A blended workforce is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a blend of full-time, part-time, contract, consultant and/or contingent talent custom-built to fulfill a business’ specific productivity needs.
Known for agility and responsiveness, the blended model empowers your company to mold workforce capabilities around what you require, right now. And we’re not just talking data-entry staffers who fix the Y2K bug. A blended workforce can grow as productivity needs increase; it can slim down as those needs trim.
In the same way that seasonal hiring responds to demand in the retail industry, a blended workforce activates individuals and/or teams when and where work needs to get done. It’s proactive and requires planning.
Lessons from the game of Tetris
Companies like Google, Lyft and Amazon incorporate blended talent across their corporate structures, from program managers and tax specialists to recruiters and graphic designers. The key to the perfect blend is understanding your company’s near- and long-term needs – and who can fill the gaps.
Think of your blended workforce like a game of Tetris. You’re looking for just the right pieces to fill pretty exact spots. So, fill accordingly. Need a remote, mid-level .NET developer for a year-long project? Hire that! Exactly that! Want a UX designer with leadership experience for 20 hours a week (with the potential for full-time)? Do that, too.
What Tetris reminds us about the workforce is that you can’t force people into spots that just don’t fit. The skills your blended workforce brings to the table are as important as each individual’s ability to thrive in the context (i.e., a remote, year-long contract) for which you’re hiring them.
Who is the blended workforce?
Evolution of the blended model is as much a factor of how companies operate as it is the changing nature of today’s workforce. Working 9-to-5 isn’t the only way to make a living these days.
Not only are more workers opting into alternative employment options, more companies are taking advantage of how options like remote work, flex schedules, fixed contracts and on-demand work give them unprecedented access to a new world of talent.
In fact, contingent or contract labor is expected to make up half the entire workforce in the next year. And 90% of companies already putting contingent talent to work plan to increase their spend this year.
Three ways to be quick and nimble
By now, you get it. A blended workforce is central to your strategic approach to staffing your business needs. So, how do you do it? Here are three keys to getting started:
While a blended workforce can flex with your business’ fluxes, it’s not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation. Planning is pivotal. Use detailed project plans for what your company wants to achieve over the next 1-4 quarters. Get specific about production needs, skill requirements, budgets and timelines.
Then, look around. Have all the pieces you need? If not, use your plans to build job descriptions, detailing whom you need to do what, for how much, how long – and when. List in hand, it’s time to blend your team. (Don’t forget to build hiring and onboarding into your project plans, too.)
2. Measure – and Iterate
When planning the above projects, take some time to determine what success looks like – from a workforce perspective. Tracking performance indicators, like hours budgeted vs. hours, worked and tasks completed, can give you a sense of how well you’ve staffed your project.
Don’t worry: this isn’t a pass/fail grade. It’s just time to iterate. Measuring progress regularly will keep you on top of how your team is doing and whether you need to shift your strategy.
Weekly, bi-weekly and monthly scorecards can paint a quick picture about how to respond to progress with the right staffing measures.
Even the best planners could use more time in a day – especially when it comes to staffing your team. Projects can come out of left field or you can discover a need via measure/iterate. Filling roles on your team takes time you often don’t have on our project timelines. How does your blended team stay quick and nimble? Build a pipeline.
A talent pipeline is a pool of qualified candidates ready to spring into the roles your team needs, stat! The goal of a pipeline isn’t to rush hiring decisions, but to have the work of finding, screening and prepping candidates done before you even know you need them. That’s why teaming with a staffing firm that excels at building talent pipelines is your best bet. They can see the future (and prepare you for it) while you’re focusing on your business.
Once your team hits its stride, a blended workforce can move seamlessly from project to project, season to season, with maximum productivity and efficiency. Opening your company’s options to more than a full-time, all-the-time team not only makes room for more strategic staffing but puts a whole new pool of talent within your reach.
What is your experience with building a blended team? Share your advice, lessons-learned and/or questions via @swoond with #blendedworkforce.