With a tumultuous 2020 behind us, 2021 is poised to bring new opportunities and challenges for you and your contingent workforce program. Following a decline in contingent workforce usage in 2020 amid the pandemic, SIA predicts spend on the contingent workforce to rise in 2021. SIA’s US Staffing Industry Forecast projects a growth of 12%, compared with a 17% decline in 2020.

This prediction, made in September 2020, relied on three key assumptions:

  1. The spread of Covid-19 would continue a downward trend;
  2. US GDP growth will continue a gradual but steady recovery; and
  3. The Covid-19 vaccine would be widely available and distributed in the first half of 2021.

While we’re experiencing a significant resurgence of the virus across the US, two vaccines have been approved and distribution is underway.

Here are a few ways to prepare your program for whatever 2021 brings.

Check Your Policies

The pandemic brought changes to many companies’ policies when it comes to the nonemployee workforce. Begin the year by reviewing your onboarding materials, procedures and handbooks to ensure policies are updated with the latest employment and labor law developments. Make sure new policies and changes are well documented and consider inserting caveats regarding timeframes. One looming issue: Can companies require workers to get vaccinated? According to the Society of Human Resource Managers, 61% of US organizations intend to encourage, but not require, their employees to get the Covid-19 vaccination.

It is obvious that the shock of the pandemic and associated lockdowns resulted in a contraction in the US economy in 2020 but be prepared for growth, as the economy is expected to rebound in the second half of 2021 as additional government stimulus and vaccines are deployed. It is critical that your policies regarding remote work, paid leave and other policies for your non-employee workforce keep up with the rapidly changing demand.

Key Demand Areas

Even with the vaccine, Covid-19 will continue to affect the ecosystem over the coming months, creating new roles and increasing demand for existing ones. For example, staffing firms have reported growth in new types of jobs arising due to the pandemic and placed “thousands” of temperature checkers as well as Covid-19 contact tracers. SIA’s US Staffing Industry Forecast also shows that demand for customer service representatives and call/contact center agents (often working remotely) has held steady or shown growth, particularly with clients in online retail and healthcare.

Identify where you are likely to see demand within your industry so you can be prepared to recruit and deploy the right types of talent, especially if you are in life sciences, healthcare or IT and particularly if you are engaging workers onsite. You can draw on SIA and your suppliers’ knowledge here; they will have the data to help you spot trends.

Pharma and manufacturing. The pandemic, combined with the largest pharmaceutical rollout in history, has resulted in a deficit of workers to meet vaccine-related demand. According to The Wall Street Journal, contract-manufacturing companies working to accelerate the global availability of Covid-19 vaccines and testing kits are struggling to meet the big production push. Warehouse associates, quality-assurance analysts and supply-chain workers are also in short supply.

Industrial. Availability of candidates and high levels of recruiting difficultly have emerged as themes for industrial staffing as well. Reasons for the candidate shortage include skills mismatch, lack of transportation or childcare, fears of Covid exposure and competition from the additional federal unemployment benefits.

Information technology. Finding IT workers continues to be challenging for most companies and the sector has been among the most resilient of staffing segments throughout the pandemic. IT has a high capacity to support remote work; an agile, flexible IT workforce has become a greater priority as tech cycles shorten. The breadth of desired IT skills expansion and an escalating pace of digital transformations across industries is also driving more demand. IT jobs that companies need now skew toward higher-skilled roles such as software developers, data analysts, cyber/data security, project managers and cloud architects. Having trouble finding helpdesk/PC support? These roles are in high demand as organizations have transitioned to remote work.

Healthcare. Acute shortages in multiple categories and locations as a result of the lengthening coronavirus pandemic continue to push demand for healthcare and providers. Nurses, doctors, administrators and support staff are all overworked and understaffed. Vaccine distribution and implementation nationally is creating another pocket of demand. Plus, if your company provides healthcare, you are likely also preparing for  the next wave of demand for elective procedures post Covid-19.

One thing is certain, 2021 will bring new opportunity and challenges for you and your program. Stay informed with SIA and well connected with your supplier partners to position yourself and your program for success in 2021.