It's no secret that the world of work is changing—accelerated by the pandemic and its aftermath. More people can do more jobs from more locations, and employers and employees are trying to find the right balance between office and remote work.
The change began before the pandemic. A 2016 study found that 85 percent of employees worked with virtual teammates, and 73 percent said the advantages outweigh the challenges. Companies are increasingly tapping outside resources on demand to meet specific business needs.
Virtual Staffing Outsources to Experts
Virtual staffing is not about the location of an employee. It is about accessing expertise for specific tasks to boost work quality and productivity. It is not a novel concept. Companies have contracted with firms and individuals to get specialized talent for short- and long-term projects for generations—think tax audits or website development.
What is newer is the extension of this model to more roles and fields and for long-term engagements. Virtual staffing gets you the equivalent of an off-site employee or team dedicated to your business for as long as you need help. The efficiencies are hard to resist.
Virtual Staffing Lowers Costs
There are apparent and hidden cost savings with virtual staffing. The most apparent cost reduction is that you need less office space. Besides lower rent, there are several costs associated with that space:
- Business supplies
- Relocation costs
One study found that allowing employees to work from home just half-time would save $11,000 a year per employee. That doesn't count costs like business travel, which go down considerably with virtual roles.
Virtual Staffing Raises Productivity
A study of 800,000 employees during the onset of work from home orders in 2020 found that productivity rose 13 percent. Why are people more productive at home?
- They have more time without a commute
- They leave work less often for personal tasks
- They are less stressed
- They encounter fewer distractions
A Harvard Business Review study of a Chinese call center that let half its employees work from home for nine months found that:
- The company saved $1,900 savings per employee
- 13.5 percent more calls were completed
- Significant decrease sick days
- Far lower attrition rates
- Self-reported increased job satisfaction
Virtual Staffing Provides Access to More Top Performing Employees
When geography is not a factor, your talent pool expands to include most of the world. This expansion gives companies outside of major metropolitan areas access to just about anyone. At the same time, virtual staffing offers employees access to career opportunities outside of their local markets. The talent boost can multiply the financial and productivity benefits of virtual staffing by:
- Improving work quality
- Lower management overhead
- Lower turnover due to performance or relocation
Some 65 percent of recruiters said virtual staffing helps them find better candidates. High-performing employees do better work. And 95 percent of companies say remote workers are less likely to leave their jobs.
Virtual Staffing Accelerates New Skill Deployment
The world of work is going through a reskilling revolution. The World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that 95 million jobs will be replaced by automation by 2025, and 87 million new jobs will be created. The problem? Skills for those 87 million jobs don't exist because the jobs don't exist yet.
The shrinking "shelf life" of skills--the time during which skills are relevant--exacerbates the skills shortage. Tech skills are out of date in 2-3 years.
Virtual staffing can help bridge the skills gap by:
- Hiring for new skills on-demand
- Tapping into new labor markets where the skills are
- Using virtual staffing businesses that are constantly reskilling workers
It takes about four months to hire a new employee and about six months to learn a new skill. That option is neither efficient nor scalable. Many virtual staffing businesses have learning academies where they constantly train and upskill workers to ensure that they always have people with the skills employers need when they need them.
Virtual Staffing Improves Employee Satisfaction
Two-thirds of U.S. workers would like to work from home, and 36 percent would take a pay cut for a virtual job. More importantly, happy workers are more engaged, productive and drive growth. Companies with high employee satisfaction are:
- 28 percent more profitable
- Have 41 percent fewer unscheduled absences
Absenteeism is expensive and disruptive, and 78 percent of absenteeism isn't because people are sick. Absences happen because employees need to take care of someone at home, including themselves. Unscheduled absences cost employers $1,800 per employee per year, which adds up to $300 billion/year for U.S. companies.
Virtual Staffing Improves Retention
Turnover is also expensive. As mentioned above, it costs about $4,000 to replace an employee. A study found that 46 percent of companies that allow remote work say it has reduced attrition, and 95 percent say telework has a high impact on employee retention.
Losing long-term employees is even more expensive. It can cost a company between $10,000 and $30,000 each, depending on their salaries and experience levels, which makes retention a significant cost-saver.
Virtual Staffing Through a Managed Service Provider
While we tend to think of virtual work as working from a home office, that is not the only model—or the most efficient one. Virtual staffing firms with office-based staff, often overseas, perform specialized services like the call center mentioned above. Service providers hire, train, and manage the employees to deliver the services. While the Harvard Business Review study confirmed that these workers could also be more productive working from home, it might be unrealistic to scale for larger organizations.
Virtual staffing business employees do not usually work from home but on company computers and networks in secure office buildings. Businesses that engage with virtual staffing managed service providers get the benefits of:
- Access to specialized skills
- On-demand hiring
- Larger labor pools
- Lower office costs
- Reduced labor costs
- No training or management overhead
- More IT and data security
- Faster hiring
Using a managed service provider is especially efficient for businesses that lack expertise in a field and struggle to recruit, qualify, onboard, and train candidates. You rely on an experienced service provider to vet and match you with the right employees. It is also a more scalable model—you can add more people to your team faster than hiring one or two employees at a time. It is also easier to scale back when demand for those skills recedes.
Prialto has provided more than one million hours of managed virtual assistant services for 13 years. Virtual assistants work with U.S. executives and teams to perform administrative tasks like scheduling meetings, planning travel, and updating CRMs. For more information about working with Prialto, download our guide.
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.