Do you want greater staff retention, the ability to deliver projects faster and lower overheads? Of course. A flexible workforce is the answer.
Making the best use of your people gives you a competitive advantage and lets you complete projects faster while creating a culture where work/life balance is respected.
Before we look at some more benefits of managing your resource pool in this way, first, we need to define what a flexible workforce is.
What is a flexible workforce?
A flexible workforce is where staffing levels are changed and optimized to meet the business demand. Sometimes staffing levels are increased to meet the demands of project work; other times the workforce is reduced to avoid spending on staff who do not have enough work to keep them fully occupied. This can be achieved through a mix of full-time, part-time and expert contract resources who can quickly fill any gaps or step back when they are no longer needed. Permanent employees may have a flexible work schedule and accrue additional leave that they can take when their workload is quieter.
Flexibility in the workforce also refers to the skill mix of the individuals in the company. You will have subject matter experts but also staff who are capable of filling more than one role, or stepping up to take on secondary responsibilities when required.
Flexible workforce examples
Here are some examples of how you could implement flexible working arrangements with your existing staff:
- Offering part-time hours or reduced hours
- Offering compressed hours: working a ‘normal’ working week but over four long days instead of five days
- Offering job sharing arrangements
- Offering sabbaticals and leave of absence arrangements on an unpaid (or paid) basis
- Allowing staff to work flexible hours to shift their start and end times, accrue extra time off and manage their own work time within certain boundaries.
Project work has busy times and less busy times, depending on project priorities and the organization’s strategic plan. That’s why being able to call on a pool of flexible resources is so important to project-based businesses.
Let’s look at 5 benefits of a flexible workforce.
1. Better cost management
One of the financial benefits of a flexible workforce is that you can minimize your overheads. Run your staff levels at a baseline capacity and then top up with specialist project staff when you have extra work.
There are significant overheads in recruiting permanent employees. It’s often better to build a relationship with a staffing firm that can supply a pool of trusted contract resources who know your business. Contract workers don’t require the same benefits or overheads that permanent employees do and are often available to start work at short notice.
Which brings us to the next benefit…
2. Faster project delivery
If you don’t have the people, you can’t deliver the projects. That means making tough decisions about which projects get worked on and which don’t. Often, there are a few skillsets in the organization that simply won’t stretch to supporting multiple project deliveries at the same time.
If the project is truly important to the organization, it is probably cost-effective to bring in specialist experts to fill the gap. They will help get the project done so you can start reaping the benefits more quickly. A flexible project management workforce means you won’t have to wait until another project is finished before starting work, or until someone has gained the skills in-house.
This is perfect in a competitive situation when you want to make sure your new offer is put out to the market as soon as possible, or where you are successful in securing new business that simply won’t wait.
This benefit also applies for the strategic side of project delivery too. Need to set up a new PMO quickly? Want a hand with your three-year strategic plan? Skilled consultants can support your own time through short-term strategic engagements and then complete a knowledge transfer before stepping back.
3. Greater diversity
A flexible workforce allows you to build greater diversity in your employee community. Part-time work or flexi-hours may make it possible for you to work with talented individuals who may not otherwise be able to take (or choose to take) a fixed hours, permanent role.
4. Better staff retention
When staff have the power to influence their working patterns, they feel more motivated and better prepared to meet the demands of the job. If you make it easy for employees to create a work/life balance that works for them, they are less likely to seek employment elsewhere.
Taking a flexible approach to staffing also benefits you when the workload increases. Instead of expecting staff to work overtime or take on more, you can bring in talented contract resources on a short-term basis to prop up the workforce and share the load. Projects benefit from getting the resource levels they need and your permanent workforce avoids being burned out through overload and poor capacity planning.
5. Lower environmental impact
If green credentials are important to your business, flexible working is the way to go. Homeworking reduces commuting time, lowering our reliance on fossil fuels and reducing pollution. Flexible start and end times mean that even if you are travelling into the office, you can avoid the worst of the traffic and cut your journey time.
Fewer people in the office at any one time means you may be able to reduce the amount of office space required. Global Workplace Analytics estimate that 56% of the workforce has a job which could be done remotely, and many projects can be run with a virtual team.
Project management staff augmentation is just one way to meet the demands of your flexible workforce.
For many companies, operating with a flexible workforce has simply happened, as the work situation has evolved to respond to shifts in the economy and the changing needs of the workplace. However, if you take a strategic view of this shift – which isn’t going anywhere – you can see there are even more benefits that you could tap into. How are you going to take advantage of workplace flexibility?