The Rise of the Multi-Channel Workforce

In the near future, many of your organization's most-skilled workers won't be traditional full-time employees.
By: | June 29, 2018 • 6 min read

In today’s rapidly growing global economy, the traditional employee-employer relationship is giving way to new models, as rapid changes in the economy and technological trends present companies with a new range of options for accessing top talent via mutually beneficial arrangements. This so-called “multi-channel workforce” model gives today’s digital businesses the flexibility they need. It consists of freelancers, statement-of-work-based consultants, independent contractors and workers sourced via public and private talent pools — including workforce alumni and what are commonly known as “the silver medalists,” or the job applicants with great skills but who are better suited for another role rather than the one for which they applied.

Several factors have contributed to the growth of this external workforce in recent years, including technologies that support remote work models as well as new business solutions.

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Although the formation of this workforce began as companies sought the necessary flexibility to better manage costs and handle the peaks and valleys of demand, the trend today reflects the growing desire of individuals to pursue varied experiences. The fact is, today’s professionals tend to like the variety and flexibility that comes with moving from one project or assignment to the next. It’s little wonder, then, that top talent increasingly does not want to be full-time staff.

Tapping into this flexible, multi-channel workforce can be a win-win for professionals and businesses. Hiring managers gain more options as they tap talent from around the world to access specialized skills that span functions and deliver various levels of experience as and when needed. It allows organizations to be more strategic about how they utilize their staff, augmenting certain functional areas seasonally, filling skill gaps and bringing in niche talent ranging from scientists and data analysts to risk managers, cyber security experts, lawyers, nurses and engineers.

Workers also benefit. Sixty-seven percent of workers, according to an Accenture Strategy report, want to pursue freelance or self-employment opportunities that give them autonomy over their career and allow them to select positions that are of the greatest interest to them. The same study also found that 75 percent of highly skilled respondents are interested in freelancing, compared to 69 percent of mid-level and 57 percent of low-skilled respondents.

Tapping into this multi-channel workforce means you can’t rely on the same old practices from the past, however. After all, most traditional HR management practices aren’t designed to handle the unique aspects of external workforce management, in which you’re hiring and then managing a mix of freelance and contingent workers with specialized skills, many of them in high demand. You’ll need a holistic view of the talent you’re sourcing across different channels to manage labor costs, maximize productivity and increase efficiency.

As the multi-channel workforce grows to account for a larger portion of the labor force, today’s companies must adjust their talent acquisition and management strategies. Traditional HR management practices are not equipped to handle the unique aspects of external workforce management.

To remain globally competitive, businesses need to employ new technology solutions and use services that provide a holistic view of the talent they source across channels it manage labor costs, maximize productivity and increase efficiency. These solutions provide the transparency that HR management needs to ensure their business engages eligible external talent with the certifications and other qualifications required. Additionally, by teaming with procurement, HR can be assured the business can realize the value expected from those they contract.

All solutions, however, are not equal. To identify an external workforce management solution that will help your organization effectively and efficiently develop an agile capability for sourcing and managing a company’s temporary talent, it is important to understand and evaluate how the solution can improve outcomes for key performance indicators as follows.

Decrease requisition cycle time or “time to fill.” One of the most common key-performance indicators for talent managers is measuring time-to-fill. Automated sourcing solutions should help you tap the right talent quickly and create a better candidate experience. Speed is critical for outpacing competitors, and shortening time-to-fill contributes to organizational agility.

When businesses select a solution to help source, engage, manage and offboard their flexible workforce, they also need to take note of the ecosystem of solutions that are integrated with the service provider. Such connections will be increasingly important to businesses as they engage flexible talent via online marketplaces and want to use other complementary online services to increase their agility and save time.

Greater control over supplier partners. Companies have many options when they seek out talent suppliers that provide different services. Through a cloud-based solution, companies can select vendors tied to pre-defined metrics and track their performance for the duration of the contract.

Make sure you also can integrate your suppliers. In so doing, companies gain greater control over supplier selection, and can be more confident about the quality and value that will be delivered.

By implementing a central, reliable solution for managing your multi-channel workforce, you’ll have greater visibility into who is working for you, where they’re located, what assets and facilities they can access, and a better understanding of their value.

Automated processes. Automated processes in the cloud can aid sourcing, vetting, assignment management, project management, onboarding, offboarding and invoicing. Services built into such solutions deliver all this and more by simplifying the process of extending assignments or contracts, managing expenditures and responding to new opportunities. It also captures a record of the company’s multi-channel talent so your organization’s hiring managers know who to re-engage and whether a worker’s certification is current. As the multi-channel workforce grows, it’s crucial that businesses maintain contractor records just as they do for full-time staff.

Advanced reporting and analytics. Need to hire an engineer to work on a new product design? Imagine being able to explore alternatives and understand where and when to hire at what rate. Strong solutions can provide you with robust data analytics and machine-learning capabilities that, within moments, allow you to benchmark pricing for talent with specific skills and experience requirements. They allow you to run hiring scenarios, initiate talent strategy and planning and, ultimately, propose candidates for positions. Once a person is on board, hiring managers can keep a pulse on what going rates are so a competitor can’t swoop in with a better offer and lure the best talent away.

Enhanced payment procedures. Cloud solutions can support time tracking, payment processing and expense reimbursement from a desktop or mobile device. Robust solutions also give your organization the option of integrating your existing time tracking or payment processing systems with the solution. In either case, the net benefit is an efficient, cost-effective means of electronic invoicing to reduce administrative time and facilitate automatic, detailed reconciliation reporting.

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Improved onboarding process. Workers whose skills are in high demand are more likely to select the businesses that are easier to work with and that have a reliable process for invoicing, payments and reimbursements. Clearly defined, automated processes contribute to worker satisfaction and provide a smooth path to contractor productivity.

To remain agile and responsive to changing workplace dynamics, your organization needs solutions that better source, manage and retain highly skilled talent. By creating a framework that streamlines processes and centralizes communications, your organization will be better positioned to optimize the multi-channel workforce, thereby improving profitability and creating a better experience for external talent.

 Rob Brimm is the president of SAP Fieldglass. A member of the executive management team since 2004, Rob leads SAP Fieldglass’ global expansion initiatives, establishing its provider network strategy and serving as an integral team member, guiding the SAP acquisition process. He previously led the worldwide sales organization, overseeing unprecedented growth and rapid customer acquisition.