HR departments found themselves in a unique position from the start of the pandemic. The strategic value contributed through emergency response and restructuring efforts have entrenched HR as one of the most integral parts of any business. While the critical response phase created by the start of the crisis seems to be over, numerous challenges still lay ahead.
Adapting to the new normal is the most important. Defining the “new normal” and how it will change business is the challenge. HR departments find themselves in new territory, which demands experimentation. Checking in on employees, and ensuring their health and safety, and consulting on organizational structure, are more important than ever. Developing remote working capabilities, as well as performance, must be kept up to standard. Markets are moving fast, so reskilling and upskilling are priorities to stay competitive. Surveys suggest that the skills required for a single job increase from year to year by roughly 10%. The capability arms race is transforming current staff development and hiring.
Hiring has changed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic drastically. In a survey from 2020, 90% of the 500 interviewed HR representatives confirmed that numerous changes to their practices were necessary to deal with layoffs, remote work, and budget cuts. HR departments need to reinvent themselves. New trends quickly started to form out of the pandemic-related measures: remote interviews, flexible work arrangements, alternative staffing, and a shift in which skill sets are in demand. Some of these trends will only last for the duration of the pandemic. Others are here to stay. Amongst them, a development that had already started to pick up steam before COVID-19 condemned us all to house arrest: the increase in hiring temporary staff.
The concept of hiring temporary staff is nothing new, but in the current circumstances, its popularity has grown tremendously. According to a poll conducted by “PeopleReady” around 53% of companies have increased their use of temporary staff. The reason why is no secret: flexible commitments are adjustable to meet the business’s needs. Companies can even experiment with which positions are needed, which are redundant, and which new paths, may be beneficial to explore.
Moreover, temps are time and money savers, since expensive and time-consuming training is not required. Talents may also be scouted in previously untapped places. During the lockdown, many companies started to consider a global employee pool. Since work is remote anyway, a temporary employee abroad can complete tasks just as well as a local.
However, this trend of relying on outsiders comes with a few downsides. Reliability is one such factor. Hiring in the short-term with no benefits naturally offers fewer incentives. This, in turn, leads to a lower quality performance than what is to be expected of a permanent worker. Legal concerns are another aspect to keep in mind when hiring temporary staff. Especially when dealing with sensitive or even confidential material, trusted long-term employees are a better choice.
HR departments have numerous factors to consider concerning temporary employment. First, HR needs to take control of the talent supply chain. Since temporary employees often come from talent agencies, there is less direct HR involvement in hiring. Management and HR need to evaluate methods to obtain the exact skills required. Different talent agencies should be tested to ensure a good fit for both parties.
Over and under hiring are common mistakes in connection to temporary staff. While during a crisis many positions are cut, redundant positions are often added during growth. Experimenting with which needs must be fulfilled, is a unique advantage of temporary employment. Using this tool to improve the overall company structure should be a long-term goal to reduce unnecessary staff fluctuation.
The new normal is evolving and will be different for every company. HR departments are at the forefront of adapting quickly and efficiently. Managing an unrecognizable work environment and a shift away from permanent employment poses challenges unlike any other faced within recent history. To keep up, HR departments need to work closely with both employees, talent agencies, and management for an uncertain future.