One of the things that the coronavirus has taught the world is that nothing is permanent. And going forward we have to dig into our human nature for resilience and adaptability. Similarly, as businesses consider their options for the future, we have to appreciate this fact and set up systems and processes that live this reality. Leaders have to ensure that organisations and employees are productive for them to bounce back and thrive.
One of the key areas to consider is the nature of employee contracts. Long term permanent and pensionable contracts have their space but flexible contracts present a unique advantage to both organisations and individuals. And while it’s not common practice or ideal, flexible work presents many benefits to the employee. Among them is having a varied set of skills that increases individual marketability, possibility of faster career progression, relative ease of getting an opportunity, more freedom to focus on personal projects where necessary and even more earning within a shorter period. Obviously, the risk is their inherent unpredictability.
For organisations, flexible labour is even more relevant. For starters, temporary staff can bring new skills and perspectives to their role that can, in turn, improve efficiency or streamline production requirements. Multiple contract hires can bring in an unmatched access to a wide range of skills. Unleashing people’s creativity, growth and work satisfaction. Moreover, a blend of permanent and flexible contracts provides the company with a pool of potential talent to hire from. Two, flexibility in handling business targets and peaks and lows in demand. This, if well planned, can achieve a reduction in the cost of running the business.
In Kenya, we have historically associated contracted labour with blue collar workers – I believe the only reason for this is because this is where it has been predominant. There are however tangible benefits in engaging expert and creative talent on flexible terms which can vary from as little as weeks to any number of years.
As companies connect with the idea of flexible labour, filling these roles is at times more complex since most employees still have a preference for permanent roles. Further, this category of employees brings with it more administrative activities for the organisation.
It is crucial therefore that companies offering this service must establish stringent processes to check the qualifications and backgrounds of the staff and ensure that organisations have access to the best possible operational solution for their specific business. These providers must work to protect the rights of the employee and to proactively advance their access to decent work and consequently a sustainable livelihood.
According to the ILO report (2020) specialisation and the global market for scarce skills will continue to drive the flexible skills market and companies need to set structures that will enable them tap effectively into this emerging flexible talent.
The continuing reduction of time in one company already points to a growing workforce more focused on job satisfaction over how long they stay in a company.
Working from home. FILE PHOTO | NMG
The writer is managing director, Workforce Africa.