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In the beginning, contractors were commonly hired to fill in for permanent staff who were away for a temporary period of time (parental or sabbatical leave).
However, the gig economy has grown exponentially in the past 10 years. Instead of hiring them as a stop-gap measure, companies are actively engaging professional contractors for their unique expertise and varied experience. Besides fulfilling short-term business needs like digitisation and business restructuring projects, contractors are also engaged for their specialist competencies to drive innovation and enable skills transfer within the organisation.
The gig economy trend can be seen among the biggest companies in the world. For example, the number of TVCs (temps, vendors and contractors) at Google outnumbered permanent staff in 2018. This is not just unique to Silicon Valley, but can also be observed across different sectors and markets as companies increasingly look to professional contractors to drive change and generate long-term cost-savings.
In Singapore, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of resident employees on fixed-term contracts, from 6.4% in 2017 to 7.2% in 2018 (as of February 3, 2019). This increase has been attributed to ongoing economic restructuring, which has resulted in companies adopting a more short-term standpoint when it comes to managing their workforce. The growth was also observed across all industries, led largely by the information and communications sector.
3 advantages of hiring contract workers
1. they have specialised skills
Professional contractors often have specialised skills that companies need for a specific project or during the period of restructuring. Companies looking for talent with niche skills will find it difficult to attract and engage them. More than half the working population is not equipped with the new in-demand skills that have arisen from the digital economy and deep tech. There is also a lack of STEM graduates to build internal talent pipelines.
For example, when a company undergoes digital transformation, they will need to hire experienced project managers, DevOps talent, cybersecurity experts, as well as network and system engineers for development and integration. Professional contractors not only bring with them knowledge from working on similar projects in other organisations, they are also able to leverage what they’ve learned from previous work experience to be more efficient.
2. reduce long-term labour costs
Companies typically engage contractors for a period of between three months and two years to help work on specific projects. Since these workers are only hired for the short-term, contracting as an alternative workforce solution allows companies the flexibility to maintain their headcount budget. Companies are also not obligated to find another role within the organisation for them to move into after they fulfil their deliverables, as their skills may not be fully compatible for the new role.
As more companies display greater caution when investing in the right talent, employers tend to use the contracting period to determine whether the worker will be a good fit for the job and organisation culture before bringing them on full-time. Engaging professional contractors not only helps to keep overheads low, but also ensures that companies have the right talent in the pipeline.
3. improve workforce quality
Fixed-term contractors tend to be more engaged with their work and have higher levels of productivity. This is because they were hired to fulfil specific goals, and their professional reputation lies in their ability to promptly deliver the results they were engaged for. The high exposure to different workplaces also demonstrates their ability to adapt and be flexible when placed in new or unfamiliar environments.
An integrated workplace creates a unique ecosystem which facilitates skills transfer and collaborations among permanent staff, contractors and freelancers. With enough interaction and integration, permanent staff can gain new knowledge and perspectives from their contracting colleagues, which would mitigate career stagnation as they have the opportunity to continue learning.
three ways to attract professional contractors
1. better benefit coverage
Professional contractors are generally not offered the same level of employee benefits as permanent staff. For example, they are often not entitled to the full-suite of medical insurance, or other perks such as parental benefits and birthday leave. Companies that want to improve their appeal to gig workers can consider extending some of these employee benefits to them.
2. improve levels of integration
Due to their transient nature, contract employees have a tendency to be less integrated to the working culture as compared to permanent staff. Therefore, contract workers tend to be less loyal to their employers. The lack of integration between permanent and contract staff could contribute to the loss of morale at a company and unintentionally give rise to a toxic workplace culture.
Employers should strive to promote an inclusive company culture by treating all their employees and freelancers equally. This could be as simple as introducing them as new staff to everyone as well as including them in after-work corporate events, company celebrations and birthday lunches. Beyond emails and work messages, these activities can improve team cohesion and better attract and retain talent who prioritise good company culture over hygiene employee benefits.
3. put the offer of a permanent role on the table
Although a large number of professional contractors are not actively looking for a permanent role, putting a performance-based offer into the mix may motivate them to consider applying for a permanent position with your organisation.
This will encourage your employees to collaborate more frequently with other colleagues in the office. Your workforce’s capabilities will be strengthened, especially when employees are motivated to collaborate and share ideas with one another.
randstad’s contracting services
In addition to recruiting for permanent staff, Randstad also has a pool of highly-skilled professional contractors who you can tap into to achieve workplace flexibility, productivity and efficiency. Coupled with our innovative HR technologies which ensure timely execution of contract administration tasks, our team of dedicated contracting specialists ensures that your contractors are well taken care of, so that you can focus on activities that have a greater impact on your business.
If you need guidance on how to attract more professional contractors or are just beginning your journey in building a flexible and integrated workforce, reach out to us.