factor in competition with a full-time position with comparable compensation and opportunity.
  • Work Location: There are now candidates that want to work full-time from home, part-time from home, and part-time in the office, and/or need the flexibility to switch between those locations depending on the latest virus wave.
  • SOW Contract Employees: This talent wants to receive a lump sum payment to complete a scope of work, rather than be paid a salary or hourly. Their skills and experience place them in the position to seek this freelancing approach.
  • Employment Mix: Ilene’s company needs to keep a percentage of its workforce as temporary to allow quick offloading of staff due to contract loss or a sudden economic downturn, augmenting corporate resiliency. Many businesses today now have 30-40% contingent employees within their workforce. Similarly, they can accommodate only so many staff at their offices, with the others working remotely. In many cases, it was not critical which positions were temporary or which were remote.

This moment provided me with an opening to introduce Ilene to the concept of “Total Talent Solutions.” Rather than individually considering every position to be filled, their entire recruitment process could be outsourced to Abel Personnel. In this more flexible staffing model, we could develop position requirements with the hiring managers in Ilene’s company to know which positions could be temporary, which temp-to-perm, which remote, which with varying degrees of flexibility. We could tailor each opening to the needs of the candidates within parameters set by the hiring managers and within the percentage of temporary staff and available onsite workstations (coordinating with her firm’s Facilities Department). I predicted that this holistic approach would exponentially increase her company’s access to the workforce, reconciling the needs of her company with the needs of the talent they needed to attract. The flexibility gained will also decrease labor costs.

After I promised Ilene that I would have paperwork over to her the next day further detailing our Total Talent Solution, she became thoughtfully quiet for a few minutes. I respectfully gave her the time to articulate her next idea: “I believe I will also need to meet with our managers to discuss which of our current staff would benefit from tailoring their current jobs in a way that better met their needs so that they can be more effective while still achieving our desired employment mix.” That confirmed that Ilene understood what I was proposing, and these quarterly meetings were about to focus more on joint strategic planning and less on stewarding our key clients.

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