Finding the right skills is one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today and no less so in South Africa where there is a dearth of skills across many disciplines, including project management.

Let’s face it, in times of corporate and economic stress, staff are essentially a liability beyond and between projects. But, on the other hand, if companies are to plan and execute projects effectively, they need to have the rights skills on hand. Smart companies also know that the right people can give the company a significant competitive advantage.

Enter the “blended” workforce comprising permanent employees supported by contractors, temps and consultants. Blended workforces are becoming more and more prevalent around the globe as companies cotton on to the benefits of a flexible workforce that mirrors the company’s needs at that specific time. Especially when considered against the backdrop of the increasing need for cost reduction, and increased productivity, in tough economic times.

“Using contractors and consultants to supplement the company’s permanent workforce makes good business sense. It boosts productivity in that you have the skills when you need them and avoids the heartache of having to let people go when those skills are no longer needed.  Having to shed jobs not only breaks hearts, it destroys company morale and can affect productivity in the long run. But the flexible worker arrives with the mindset that when the project ends he will move on to the next project. Knowing from the outset that he is here to give his best only while the project lasts before moving on to the next adventure can also boost productivity,” says Tony McManus, CEO of McManus Consulting.

But a blended workforce comes with challenges too. According to Matthew Franceschini, CEO of Entity Solutions, a contractor management agency, writing in Project Manager, one of the key requirements for blended workforce success is “to take an integrated, holistic approach, tapping into permanent and contingent talent in a way that ensures a seamless pathway for the project and the organisation. There must be flexibility of engagement while ensuring governance and visibility of spend”.

“The blended workforce must also meet the driving need of cost reduction, or at a minimum, cost containment. Ideally you want to create a dynamic of cooperation between permanent and contingent workers, one that leads to greater productivity. Your workforce then should be managed in a way that ensures logistical ease when connecting people to projects.”
© Tony McManus, McManus Consulting.

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