It is no secret that the multiple crises of 2020 changed workforce strategies forever. For HR and talent leaders, the rush to lay off workers and move remaining teams remote followed by the rush to hire amid unprecedented resignation rates were a series of whiplashes.
New strategies are emerging to have the right talent in the right place at the right time with minimal disruption to employees and businesses. Flexible staffing, a hiring model that offers an on-demand workforce, is how companies adapt to short-term changes in demand for non-core roles. But with a remote workforce and rapidly changing labor markets, more HR teams are turning to this model for long-term solutions from a new kind of service provider: remote long-term flexible staffing agencies.
What is Flexible Staffing
Traditional flexible staffing, also known as contingent staffing or staff augmentation, refers to filling important but non-core in-office roles with temporary workers hired and paid by third-party staffing agencies. The definition of "temporary" may differ—hiring a retail clerk to fill in while a permanent employee is on vacation or bringing in a team of clerks to meet the demand for goods in the holiday season. The retailer skips recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding and finds trained workers when and where they need them.
What is Remote Long-Term Flexible Staffing?
As the name suggests, remote long-term flexible staffing takes this model beyond short-term, in-person temporary assignments. It uses a third-party service provider to fill permanent roles with remote workers, often offshore. The key differences between a traditional flexible staffing provider and a long-term provider are:
- The employees are remote.
- The long-term staffing agency hires, trains, and manages the performance of the staff it delivers.
- Employees are part of your teams, just like permanent employees.
- Managers supervise the quality of the work and serve as a point of contact for the company's hiring managers.
Long-term flexible staffing businesses typically specialize in a specific role. They use their experience to train and manage the employees, and most cannot offer that kind of support with multiple functions or fields.
Why Do Companies Use Remote Long-Term Flexible Staffing?
Companies turn to remote long-term flexible staffing when:
- They need to scale up fast and hiring one by one takes too long.
- The near future is uncertain, and they want to avoid the risk of permanent hires.
- They lack the internal resources to manage the performance of a specific role.
- They lack expertise in the role and want a trusted partner.
- There is a shortage of local workers to fill the roles.
Global workforce solutions consultancy Staffing Industry Analysts noted that companies tap long-term remote staffing agencies to access "third-party expertise." They find "skilled workers in specific categories and organizations that use these services prudently can gain a competitive advantage."
Why are Companies Using Remote Long-Term Flexible Staffing Now?
There are multiple factors driving HR and talent leaders to turn long-term flexible staffing:
- Economic uncertainty due to the twists and turns of the pandemic.
- New openness and comfort with remote workers.
- A global labor shortage.
- Lower costs with offshore options.
- Lack of management resources.
Long-term remote flexible staffing removes much of the risk of scaling the workforce. "Prolonged economic uncertainty calls for companies to build more flexibility into their talent strategies," analysts and McKinsey said. "In previous downturns, the temporary labor market was a vital element in the rebound; it could play a similar role in this recovery."
What is the Difference Between Remote Long-Term Flexible Staffing and Hiring Long-Term Contractors?
The most significant difference between a long-term flexible staffing model and hiring long-term contractors or freelancers is that with contractors, you still must recruit, hire, train, onboard, provide payroll and other HR services. Hiring contractors can take just as long as hiring an employee. Some agencies offer contractors, but the agencies do not have the resources to manage their teams' performance.
What is the Difference Between Remote Long-Term Flexible Staffing and Outsourcing?
Remote long-term flexible staffing is a form of outsourcing—defined as hiring an outside firm to perform specialized work. Traditional outsourcing focuses on business processes like manufacturing or customer service, and the workers do not work alongside internal employees. You hand the process over to a third-party firm, usually offshore. Long-term flexible staffing brings individuals and teams into the business to work side-by-side with your permanent employees.
What is the Difference Between Remote Long-Term Flexible Staffing and Gig Marketplaces?
Gig marketplaces, like long-term flexible staffing, hire people for specific tasks. Most gig workers specialize in project-based work and do not join the internal team. Long-term staff members use your tools and network and are on your messaging channels. Gig workers usually take a project like designing a website, performing it independently, and giving you back a finished product.
What are Examples of Remote Long-Term Flexible Staffing?
One role well suited for remote long-term flexible staffing is an executive assistant. Executive assistants have disappeared from most businesses as technology enables businesses leaders to do their admin work:
- Travel planning
- Expense reports
- Inbox management
Studies show executives spend 16 hours a week on busywork—tasks that distract them from work that pulls the business forward. HR and talent leaders realize this is not the best use of their time or the best executive experience and are looking for solutions to offload that work. Meanwhile, the ranks of in-person executive assistants have contracted some 65 percent since 2004. In a recent study by the job board, Lensa found administrative assistants among the three most challenging roles to fill.
Executive assistants fit the remote long-term flexible staffing model because:
- Few organizations have the resources to assess, train, and manage the role.
- It takes too long to hire assistants one by one (33 days according to LinkedIn).
- Turnover rates are high and starting over is painful.
- Admin tasks lend themselves to remote work.
- The cost is much less than a local hire.
Virtual executive assistant service providers hire, train, and manage the performance of administrative assistants for executive teams. The services are fractional as few executives need a full-time assistant. The assistants use your tools and systems and follow your processes. Managers also train backup assistants to fill in when the primary assistant is unavailable or leaves. You have a pipeline of assistants for your company. Because the service provider employs the assistants, there is little added management and HR overhead.
Remote Long-Term Virtual Executive Assistant Services Are Scalable and Flexible
The near future is anything but certain. You must build back your workforce, but the risk of shutdowns hovers over us. You can hire remote executive assistants for entire executive teams in one meeting. The assistants arrive pre-trained on your executives' preferences for scheduling meetings, travel, expenses, research, and other administrative tasks. You can scale back at any time.
Download this guide to learn more about working with a remote long-term executive assistant service provider.
About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.