Employee Retention

Improve Work/Life Balance with Contingent Workers

High-quality talent is hard to come by and even harder to keep. With low unemployment and a generation of reliable, experienced workers pondering retirement, competition for talented employees has become the stuff of sleepless nights for chief human research officers, hiring managers, and recruiters.

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With nearly half of all employers in America unable to find the employees they need, it’s more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. Compensation is, of course, the No. 1 reason an employee chooses to stay with a company, but the next reason might surprise you. In a study published last year, the Society for Human Resource Management reported that a good work-life balance is the second concern employees weigh when deciding whether to stay with a company.

Employers are using a plethora of tools to help their employees achieve the work-life balance they want. Flexible working arrangements are appealing to many employees, so companies are using technology that allows workers to meet remotely or collaborate and manage projects from their own home. While this can be beneficial, I believe the evolution of contingent workers in the corporate world can be leveraged to provide an even more ideal work-life balance for both employees and managers.

How can you utilize contingent workers to solve your company’s work-life imbalance, and what benefits can they offer? Here are five ways you can benefit from the contingent workforce:

1. Put an End to Late-Night Deadlines.

Most of us know what it’s like to get that last-minute client demand or proposal that suddenly has to be delivered by 8 a.m. tomorrow. Relying only on your organization’s employees, who’ve already worked a full day and are ready for a break, can be difficult. Being expected to happily pitch in during crunch times can wear on even the most committed employees.

Fortunately, worldwide technology has provided us with great solutions: workers who are ready to perform work immediately and at affordable prices. Mechanical Turk, developed by Amazon, is one example of this type of platform. A person just enters the task to be completed and the work is crowdsourced to high-quality, on-demand workers that the user might never even interact with. Users pay once the task is completed, and the payment is distributed according to worker input.

If the task requires minimal direction, this form of contingent worker can be perfect. It’s good for the contingent worker too: About 5% of Americans are doing gig work online for job platform sites, an even larger percentage of the population than those who drive for ride-sharing apps. By 2027, in fact, as many as one in three Americans might be doing the majority of their work through online platforms.

2. Access the Needed Expertise.

Say goodbye to long nights of reading up on a subject you aren’t familiar with and the days spent training in an attempt to acquire knowledge in a field outside of your wheelhouse. With platforms such as Textbroker, you can easily outsource the writing of custom content for your blog or other business needs. Toptal, another online platform, gives you, as a small business owner, access to fully vetted developers who are ready to build your company’s software, eliminating the hours it would’ve taken you to post the position and interview and screen candidates.

3. Cover a Reduction in Hours.

Life happens, even to the most valued employees in your company. When valued employees need to reduce hours to spend time with family (or for some other reason), contingent workers offer the perfect solution. The ease with which contingent workers can now be accessed means it’s easy to accommodate requests for time off.

Simply review the full-time employee’s list of responsibilities and identify the ones that the employee no longer wants to do or that would be best for a contingent worker to perform. Have the contingent worker report directly to the (now part-time) employee so he or she can remain responsible for the overall deliverables and avoid burdening others with any necessary questions or coaching.

4. Delegate Special Projects.

Let’s face it, there are certain times when a company needs employees to put in extra effort and hours to get through a critical project or initiative. These times can be great for employees who are eager to show the company what they can do and potentially excel in their careers. But for employees with obligations outside of work, such as children, extra work is not always doable.

Rather than drive skilled employees away, employers can offer them a choice: Would they rather work more hours and gain new skills or continue with current responsibilities? If the person prefers to keep the current level of commitment, simply hire a contingent worker to pick up the slack.

5. If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them.

If employers can’t offer the work-life balance employees are looking for, those employees can consider becoming gig workers. Studies have shown that employees who have autonomy in the workplace, flexibility in their schedules, and the freedom to alter their workspaces are more productive than employees who don’t. Unfortunately, flexibility continues to be viewed as a perk by many companies rather than the standard benefit it should be.

This might be why more than 40% of workers in the United States now choose to engage in the gig economy. If using contingent workers still doesn’t create a flexible enough work environment for your employees, you could hire them as contingent workers if they choose to leave full-time employment.

As you explore ways to leverage the contingent workforce to the benefit of your employees, remember: Contingent workers are busy, too! Evaluate your needs, and plan as far in advance as you can so you can get the contingent workers you need. Demand is so high, in fact, that some employers begin their Christmas hiring in the summer.

Even if your business isn’t particularly affected by the holidays, being sure you know what you need and when will help you avoid being short-staffed and risk throwing everyone’s work-life balance into disarray. Because, really, at the end of the day, it’s all about getting the job done.

Tania Fiero is vice president of human resources at Innovative Employee Solutions, a nationwide employer of record founded in 1974 in San Diego that specializes in payrolling and contractor management services for today’s contingent workforce.