Recruitment specialist John O'Reilly explains that businesses need a more flexible approach to acquiring and retaining skilled staff.
Britain is back in business. As manufacturing growth is reported to be the strongest for a generation, companies are reviewing their resources and many will find it necessary to take on staff within their warehousing and logistics operations to meet rising demand.
However, retailers and manufacturers that suffered the hardships and financial pains of laying-off staff during the recession will be reluctant to expose themselves to the risks of recruiting more direct labour.
It’s not difficult to see why. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, in its March 2012 Work Audit, estimated that it cost businesses an average of £13,000 to make an employee redundant and that from the start of the jobs recession in 2008 to March 2012 UK employers paid out a total of around £35bn.
Clearly, companies need to be very confident that any rise in business prospects is sustained and predictable for the long-term before committing to hiring again.
But with UK businesses increasingly exposed to dynamic global markets, strong competition and high volatility in demand, the risks and ‘unknowns’ of doing business today make predicting demand extremely difficult, and with it, calculating any reliable figure for future labour resources.
A new strategy for recruitment is required. Businesses need a more flexible approach to acquiring and retaining skilled staff for warehousing, manufacturing and logistics tasks – one that minimises risk to the business and, potentially, offers more to the individual.
The issue for most companies gearing-up for a resurgence in demand is finding the right balance between hiring permanent employees and temporary staff.
How do you best acquire and retain important skills within the business? What are the legal and financial commitments to those employed, either permanently or on a temporary basis? And how easy is it to adjust labour resources to the ebb and flow of current business needs?
The wider context of these questions comes down to: How can companies be responsive to the vagaries of the British economy, flexing their resources to meet demand, whilst minimising exposure to risk?
Although many companies use agency labour for meeting immediate short-term needs, few are deploying agencies to deliver longer-term strategic advantage.
Skilled individuals do not necessarily have to be retained as permanent staff. By partnering with an agency that has a rich pool of skilled labour under employment contract, businesses can tap into skilled resources on a flexible basis, without the risks and complications of taking on staff directly themselves.
But how can agencies shoulder the risks of having skilled people under employment contract? And what level of flexibility can be achieved?
By virtue of having a broad base of clients, a large independent agency can efficiently manage a pool of employees, moving them between contracts as demand dictates. By doing so, risk is mitigated across the ‘employment opportunities’ landscape – allowing the agency to flex accordingly.
In addition, using specialist tools and models, an agency is better positioned to flex workers’ hours up and down in response to business needs. These tools also help with finding people with the right skills for the job.
Training people to have the skill-sets required is an important part of the mix too. And so is checking compliance on a prospective employee’s eligibility to work in the UK.
If businesses wish to take advantage of the booms, and protect themselves from the expense of redundancy payments in the downturns, they must build an agile organisation that is capable of flexing its workforce to the demands made on the business.
Outsourcing to an agency that can provide the skilled labour resources needed, as agency employees, offers the business the flexibility it needs to protect itself from the vagaries of the UK economy.