If you’re like most staffing buyers, the pandemic and rapid transition to remote work revealed what you knew — and should have known — about your extended workforce. The lack of data and visibility into thousands of workers, regardless of status, made it difficult to know where they were located, what work was essential and who could work remotely in a secure and productive manner. You may have hobbled along, piecing together information to keep your program functioning, but why survive when you can thrive? With concerns around the resurgence of economic growth amid a vaccine rollout, what does the road ahead look like and how will it affect the world of work? How are we going to live and work in the digital age?  With improved visibility as a starting point, Beeline’s execs reveal how forward-thinking companies can go from responding to the crisis to recovering and thriving amid an economic recovery.

Go from Reactive to Informed

As Europe heads into 2021, workforce continuity continues to be a priority and the key to executing critical business activities during the crisis and into the recovery.

There are any number of scenarios that can come about, notes Alastair Dobson, senior client relationship manager at Beeline, Europe. Having total visibility, workforce resilience and agility will likely determine whether your company survives or thrives.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that approximately 43% of the total global workforce was contingent at the beginning of 2020, many organizations hadn’t been proactive in achieving transparency into the thousands of freelancers, independent contractors and agency-supplied workers who comprise their extended workforce.

As a result, some program managers have struggled to identify contingents who are cleared to work from home and those who need to be retained to curtail the loss of valuable institutional knowledge. What’s more, managers need an integrated view of data across the entire company to ensure that contingents working on critical projects remain connected to the company’s e-mail, network, payroll and business management systems while working remotely.

“Achieving total visibility requires a highly connectable system that provides seamless integration between onboarding and offboarding and other siloed talent management systems,” says Manfred Vogels, Beeline’s VP of business development for Continental Europe.

For instance, knowing who is capable and equipped to work remotely and where they are located often requires the collection of pieces of information or facts in searchable client-defined fields and the ability to run workforce continuity reports, he says.

“Without these key details, business leaders could inadvertently lay off workers who have the knowledge to ensure that their company not only survives the crisis but thrives during the recovery,” Vogels says.

A Beeline client in the oil and gas industry attests to the value of having visibility of each external worker, having implemented Beeline back in 2007 but expanded globally in the years before Covid hit. “With [the VMS] now implemented across our entities, we have the transparency needed to assist in the management of our contingent workforce. Given the current dual crisis of Covid-19 and low oil prices, frankly, the timing could not have been better.”

Build and Manage a Private Talent Pool

Once you’ve achieved total workforce visibility, you’re ready to begin installing the framework and practices that lead to total workforce optimization.

You’ve responded to the crisis, you’ve rescaled and reshaped your workforce over the summer to meet business demands, and now you’re into the third phase, which requires you to see your workforce with eyes on the future, Dobson observes.

The Right Blend

It’s important to understand what total workforce optimization is and how it creates a competitive advantage.

Total workforce optimization is the process of determining the right mix of employee and non-employee talent and skills to meet current and future business needs and having a system to track, manage and access those skills on demand.

When you have the ability to search for, negotiate with, and engage directly with non-employee talent and execute better and faster than others, it creates a competitive advantage. In fact, studies have found a link between effective talent management and better financial performance.

Private talent pool. The journey begins with the creation of a deep, private talent pool comprising contingents who have the interest and knowledge to help your company meet its current and future objectives.

With a private talent pool, you keep in touch with people who are not currently on assignment, keeping up to date on their interests and skills and keeping them interested in your organization until you have an opportunity for them.

With the right tools, data and manager education, you can improve your hiring decisions by engaging more with suppliers that provide high-quality talent and resources at the best cost, when you need them, regardless of location.

The right tools also help ensure compliance. They can guide hiring managers to select the right classification of worker to carry out a specific activity, notes Ian Lunt, director of project management office for Beeline.

Flourish in change. The way work is performed has changed, and it will change again and again. Instead of being caught off guard, determine what capabilities will be required — by department and job function — to flourish in a variety of scenarios as the economy recovers. You’ll also need direct access from your VMS to internal and external talent to facilitate the effective building and maintenance of your talent pool.

Having increased knowledge about the skills, remote capabilities and status of your extended workforce — and direct access to them — enables you to reactivate furloughed workers, retain top performers and identify and close skill gaps through strategic upskilling and proactive recruiting.

Over time, private talent pools have resulted in reduced time-to-fill, improved quality, higher engagement and productivity and reduced cost.

Nurture Relationships

Despite the Covid-related downturn, the skills shortage across Europe isn’t over yet. In fact, experts predict that future shortages will continue to impact growth, leaving skilled contingents in the driver’s seat.

So how can you attract highly sought-after freelancers and keep them intrigued?

“Use your talent management system to create ‘sticky’ relationships,” Vogels advises, because talent is not a commodity. Top freelancers have a choice, and they want to work for companies that communicate clearly and often and make them feel valued and like part of the extended family. They also want accurate job descriptions and a simple, seamless experience that makes it easy to express interest and accept assignments.

Create a consumer-like candidate experience with a people-first VMS that streamlines the hiring process, shares immediate feedback after interviews and provides everything contingents need to hit the ground running on day one. Even better, you can actually build “sticky relationships” with the “silver medalists” — highly rated applicants who were considered but not hired for full-time positions.

After all, if you’ve fought hard to find talented people then it would be an absolute travesty to lose them again, either to competitors or someone who appeals to them through the internet.

“While we don’t know everything about the new normal, we know enough to plan,” Dobson notes. The clarity that Covid has given you allows you to focus on outcomes and deliverables, and to source your people differently.

Today’s talent is not only changing the way they want to work, but the way they want to be engaged. Having direct access from your VMS to internal and external talent pools ensures that you have the talent to not only survive a local or global disaster but thrive in 2021 and beyond.

For more information on how Beeline Europe can help your company achieve workforce optimization, contact Rasmus Buchholz at Rasmus.Buchholz@beeline.com.