The pandemic has forced a relook at hiring and new work trends have begun to emerge. At the forefront is the observed increase in contract hiring, both locally and internationally.
With South Africa well-poised to meet the growing demand from global companies who seek to source skilled contractors from our shores, as well as local companies boosting the figures with their own increase in contract hiring, we speak to Phillipa Geard, CEO of RecruitMyMom.co.za, about who stands to benefit and what it means for the future of the South African workplace as we know it.
High level of uncertainty, low level of risk
With the high level of uncertainty in the economic world at the moment, companies are reluctant to commit to permanent appointments. “Simply put, contract hiring is low risk.” Phillipa explains, “Contracting skills for a fixed period or defined project allows companies the flexibility to manage the impact of market uncertainties.” That said, it’s not solely employers who are driving the rise in contract hiring, as more and more employees, women in particular, are voluntarily relinquishing the benefits that come with permanent employment and opting for the flexibility of skilled contract work instead.
Say goodbye to the stigma
Flexibility aside, another plus for contractors is the benefit of working for more than one employer. When stepping out on a global platform, a world of work experience opens up and the potential for new skills and growth is limitless. While in the past contracting was seen as a stop gap and moving from one contact to the next may have been viewed as a negative, it’s now a sought after form of employment. Many people consider themselves life-time contractors, and the skills and experience they’ve obtained along the way make them highly attractive to future employers.
A growing number of employers feel the same way too. Where in the past it was seen as a risk to rely on contractors, and hiring permanent staff was more attractive, it is not the case anymore. Productivity and output can now be measured, which in turn means hiring skilled contractors from a global market place has become highly measurable and attractive.
As companies have shifted to a more remote or flexible working model, many have had to move and manage their entire workforce digitally in a short space of time. In turn there has been an explosion in the demand for digital skills. These skills don’t necessarily have to be hired permanently and can be outsourced to anywhere geographically on a project basis.
An added benefit of outsourcing specialised skills is the freedom it allows companies to build lean organisations allowing for fast scale up or down as demand fluctuates. When a company outsources the skills they don’t have, it means they can better manage their internal resources and focus on becoming the expert at what they deliver to the market.
What’s more, with the current skill shortage in South Africa, contracting is a preferred way of attracting the skills that were lost back into the market. “Particularly moms who stepped out of the workplace for a season,” Phillipa says, “they are so well placed with the rise in contract hiring. They enjoy hybrid, remote, freelance and flexible work; they are skilled and ready to step up to the challenge in a digital world.”
From HR, bookkeeping to marketing and more, not all companies need these skills all the time. Small to medium enterprises or start-ups may be feeling the current economic pressure and be looking for ways to manage cash flow without compromising on essential skills. “We’ve seen a shift in more project-based jobs which may have traditionally sat in-house moving over to contract positions, with the option for the role to grow or evolve with the company.” Phillipa explained.
Managing a team, near or far
There are no doubt challenges which come with employing a mix of permanent and contract workers. One of which is to find a way to integrate contract workers into the company culture and make them feel welcome and valuable, particularly if they are working remotely. It falls within the HR manager’s mandate to utilise the skills they have developed to handle remote permanent staff, and extend those skills to ensure contract workers feel included and part of the team.
The future is here
Contract hiring is on the increase and here to stay. To keep on the forefront and benefit from this rising trend, it is important for companies to look at their organisational structure in order to incorporate contractors as a strategy. Phillipa’s advice to employers is to make sure contract hiring isn’t a knee-jerk once off reaction, but rather a solid part of their company’s resourcing plan. “There is a long term benefit to companies who strategically think about how they can incorporate contract hiring into their work force,” she says.
Contractors would do well to keep up-to-date with in-demand skills, specifically in and around the current digital demands. If they understand the collaborative tools necessary for remote working, they can quickly and easily integrate into any team, remotely or in the office.
The rate of growth seen in contract hiring, including gig-working, shows it’s a trend which is set to continue to increase post-pandemic, its potential has been realised and it’s on the rise. Phillipa’s advice is to get on board. “Contract hiring is mutually beneficial for both the employer and the contractor; it offers job satisfaction for the contractor and a measurable increase in productivity and access to skills for the company.”