Whether you’re building your business from the ground up, or adapting to rapid growth or changing conditions, having the agility to respond to fluctuating business demands and targets will be key to your success. To do so, many companies are turning to agile workforces to ensure they have the right talent while also having the flexibility to expand and contract in response to market changes. 

While companies might traditionally open a new full-time role when they need talent, in today’s world of work, business leaders should consider the various ways they can access talent to fill critical gaps. 

The best option for you depends on your needs and resources. This article explores important questions facing employers today: How do you go about creating an agile workforce? And, how do you determine which types of employment will meet your business objectives? 

Identifying your talent gaps 

Companies can perform a talent gap analysis to better understand the holes that need filling, and then determine what source of talent is best equipped to fill that need. 

To perform this analysis, you’ll first need to determine the skill needs for each role. Once you’ve done that, take inventory of the talents and skills of your current employees. You can then use that information to find where the demand doesn’t match the current supply. 

Determine how to fill the gaps 

Once you’ve assessed your talent needs you can determine how to meet them. You can draw from freelancers, full- and part-time employees, or mobilize your full-time employees. 

Filling the gaps with full-time workers

Hire a full-time employee when:

  • You have an on-going need for specific skills.
  • You need continuity between projects.
  • You need long-term dedication.

Full-time employees are the workers whose skills you rely on every day. The other employment types are complementary to these workers. 

While they come with a higher cost to employ, their stability is an asset to your business. Because of the security that comes with a full-time job, these workers have lower turnover and less stress. Lower turnover saves your business a lot of money, as rehiring for a vacant position is expensive – costs associated with turnover can range from 90 to 200 percent of an employee’s annual salary.

Additionally, the continuity of full-time workers allows you to build and sustain a strong corporate culture. A study by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business found that a strong internal culture of integrity led to higher productivity, profitability, better industrial relations, and a higher level of attractiveness to prospective job applicants.

Filling the gaps by mobilizing internal talent

Mobilize internal talent when:

  • You’ve documented your employee’s skills.
  • You have underutilized skills in your current workforce.
  • You can move an employee to a different role.
  • You can train current employees to meet those needs.

Before hiring anyone externally, whether they’re a contingent worker or a full-time employee, you need to make sure you don’t already have the skills you need within your current workforce. 

By documenting these skills and keeping updated on your employees’ professional development, your business will have the knowledge it needs to quickly deploy existing employees to meet new needs as they arise.

According to Jackie Scanlan, Vice President of HR International and Strategy at Campbell Soup: “Having employees document their skills and work experiences has helped us identify and close our skill gaps. We’ve designed our Talent Management system in a way that lets employees not only build profiles based on their Campbell career but also include skills and experiences acquired at other employers and through formal education.”

But what if you don’t have those skills within your workplace? Consider training to build those skills among your current workforce. A proactively trained workforce can give your business a competitive advantage. As a bonus, training also provides a boost to job satisfaction, ultimately reducing turnover and saving your business money in the long run.  

Filling the gaps with part-time workers

Hire part-time workers when:

  • You have an on-going but not full-time need for their skills
  • You can’t afford to hire full-time

Part-time employees can often be treated as a stopgap or placeholder for a full-timer, but they can be a vital part of growing your business. Additionally, part-time employees can offer similar benefits to freelancers, allowing a business to scale quickly and tap into specialized skills and expertise that may be important but not needed full time. 

Part-timers can also be considered part of your full-time talent bench. If you find yourself in a position where you need their skills full-time, they can quickly step in to fill the gap – and save you the time and money you would’ve allocated to the job search.

Filling the gaps with the alternative workforce

Hire alternative workers when:

  • You have a short-term project needing a specialized skill.
  • You need to scale up fast on a bootstrap budget.
  • You need to cover for an employee absence.

Gig workers are most useful when employed for short-term, one-off projects requiring specialized skills not in your current workforce. 

When outsourcing work to independent contractors, you should consider the following:

  • Cost: Gig workers are less expensive to hire because they’re only briefly employed by you. They cost no more than their contracted rate.
  • Turnover: By their nature, gig-workers don’t stick around. After the project is done, they will move on to their next project.
  • Infrastructure: You may not have the company policies, processes and procedures to properly manage an independent workforce. 
  • Engagement: A freelancer is generally operating their own small business, and can’t be expected to work any harder for yours than their contract requires.

You also need to keep in mind that not all gig workers are the same. A 2018 Gallup study of the gig economy showed that there are two broad categories which fall under the umbrella:

  • Independent: These workers are self-employed, most often as online platform workers or by operating fully independent small businesses.
  • Contingent: These are temps and on-call workers who are either employed by your company or a temp agency to perform on a short-term, per-project basis. 

Because they see more benefit from flexibility and control over their work life, that same study reported that independent contractors show higher productivity and passion for their work than contingent workers.

It should be remembered that Canadian labour law recognizes a third category between “employee” and “independent contractor.” Dependent contractors are contractors whose business is entirely dependent on your own. 

The most agile companies rely on a various mix of talent to succeed. Reshuffling your current workforce can unlock new potential. It takes smart leadership and good strategic planning to know when and how to deploy these talent pools to drive the business forward.