Nearly a year into life after the emergence of COVID-19, companies continue to navigate an ever-changing workforce and battle myriad uncertainties looking ahead. As COVID-19 took hold, companies were forced to terminate or furlough workers due to reduced demand, then in certain industries, they experienced a sharp increase in demand without enough workers to accommodate it. The dynamic of feast or famine blended with damage control and a dash of forward-thinking has companies taking a closer look at utilizing contingent employees.

This broadened term is used to describe workers such as temporary or “flex”, freelancers, contract workers, consultants and others that are not on a company’s payroll. The concept has been around since the end of the 19th century but boomed right after WWII. It’s not new, but it is becoming more widely used than ever before. Typically partnering with a professional staffing agency, companies are seeing tremendous benefit in putting to good use this limited-commitment and low-risk approach to staffing their teams.

Over 40% of the US workforce are contingent workers with economists predicting that number to climb over the next 5 years. What was done as a necessity this year, it is expected, could soon be used liberally by American companies even after the economy has re-stabilized.

The risk is relatively low and the benefits relatively high in utilizing a contingent workforce.

Cost reduction. Non-traditional employees are not paid company benefits so the overhead on these employees is considerably less. The HR costs are less as well. Partnering with a professional staffing agency saves companies the time, money and personnel to seek, evaluate, hire and train skilled candidates.

Skillset. Contingent employees generally are going to have more focused and developed skills in a certain area. This gives employers the opportunity to seek employees that have specialized skills that will lessen or eliminate the training necessary to complete the project. That equates to less supervision, and potentially higher quality work.

Added flexibility. Probably the most notable benefit in this current climate of rapid and unpredictable change, is the flexibility that contingent employees provide. Companies can respond to changing demands by hiring or terminating as needed.

The value in contingent workers is not a secret, however due to recent events and the resulting trends, it’s gaining significant attention among companies nationwide. Our culture and our current economic climate demand a different approach to keeping the gears turning and utilizing a non-traditional workforce may prove be the key to a company’s success going forward.